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Sometime in the middle of Herod’s reign, around 20-15 B.C.E., Jewish secondary burial in the form of ossuaries emerged in Jerusalem’s rock-cut tombs. Although most of the ossuaries from the Second Temple period so far discovered are from Jerusalem, several groups of ossuaries were also found in greater Judea, Jericho (including six ossuaries discovered north and northwest of Tell Jericho), Samaria, Galilee, and the Jezreel valley. Ossuaries were hand-hewn from large slabs of limestone, using a mallet, a hammer, and a chisel, usually into the shape of a rectangular box resting on four short feet. The detachable lids were flat, vaulted, or garbled, and the front and sides could be decorated, incised, or chip-carved.
The Caiaphas ossuary, Israel Museum, Jerusalem.
The Necropolis of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period by Amos Kloner; Boaz Zissu; A. Kloner; B. Zissu
Burials from the Second Temple Period, that is, the Late Hellenistic (Hasmonean) and the Early Roman (Herodian) Periods, were revealed in all the areas surrounding Jerusalem, the central city of the period. These burial caves, mainly family tombs, were hewn in a necropolis completely surrounding the city and more than a dozen times its area. The consequences of this study have enabled the authors to map the burial fields that make up this necropolis, one of the most intensively studied in the archaeology of the Levant. This interdisciplinary approach, incorporating many branches of study, weaves a colourful picture that enables us to understand the burial customs of the period and sheds light on the city and its inhabitants. The authors collected, summarized and discuss this large body of information, the product of intensive field work by hundreds of archaeologists and other scholars, who excavated the tombs, collected the data, and documented the finds connected to the burials and burial customs of the inhabitants of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period.
Jewish Funerary Customs, Practices and Rites in the Second Temple Period by Rachel Hachlili
Research of burials constitutes one of the main reliable sources of information related to various aspects of funerary practices and rituals, and offers a perception of ancient social life and community organization. The material remains of mortuary rituals is effective in reconstructing the history of a society, its religious beliefs and its social outlook. Tombs offer ample data on the artistic taste evinced by funerary architecture and the ornamentation of receptacles and objects. Changes in Jewish funerary practices did not alter the plan and architecture of the tombs. Though the funerary rites changed from inhumation in coffins and loculi to secondary burial by collecting bones in ossuaries the artifacts associated with these graves did not modify much and indicate that these were culturally and socially identical people. The study outlines the material preserved in the ancient Jewish cemeteries of the Second Temple period (first century BCE to first century CE) at Jerusalem, Jericho, En Gedi, Qumran and some other tomb sites.
The question of the meaning and origin of Jewish ossuaries has long held the attention of the scholarly world. Since the vast majority of Jewish ossuaries come from the latter part of the Second Temple period they constitute one of the most important bodies of evidence for the recovery of the Judaism of that period. This study makes the methodological assumption that the study of Jewish ossuaries is not necessarily to be confined to the Hellenistic-Roman period, but can include the First Temple period. Secondly, this study shows that burial customs provide extremely fertile ground for understanding conceptions of afterlife. It is now possible to provide the conceptual matrix for Jewish ossuaries which in our view conforms to both Palestinian burials.
Jewish Ornamented Ossuaries of the late Second Temple Period by Rachel Hachlili