Limestone ossuary

Roman/Jewish, 1st century BC to 1st century AD
From Jerusalem

Donor of doors to the Temple of Jerusalem

Limestone chests of this type were used to hold the bones of a dead person or family which were gathered together after burial in the soil, when the flesh had decomposed. This practice was common among the Jewish people of Jerusalem in the first century BC and the first century AD. The chests were placed in a burial chamber.

This chest is particularly interesting because the Greek inscription states that it contains the 'bones of the family of Nicanor, the Alexandrian, who made the gates' and the Hebrew inscription reads 'Nicanor Alexa'. Both the Bible and the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus mention a wealthy Jew of Alexandria named Nicanor as the presenter of a pair of bronze gates to the Temple of Herod in Jerusalem in 10 BC. They gave access to its Inner Court from the east, and were famous for their beauty.

From 45 BC Judaea was ruled by Herod and Jerusalem was rebuilt: the Temple itself was completely remodelled. Soon after Herod's death in 4 BC Judaea became a province of the Roman Empire administered by procurators. Power shifted between direct Roman control and Roman recognition of Herod's successors as king. In AD 66, however, the Jews revolted. The revolt was crushed only after four years of bitter conflict, during which Jerusalem was besieged and subsequently destroyed. The Temple was destroyed at this time.

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Length: 75.000 cm
Width: 58.000 cm

Museum number

ME 126395


Gift of the Palestine Exploration Fund


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