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Ossuary 1

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Ossuary 1
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This collection of ossuaries has been assembled on the grounds of Dominus Flevit – where they were found.  Note that some have flat covers (easy to stack) while others have gabled roofs (imitating dwellings).


A Brief Description of Ossuaries

When preparations were being made for the construction of the church Dominus Flevit on the Mount of Olives excavations were undertaken and a number of Second Temple tombs were discovered.  (To view an example Click Here).  Ossuaries were found inside the tombs from the first centuries B.C. and A.D.

Ossuaries are bone boxes, which were used primarily in the Jerusalem area in the late Second Temple period although they have also been found in other areas of the country.  All totaled, over 1,500 of them have been discovered.  An ossuary had to be large enough to contain the femur bone and a typical one measured 2 x 1 x 1.5 ft. [0.6 x 0.3 x 0.46 m.].  Most of them were decorated in some way: geometric, floral, and building patterns.  Some were inscribed with the names of the deceased.

Normally the deceased was placed in a niche (kokh/loculus) in a tomb.  About a year or so after the burial, after the body had decomposed, the bones were collected and placed in an ossuary – so that the kokh could then be reused.

This practice seems to have been in use from the second half of the first century B.C. until the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.  However the practice actually continued, on a much lesser scale, with less elaborate ossuaries, until about A.D. 250.

Fine, Steven.  "Why Bone Boxes?"  Biblical Archaeology Review, vol. 27, no. 5 (September/October, 2001):38–44, 57.

Rahmani, Levi Yizhaq.  "Ossuaries and Ossilegium (Bone–Gathering) in the Late Second Temple Period."  Pp. 191–205 in Ancient Jerusalem Revealed: Reprinted and Expanded Edition, ed. by Hillel Geva.  Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 2000.