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11 ancient burial boxes recovered in Israel

KDWN

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli authorities on Monday unveiled 11 ancient burial boxes dating to around the time of Jesus, recovered by police during a midnight raid on suspected antiquities dealers.

The boxes include a pair of ossuaries believed to contain the remains of two noblemen who lived in Jerusalem some 2,000 years ago.

Some are engraved with designs and even names, giving clues to their origin and contents. The boxes contain bone fragments and remnants of what experts say is pottery buried with the deceased.

Israel’s Antiquities Authority said the boxes were recovered last Friday, shortly after midnight, when police observed two cars parked suspiciously at a military checkpoint on the outskirts of Jerusalem. When they investigated, they found four people involved in an exchange of the boxes. Once police recovered the items, they alerted the authority.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the boxes were “stolen from a cave” near Jerusalem with the intent of being sold to collectors. He said authorities had been tracking the suspects for some time but would not elaborate. The exchange involved an Israeli and a Palestinian seller attempting to make the sale to an Israeli customer, he said.

According to Israeli antiquities law, all antiquities discovered by the public are considered property of the state.

Two of the suspects remained in custody on Monday, and the others were under house arrest, according to the authority.

The boxes, known as ossuaries, are believed to date back to the Second Temple Period, a time stretching from roughly 515 B.C. to 70 A.D. that included the reign of King Herod, who built some of the most famous sites in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, and the time of Jesus.

Not unlike today, the Jerusalem of the time was a place of strong religious divisions, multiple languages and a diverse economy. Visitors made pilgrimages from far and wide, bringing with them commerce and traffic on religious holidays.

According to common Jewish burial practices of the time, the deceased were not buried but laid out in a cave for one year. Afterward, the bones were gathered and stored in the special boxes.

“It’s kind of like where the deceased go to retire,” said Stephen Pfann, president of the University of the Holy Land. Pfann noted that the use of these burial boxes developed at the time partly because of the difficulty of drilling directly into Jerusalem’s hard bedrock.

Some of the newly recovered boxes feature elaborate engravings, indicating wealth and a high social status of the deceased.

“It was an expense to cut a tomb at all,” said Pfann. “It definitely took a certain amount of wealth.”

The boxes are not especially rare. The Antiquities Authority already has in its possession over 1,000 of these ancient boxes. But the authority’s deputy director, Eitan Klein, said that each box was significant.

“We can learn from each ossuary about a different aspect of language, art and burial practice,” he said. “And we can learn about the soul of the person.”

Two were inscribed in Hebrew with names – “Yoezer” and “Ralphine.” Klein said that he hoped to learn more about the identity of the deceased through future research.

According to Klein, the boxes held the remains primarily of rabbis, businessmen and aristocrats of the time. The use of ossuaries became popular during the 2nd century B.C., influenced by the individualism of Greek and Roman societies. They fell out of fashion, Klein said, after Roman domination of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

Klein estimated the value of the boxes to be in the thousands of dollars.

In the past, allegations of forgery have been made over certain ossuaries and their inscriptions.

In one of the most famous cases, doubts still linger over a 10-year forgery investigation into the origins of an ossuary claimed to be inscribed with a reference to Jesus Christ. The case was closed in 2012 with no one convicted of forgery.

Klein said he had no questions about the authenticity of the latest discovery, given their engravings and contents.

“These ossuaries are authentic,” he said. “Everything here smells authentic.”

11 ancient burial boxes recovered in Israel

KDWN

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli authorities on Monday unveiled 11 ancient burial boxes dating to around the time of Jesus, recovered by police during a midnight raid on suspected antiquities dealers.

The boxes include a pair of ossuaries believed to contain the remains of two noblemen who lived in Jerusalem some 2,000 years ago.

Some are engraved with designs and even names, giving clues to their origin and contents. The boxes contain bone fragments and remnants of what experts say is pottery buried with the deceased.

Israel’s Antiquities Authority said the boxes were recovered last Friday, shortly after midnight, when police observed two cars parked suspiciously at a military checkpoint on the outskirts of Jerusalem. When they investigated, they found four people involved in an exchange of the boxes. Once police recovered the items, they alerted the authority.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the boxes were “stolen from a cave” near Jerusalem with the intent of being sold to collectors. He said authorities had been tracking the suspects for some time but would not elaborate. The exchange involved an Israeli and a Palestinian seller attempting to make the sale to an Israeli customer, he said.

According to Israeli antiquities law, all antiquities discovered by the public are considered property of the state.

Two of the suspects remained in custody on Monday, and the others were under house arrest, according to the authority.

The boxes, known as ossuaries, are believed to date back to the Second Temple Period, a time stretching from roughly 515 B.C. to 70 A.D. that included the reign of King Herod, who built some of the most famous sites in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, and the time of Jesus.

Not unlike today, the Jerusalem of the time was a place of strong religious divisions, multiple languages and a diverse economy. Visitors made pilgrimages from far and wide, bringing with them commerce and traffic on religious holidays.

According to common Jewish burial practices of the time, the deceased were not buried but laid out in a cave for one year. Afterward, the bones were gathered and stored in the special boxes.

“It’s kind of like where the deceased go to retire,” said Stephen Pfann, president of the University of the Holy Land. Pfann noted that the use of these burial boxes developed at the time partly because of the difficulty of drilling directly into Jerusalem’s hard bedrock.

Some of the newly recovered boxes feature elaborate engravings, indicating wealth and a high social status of the deceased.

“It was an expense to cut a tomb at all,” said Pfann. “It definitely took a certain amount of wealth.”

The boxes are not especially rare. The Antiquities Authority already has in its possession over 1,000 of these ancient boxes. But the authority’s deputy director, Eitan Klein, said that each box was significant.

“We can learn from each ossuary about a different aspect of language, art and burial practice,” he said. “And we can learn about the soul of the person.”

Two were inscribed in Hebrew with names – “Yoezer” and “Ralphine.” Klein said that he hoped to learn more about the identity of the deceased through future research.

According to Klein, the boxes held the remains primarily of rabbis, businessmen and aristocrats of the time. The use of ossuaries became popular during the 2nd century B.C., influenced by the individualism of Greek and Roman societies. They fell out of fashion, Klein said, after Roman domination of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

Klein estimated the value of the boxes to be in the thousands of dollars.

In the past, allegations of forgery have been made over certain ossuaries and their inscriptions.

In one of the most famous cases, doubts still linger over a 10-year forgery investigation into the origins of an ossuary claimed to be inscribed with a reference to Jesus Christ. The case was closed in 2012 with no one convicted of forgery.

Klein said he had no questions about the authenticity of the latest discovery, given their engravings and contents.

“These ossuaries are authentic,” he said. “Everything here smells authentic.”

11 ancient burial boxes recovered in Israel

KDWN

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli Antiquities Authority unveiled 11 ancient burial boxes Monday that were seized by police who broke up an apparent attempt to illegally sell them.

Officials say the boxes, or ossuaries, are 2,000 years old. Some are engraved with designs and even names, giving clues to their origin and contents. The boxes contain bone fragments and remnants of what experts say is pottery buried with the deceased.

The authority says the boxes were recovered last Friday in Jerusalem when police observed a suspicious nighttime transaction involving two cars, four individuals and the 11 boxes near a checkpoint on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

Once police realized the boxes were of archaeological significance, they alerted the Antiquities Authority. It is not yet clear how the suspects got hold of the boxes.

Two of the suspects are still being held and the others are under house arrest, according to the authority.

These boxes, or ossuaries, are believed to originate from the Second Temple Period. Experts say they are from within a 1.3 mile (2 km) radius of Jerusalem.

The Antiquities Authority’s deputy director, Eitan Klein, said he believes the boxes originated near Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus. Thieves may have looted them from a cave where they were deposited, or the cave may have been uncovered inadvertently during a construction project or excavation, he said.

The Antiquities Authority already has in its possession over 1,000 of these ancient boxes, but each one is significant, said Klein.

“We can learn from each ossuary about a different aspect of language, art and burial practice,” he said. “And we can learn about the soul of the person.”

Some of the 11 boxes feature elaborate engravings, which Klein says indicate the wealth and high social status of the deceased. Two were inscribed with names – Yoezer and Ralphine.

According to common Jewish practice of the time, the dead were not buried but laid out in a cave for a year. The bones were then gathered and stored in the special boxes.

According to Israeli antiquities law, all antiquities discovered or found within Israel are considered property of the state.

In the past, allegations of forgery have been made over certain ossuaries and their inscriptions.

But Klein said the engravings on the recovered boxes indicate the 11 boxes are authentic. “Everything here smells authentic,” he said.

11 ancient burial boxes recovered in Israel

KDWN

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli Antiquities Authority unveiled 11 ancient burial boxes Monday that were recovered by the Israeli Police early Friday morning.

Officials say the boxes are 2,000 years old. Some are engraved with designs and even names, giving clues to their origin and contents. The boxes contain bone fragments and remnants of what experts say is pottery buried with the deceased.

The authority says the boxes were recovered last Friday in Jerusalem when police observed a suspicious nighttime transaction involving two cars, four individuals and the 11 boxes. Once police realized the boxes were of archaeological significance, they alerted the Antiquities Authority. It is not yet clear how the suspects got hold of the boxes.

Two of the suspects are still being held and the others are under house arrest, according to the authority.

These boxes, or ossuaries, are believed to originate from the Second Temple Period. Experts say they are from within a 1.3 mile (2 km) radius of Jerusalem.

The Antiquities Authority already has in its possession over 1,000 of these ancient boxes. But deputy director of the authority Dr. Eitan Klein said that each box was significant.

“We can learn from each ossuary about a different aspect of language, art and burial practice,” he said. “And we can learn about the soul of the person.”

Some of the boxes feature elaborate engravings, which Klein says is indicative of wealth and a high social status of the deceased. Two were inscribed with names – Yoezer and Ralphine.

According to common Jewish practice of the time, the deceased were not buried but laid out in a cave for one year. Afterword the bones were then gathered and stored in the special boxes.

Dr. Klein offered two potential possibilities for how the sellers obtained these boxes. The first he said was that thieves had actively gone looting in an old cave. The second possibility is that a burial cave was uncovered inadvertently during a construction project or excavation.

According to Israeli antiquities law, all antiquities discovered or found within Israel are considered property of the state.

The boxes were recovered in the vicinity of the Shafat police station near the Israeli settlement of Neveh Yaakov.

Dr. Klein assumes that they originated near Mt. Scopus.

In the past, allegations of forgery have been made over certain ossuaries and their inscriptions. But Dr. Klein took careful note of their engravings and contents.

“These ossuaries are authentic,” he said. “Everything here smells authentic.”