Reconstructing Herod's Tomb II

Posted by admin on May 10, 2007

What did the monument of Herod's tomb look like?

The fragments illustrated in yesterday's posting give evidence of an ornamented tomb with triglyphs and, potentially, an urn (although the details of the piece that was found are not polished smooth).


Tomb of Jehoshaphat with Absalom's Pillar; Tomb of Zecharia; Benei Hezir monument. (drawings adapted from Hachlili 2005, p. 33)

The Kidron Valley tombs come from from the 1st century CE, late 1st century BCE and the late 2nd to early 1st century CE respectively. These three tombs and another nearby, but without a monument, all hold in common distylos in antis façades. Distylos in antis is a colonnade of two columns flanked by two pilasters which support an opening to a buiding or, in certain cases, are merely a decorative motif (as in the case of Absalom's Pillar and the Tomb of Zecharia). As is the case with Absalom's Pillar and the Benei Hezir, triglyphs are found in the architrave above the columns; so it would have been for the Herodion tomb (see the decorative element in the foreground on yesterday's photo). As is the case with Absalom's Pillar and the Tomb of Zecharia, the capitols were ionic with scrolls (see the third element in the same picture).

The monument podium that was preserved at the Herodion is about 10x10 meters, which is comparatively larger than those from the Kidron Valley (c. 9x9, 6x6 and 4x4, respectively). Until more architectural fragments come to light at the Herodion excavations, any of these monuments are legitimate parallels, if one would like to envision what the tomb looked like from a distance.

Hachlili, R., Jewish Funerary Customs, Practices and Rites in the Second Temple Period. Brill: Leiden and Boston. 2005.

Reconstructing Herod's Royal Tomb

Posted by admin on May 09, 2007

Although there are only a few fragments to work with, it is not impossible to imagine what Herod's tomb and sarcophagus (stone coffin) once looked like.


Prof. Pfann at Press Conference; Significant fragments from tomb and stone coffin

There are several other contemporary royal tombs and tombs of affluent individuals that provide better preserved and clear parallels to what once stood on on the side of the Herodion.

These include:

1) "Herod's Family Tomb," which is preserved in a park near the King David Hotel. Although the name suggests that it contained the remains of Herod's family, this was only a suggestion based upon Josephus' description of such a tomb. No inscriptions were found to confirm this. This tomb was equipped with a separate funerary monument called a "nefesh" that once flanked the entry court that provided access to the tomb. All that is preserved of the monument today are the foundation stones which, although lacking ornamentation, look like a smaller version of what has now been discovered at the Herodion. The tomb was entered by descending from the courtyard through a rather plain opening protected by a rolling stone. The four large chambers (and one small one) inside were open areas with low ceilings and without niches. A narrow air shaft ascended vertically from inside one of the chambers. Complete limestone sarcophagi, not dissimilar in form to that found at the Herodion, were found inside.

2) "The Tomb of the Kings", was actually the royal family tomb of Queen Helene of Adiabene. Josephus provides us with a description of a royal family from a Mesopotamian principality who converted to Judaism and moved to Jerusalem during the first century CE. This tomb complex once had three monuments which once stood above the entrance to the tomb, which was approached from a monumental stair case through a large courtyard equipped with ritual immersion pools at its entrance. Across the courtyard was a two column, distylos in antis, style vestibule, which stood below the monuments and provided access to the tomb complex below through a rolling stone entrance. (The two columns have ionic style capitals, with two scrolls, and are similar to the ornate fragment of one such scroll found by Dr. Netzer at Herodion.) The decorated architrave ascended above the columns, with a grape cluster at the center flanked by two wreaths, and two rows of shields extended to each side separated by triglyphs. At the bottom of each of set of triglyphs is a row of round inverted cones or "teeth" (similar to those found at Herodion; see in foreground of photo above).


Tomb of the Kings: Distylos in Atis vestibule with ornate architrave above. (Avigad 1956: 340, fig. 18)


The typical complex of rooms with burial niches (loculi and arcosolia) is offset by a small room with a single arcosolium (sideways arched niche for a body) and a room for sarcophagi evidently for honored members of the family. The sarcophagus of Queen Helene herself was found with an inscription bearing her name (in Syriac and in Judean Aramaic). (Avigad 1956: 341)



The ossuary that provides the clearest parallel to this new sarcophagus comes from this tomb. (Avigad 1956; fig. 20)



Helpful resources on Second Temple Period tombs, sarcophagi and ossuaries:

Avigad, N., The Rock-Carved Façades of the Jerusalem Necropolis, IEJ (1950-51) 1:96-106

Avigad, N., Ancient Monuments of the Kidron Valley (1954)

Avigad, N., "The Necropolis" in Avi-Yonah (ed.) Sefer Yerushalayim. Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. 320-348.

Hachlili, R., Jewish Funerary Customs, Practices and Rites in the Second Temple Period. Brill: Leiden and Boston. 2005.

Rahmani, L.Y. A Catalogue of Jewish Ossuaries in the Collections of the State of Israel. Jerusalem. The Israel Antiquities Authority/The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. 1994.

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We can see the Herodion and Bethlehem from the roof of our office at Tantur. We can see the Herodion, Bethlehem and the city walls of Jerusalem from the terrace of our apartment and from the roof of our staff apartment. When we gaze upon these sites, we often ponder what important role they played in molding the images we have of Biblical and ancient history.

For twenty five years, we have cheered on Prof. Netzer in the search to find that tomb which has eluded archaeologists and historians for so many decades. We hoped with him that the tomb was intentionally hidden so that if it was found in our lifetime, the contents would have been found intact. We hoped that this tomb would have been found filled with priceless treasures reflecting the opulent lifestyle of the only Jewish ruler who was fully recognized as sovereign by Rome. He created the monumental platform and sacred precinct that we still recognize as "the Herodian Temple," of which it is stated "he who has not seen the temple has not seen a beautiful building." He created the then state-of-the-art port of Caesarea Maritima, which was the second or third largest port in the Mediterranean. He created the temple of Augustus at Samaria, which was said to have been able to be seen glistening in the sun from boats on the Mediterranean Sea. He also created Masada, a virtually impregnable desert fortress which fell only to an entire legion of Roman soldiers.


Prof. Netzer points to the place of the tomb.

For an audio clip of Prof. Netzer's presentation:

Ehud Netzer announcing discovery of Herod’s Tomb

If you were favored by Herod you were well endowed for life.

However, there was another side to Herod the Great. Perhaps he should have been known as "Herod the Terrible". If you crossed him there was no safe place to hide, for you or your family. In fact, there was no safe place to hide for his own family. Augustus Caesar was quoted to have said, "It is better to be Herod's pig than Herod's son." Herod was both hated and feared by his subjects.

It should not be so surprising therefore, that Herod's final resting place was looted, vandalized and broken into small pieces.

The massive funerary monument or mausoleum that he had built for himself was entirely dismantled, leaving behind only its sizable 10x10 meter base.


For anyone in antiquity to do such a thorough job of destroying the last remains of Herod (and possibly his sons), they must have hated the former king with a vengeance.

We would like to congratulate Prof. Ehud Netzer on the fulfillment of his life-long dream to find King Herod's tomb. We would also like to encourage him to continue to find more fragments which might tell more of the story of this king and his royal line.

UHL Staff report

Herod's Tomb - Hebrew University Press Release

Posted by admin on May 08, 2007

This is the press release distributed at the Press conference at the Hebrew University's Senate Building this morning: (more from our reaction later)

News Release

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Tomb of King Herod discovered at Herodium by Hebrew University archaeologist

Jerusalem, May 8, 2007 - The long search for Herod the Great's tomb has ended with the exposure of the remains of his grave, sarcophagus and mausoleum on Mount Herodium's northeastem slope, Prof. Ehud Netzer of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Institute of Archaeology announced today.

Herod was the Roman-appointed king of Judea from 37 to 4 BCE, who was renowned for his many monumental building projects, including the reconstruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the palace at Masada, as well as the complex at Herodium, 15 kilometers south of Jerusalem.

Herodium is the most outstanding among King Herod's building projects. This is the only site that carries his name and the site where he chose to be buried and to memorialize himself— all of this with the integration of a huge, unique palace at the fringe of the desert, said Prof. Netzer. Therefore, he said, the exposure of his tomb becomes the climax of this site's research.

The approach to the burial site - which has been described by the archaeologists involved as one of the most striking finds in Israel in rercent years - was via a monumental flight of stairs (6.5 meters wide) leading to the hillside that were especially constructed for the funeral procession.

The excavations on the slope of the mountain, at whose top is the famed structure comprised of a palace, a fortress and a monument, commenced in August 2006. The expedition, on behalf of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was conducted by Prof. Ehud Netzer, Yaakov Kalman and Roi Porath, with the participation of local Bedouins.

The location and unique nature of the findings, as well as the historical record, leave no doubt that this was Herod's burial site, said Prof. Netzer.

The mausoleum itself was almost totally dismantled in ancient times. In its place remained only part of its well built podium, built of large white ashlars (dressed stone) in a manner and size not previously revealed at Herodium.

Among the many high quality architectural elements, mostly well decorated, which were spread among the ruins, is a group of decorated urns (made in the form of special jars that were used to store body ashes); similar ones are to be found on the top of burial monuments in the Nabatean world. The urns had a triangular cover and were decorated on the sides.

Spread among the ruins are pieces of a large, unique sarcophagus (close to 2.5 meters long), made of a Jerusalemite reddish limestone, which was decorated by rosettes. The sarcophagus had a triangular cover, which was decorated on its sides. This is assumed with certainty to be the sarcophagus of Herod. Only very few similar sarcophagi are known in the country and can be found only in elaborate tombs such as the famous one at the King's Tomb on Selah a-Din Street in East Jerusalem. Although no inscriptions have been found yet at Herodium, neither on the sarcophagus nor in the building remains, these still might be found during the continuation of the dig.

Worthy of note is the fact that the sarcophagus was broken into hundreds of pieces, no doubt deliberately. This activity, including the destruction of the monument, apparently took place in the years 66-72 C.E. during the first Jewish revolt against the Romans, while Jewish rebels took hold of the site, according to Josephus and the archaeological evidence. The rebels were known for their hatred of Herod and all that he stood for, as a "puppet ruler" for the Romans.

The search for Herod's tomb, which actively began 30 years ago, focused until the middle of 2006 at lower Herodium, in an area which was, no doubt, especially built for the funeral and burial of the king - the "Tomb Estate." In order to reveal here the remains from Herod's days the expedition was "forced" to first expose a large complex of Byzantine structures (including a church), an effort that demanded many years of digging.

The Tomb Estate included two monumental buildings and a large ritual bath (mikveh) as well as the large route (350 meters long and 30 meters wide) which was prepared for the funeral. When no sign of the burial place itself was found within the Tomb Estate, the expedition started to search for it on the slope of the hill, although there seems to be no doubt that the initial intention of the king was to be buried in the estate and that only in a later stage of his life - apparently when he grew old - did he change his mind and asked to be buried within the artificial cone which gave the hill of Herodium its current volcano-shape.

The main historical source of the Second Temple's days, the historian Josephus Flavius, has described the site of Herodium in detail, as well as the funeral in the year 4 BCE, but not the tomb proper. He wrote as follows:

"The king's funeral next occupied his attention. Archelaus, omitting nothing that could contribute to its magnificence, brought forth all the royal ornaments to accompany the procession in honor of the deceased. The bier was of solid gold, studded with precious stones, and had a covering of purple, embroidered with various colors; on this lay the body enveloped in a purple robe, a diadem encircling the head and surmounted by a crown of gold, the scepter beside his right hand.

Around the bier were Herod's sons and a large group of his relations; these were followed by the guards, the Thracian contingent, Germans and Gauls, all equipped as for war. The remainder of the troops marched in front, armed and in orderly array, led by their commanders and subordinate officers; behind these came five hundred of Herod's servants and freedmen, carrying spices. The body was thus conveyed for a distance of two hundred furlongs to Herodium, where, in accordance with the directions of the deceased, it was interred. So ended Herod's reign. " Jewish Wars, 1,23,9

Prof. Netzer started his archaeological activity at Herodium in 1972, at first on a small scale. The scope of his work widened with the decision to turn Herodium (the mount together with "Lower Herodium") into a national park, which was due to occupy 125 acres. (Until that stage only the mount was proclaimed as a national park and was operated by the Nature and Parks Authority.)

The enlargement of the park started in 1980; unfortunately the activity at the site stopped as a result of the first Intifada, but not before the complex of tunnels from the days of Bar-Kokhba, within the mount, were opened to the public. The archaeological excavations at the site, which also stopped in 1987, were renewed 10 years later and continued until 2000, and after a second break, were renewed at the end of 2005.

Prof. Netzer gained his first "intimate" acknowledgment of Herodian architecture while joining Prof. Yigael Yadin (in 1963-66), in his expedition at Masada. Netzer's Ph.D. dissertation in archaeology, guided by Prof. Yadin, brought him to initiate excavations both at Lower Herodium and at Jericho - at the complex of Hasmonean and Herodian Winter Palaces. (The site at Jericho, following Netzer's excavations, includes three palaces of Herod and a hitherto unknown large complex of Hasmonean winter palaces). Additional Herodian structures in other parts of the country were also uncovered by him. He has written various books and artides on the topic of Herodian architecture.

Yaakov Kalman, archaeologist and farmer, participated in many excavations throughout the country and took an active part in Netzer's excavations at Masada, Jericho and Herodium. Roi Porath took an active part in the survey of the Judean Desert caves and has many significant finds in his record.

The current excavations benefited from donations of private individuals, and the assistance of the Israel Exploration Society and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

For further information:

Jerry Barach, Dept. of Media Relations, the Hebrew University, Tel: 02-588-2904,

or Orit Sulitzeanu, Hebrew University spokesperson, Tel: 02-5882910, Cell: 052-260-8016.

Internet site:

Chevron Toil (Updated)

Posted by admin on May 07, 2007

So far no one has ventured a guess as to the origins of this feature on the facade of the Talpiot Tomb.

It takes a little work to hunt up the legitimate parallels but also a certain methodology should be applied. This A, B, C, D rating system of potential parallels might help narrow down the options. This method is adaptable to various forms of research and was developed at the University of the Holy Land for its work at Nazareth Village.

A - A "certain" parallel. Needs to be from the same century, the same locality and the same archaeological context.

B - A "probable" parallel. Needs to be from within a hundred years of the same century, the same general region and a related archaeological context.

C - A "plausible" parallel. Needs to be from within two to three hundred years of the same century, the Mediterranean world, and a somewhat relevant archaeological context.

D - An educated guess. Needs to be from the pre-Medieval ancient world, the Old World, and a remotely relevant archaeological or ethnographic context.

NA - Not applicable. Items which are traceable to the Medieval, Renaissance or modern periods. Items of unknown or untraceable origins. Items lacking a relevant archaeological or ethnographic context.

To achieve an "A" rating where should we look for parallels?

In the meantime you can visit the Talpiot Tomb site in 360 degree VR (modern and reconstructed ancient) developed by our CGI/digital reconstruction expert (S. Pfann, Jr.)

Prof. James Tabor appears to be the first to venture an answer to this question, more or less. In his latest blog (May 5th) he has provided a number of images that resemble the "chevron". I am not sure that he has answered our question.

He says, "Some of these seem to have some real merit and others I think are probably quite far out but I will offer them without comment or interpretation for now, but as a prelude to a full discussion of the tomb symbol and what it likely meant in pre-70 CE 1st century Jerusalem. They are in no particular order."

We thought that it would be an interesting exercise to have our readers submit these photos to the grading scale offered above. Would anyone like to give it a try? (One encouragement to all. The real answer to our question "Is this chevron story for real? If not, what is it?" is likely found among these images.)

Here are the images.

Once we have worked that through the "chevron" mystery, utilizing the same grading scale and the same images, what does the circle represent? (the bagel offer is not a hint)

UHL Staff Report

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Preliminary Observations for an Ossuaries Report of the Talpiot Tomb

(Submitted to Miki Saban of the Israel Antiquities Authority)

By Stephen Pfann and Steven Cox

University of the Holy Land

On Thursday, May 3, 2007, four members of the University of the Holy Land staff visited the Israel Antiquities Authority storage facility at Beth Shemesh in order to study four inscribed ossuaries from the Talpiot Tomb. The UHL staff members present were: Dr. Stephen Pfann (epigrapher), Steven Cox (forensic scientist), Stephen Pfann, Jr. (CGI/digital reconstruction) and Glenn Zehr.

Four of the ossuaries were on the table when we arrived. Under the supervision of IAA warehouse supervisor, Miki Saban, his assistant opened the lids of ossuaries 80.500 (Mariame kai Mara) and 80.503 (Yeshua (?) bar Yehosef). The containers of samples that had been gathered by Steven Cox during the filming a year ago, and which we had left in the ossuaries, were no longer in the ossuaries. (Also, the quantities of soil, pulverized bone material and seeds that were in ossuary 80.500, and are visible in the film, are now missing.)

First we examined ossuary CJO 701 (80.500) which bears the inscription MARIAME KAI MARA, "Mariame and Mara".

1. CJO 701 (80.500) MARIAME KAI MARA

1.1 Surface condition and measurements.

We measured the ossuary and rechecked the earlier rubbing that Dr. Pfann had made more than two years ago, when the ossuary was still in the IAA storage warehouse in Romema. While examining the inscription, we found noticeable black ink spots on the surface of the ossuary. These spots were made since the ossuary was last photographed in February. Apparently, an ink pen had been carelessly used as a pointer, either during the short time the ossuary was in New York, or since then, with the resulting marks on the ossuary’s surface.

1.2 Inscription.

We examined all parts of the inscription with optivisors and a boom-supported stereomicroscope. For the purpose of this report, the “first part” of the inscription refers to the strokes making up the word “MARIAME,” and the “second part” of the inscription refers to the strokes constituting the words “KAI MARA.”

1.2.1 General characteristics of incisions.

The incisions in the chalk surface were distinguished by width, depth, the steepness of the sides of the trough and the form of the bottom. All strokes that make up the letters in the inscription share some similarities, which would suggest that a similar tool, with a bifurcated tip, was used throughout. A double groove appears in strokes that slope to the right, while strokes that are vertical or slope leftward have a "V"-shaped trough. From the discernable angle of execution of the various strokes, it is apparent that both parts of the inscription were made by right-handed writers. However, the similarities end there.

1.2.2 Unique characteristics of incisions.

Most of the strokes that make up the name MARIAME are comparatively shallow compared with those of the second part of the inscription. According to preliminary measurements, the width of the points of the instruments used to inscribe the first and the second parts of the inscriptions is different. Comparing similar strokes from all parts of the inscription, the strokes from the first part were consistently 80% to 90% narrower than those of the remainder of the inscription, whether the instrument was fully depressed or not. Troughs at the bottoms of the strokes were also distinguishable between the two parts. These measurements made it apparent that similar but clearly distinct tools had been used in the writing of the first and the last parts of the inscription. The drooping line that rides below the inscription is consistent with the strokes made by the second instrument.

1.2.3 “Stroke” before Mara.

The mysterious "stroke" that stands before MARA has a gently rounded trough, similar to other inadvertent marks on the ossuary's surface. The shape of this trough eliminates it as having been made by either tool utilized for the inscription, since the trough is neither double-grooved or "V"-shaped.

1.2.4 UV light test.

There was no apparent distinction between florescence of the incisions of the inscription and other outer surfaces on the ossuary (except where modern chips and abrasions were apparent).

The other ossuaries will be dealt with in a future communication.

Stephen Pfann

Steven Cox

Chevron from heaven?

Posted by admin on May 05, 2007


In the film "The Lost Tomb of Jesus," one of the goals of the production team story was to find this mysterious tomb with a very special symbol above the door. The director Simcha Jacobovici and his crew, after a tremendous effort, find the wrong tomb and set out to "find" the other. The staged reenactment was very entertaining. The director himself climbs distant walls, with the actual tomb in the foreground. They stand at a distance talking to neighbors who point out the actual tomb in the camera's foreground. The filmmakers actually knew where the tomb was all along, but it provided a great dramatic effect, right? Then they democratize the inaccessible tomb by breaking the seal on the modern cement structure which prohibited access. The director himself helps to push the heavy manhole cover away from its opening and sees the sacred emblem for the first time. And then he gasps at what he sees.

SJ: Oh my goodness. No, this is definitely it. Look, there’s the chevron. It’s beautiful; it’s just gorgeous. It’s red. Look!

Felix G.: Just like in the book.

SJ: Just like in the book. Look at it. Felix, we found it. We actually found it. I’m going in.

The chevron's legend had evidently preceded the "rediscovery" of the Tomb. The story of the chevron and all of its implications continues to grow, in the film, in the book and on the official web site in our very day! Undoubtedly, someone is currently designing jewelry and other paraphernalia with this symbol, "even as we speak". I would certainly buy one myself . . . . if I actually believed the story.

Is this chevron story for real? If not, what is it?

A free bagel and a visit to the tomb site for the first three that get it right (next time you are in Jerusalem). Sorry we won't be able to get you access in the same way we saw it in the film!

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Stone-mason's Marks (not Freemason's Marks)

Posted by admin on May 05, 2007

Stone-mason's Marks (not Freemason's Marks)

Yesterday we took a look at the "chevron" of Dominus Flevit. As several responded, it is simply a "direction mark," which normally appear in pairs, one on the lid and one the side (or rim) of the ossuary* (Bagatti, Gli Scavi del "Dominus Flevit" p. 63ff.; Rahmani, A Catalogue of Jewish Ossuaries, p. 19). These are inscribed on ossuaries when the direction that the lid should be placed is not so obvious. One mark is intended to sit immediately above the other once the lid is placed upon the box at the end of the one-year anniversary ceremony. During that ceremony, when the bones are collected and placed in an ossuary, it is very important to know which direction the lid should go to be securely in place. (If not, the heavy stone lid might fall into the box and break some bones!) After all of the effort, the lid actually fit better going the other way. In the case of this ossuary, an additional cruder mark was added on the other side of the box for the ceremony (see Bagatti, Gli Scavi del "Dominus Flevit" p. 55, No. 66; p. 66; fig. 17, 17-18; Photos 67 and 74; such errors have been enumerated by Rahmani, CJO p. 19)


The symbols that are used can be two identical scratches, two X's, two letters or two stonemason's marks.

From Rahmani, CJO, p.19



Other ossuaries from Dominus Flevit with direction marks; Bagatti, fig. 16.

*I will be delighted to take any one of the five who responded correctly out for a cup of coffee and a tour of the Shrine of the Book any time.

A Trip to Beth Shemesh

Posted by admin on May 04, 2007

On Thursday, May 3rd, four members of the UHL staff visited the Israel Antiquities Authority storage facility at Beth Shemesh and studied four inscribed ossuaries from the Talpiot Tomb.


CJO 703 (80.502) MATIAH

CJO 704 (80.503) YESHUA (?) BAR YEHOSEF

CJO 705 (80.504) YOSEH

Equipment: binocular microscope on boom stand. Ultraviolet light. 2 optivisors. Drawing and tracing equipment.



UHL Staff Report

On Tuesday, May 1, members of our staff visited Dominus Flevit at the invitation of a film production team from the United States who were filming there. With our staff's effort to understand the tomb and its ossuaries, and the film crew's effort to retrace the sequence of events portrayed in the Lost Tomb, a number of "clarifications" may now be offered.

In the first sequence at Dominus Flevit, Associated Producers director, and star of the film's ongoing story, Simcha Jacobovici, accompanied by Charles Pellegrino and Felix Golubov, enters into a well-lit chamber with numerous bones and ossuaries. After perusing this chamber, he ascends into a mysterious dark hole and corridor at the back of the cave (or so the audience is led to believe). With the light of the chamber at his back, Jacobovici descends into yet another chamber of similar size and contents, where the "Simon bar Jonah" sequence begins. [The film producer who invited us was astonished to point out the fact that the apparent "corridor" is not at all a passageway. The "hole" Jacobovici was entering was nothing but a small, cramped alcove in the cave (in other words, a dead end), which the AP film crew evidently lit with artificial light. It appears that they also blocked the sunlight in the original chamber so that Jacobovici could descend again into the same chamber past the same ossuaries as though it were a new tomb complex, enshrouded in darkness and mystery.]

Another sequence which interested us is the one that leads to Jacobovici's discovery of the ossuary with the "chevron ... identical to the one over the tomb." On our visit this week, the same ossuary was indeed up and to the left as one enters the enclosed tomb area. [This is ossuary 66 in Bagatti's publication Gli Scavi del "Dominus Flevit".] In the film, Jacobovici finds an ossuary without a lid, containing a femur bone and the nozzle of an ancient juglet. The "chevron" is on one of the narrow sides of the ossuary facing outward. This is the state in which we also found the ossuary on Tuesday, with one important exception. The original stone lid was actually in place on the ossuary. This lid does not appear anywhere in the film. In the film, the ossuary was "discovered," as though the lid were missing or non-existent.


This tomb complex is presented in the film as being connected with the first century Judaeo-Christians, but more specifically, with the group perceived to be first century "Ebionites." This lone ossuary has a symbol which has been identified as being the essential symbol of the Ebionites, as opposed to the cross. This symbol, an upside down "V" with a dot in the middle, hypothetically connects the Ebionites to the Talpiot tomb, where the same symbol apparently sits above its doorway. The filmmakers perceived this to be a symbol for Jesus, a stylized "taw" (the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet), since He proclaimed himself to be "the beginning and the end" in the book of Revelation. In the enactment in the film, the "true disciples of Jesus", the Ebionites, have this symbol made on their foreheads to seal them as members. This symbol is attributed in the film (and, even more so, in the film's website) to a number of secret societies from the Ebionites to the Templars to the Freemasons, whose secret rites and symbols come down to us today (even though, according to the filmmakers, the true meaning of the symbol has been widely misunderstood through the centuries).

This is a digital photo of the side of the ossuary as we found it on Thursday. This is a digital photo once the lid was turned around

dominus-flevit-oss64.jpg dominusflevitossuary.jpg

What's does this picture tell us? What is really going on here?

(For the first reader to provide a correct answer: The next time you are in Jerusalem, Dr. Pfann will take you out for a cup of coffee and a personal tour of the Shrine of the Book.)

UHL Staff Report

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A gentleman and a scholar from Argentina

Posted by admin on May 02, 2007

Un caballero y un erudito de la Argentina

Un número de visitantes han venido a de la Argentina durante semanas recientes. En tu honor deseé introducir a otro erudito que llegó la lectura de MARIAME KAI MARA independientemente. Hay ocasionalmente los individuos que aventuran adentro de exterior su propia área de expertese, que capacidad sin embargo extiende bien más allá de esa área. Está tan con profesor Fernando Saravi de la Universidad de Cuyo. Espero que su email abajo sea una inspiración a otras que estén demostrando un interés duradero en nuestro trabajo.

Felicitaciones a ti, profesor Saravi.

A number of visitors have come to our site from Argentina during recent weeks. For your sakes I wanted to introduce another scholar who arrived at the MARIA KAI MARA reading independently.

At times there are individuals who venture in from outside their own field of expertise, whose competence nevertheless extends well beyond that field. So it is with Prof. Fernando Saravi of the University of Cuyo. I hope that his letter below will be an inspiration to others who are showing an abiding interest in our work.

Congratulations to you, Professor Saravi.

Prof. Stephen Pfann


Sent: Friday, March 16, 2007 1:28 AM


Subject: Mariame kai Mara (Dr Pfann)


Dear Dr. Pfann,

This is to thank you for your fine article "Mary Magdalene is now


Although I am not an expert in epigraphy, last week, as I was reading

Jacobovici's book (Jesus family tomb) I found a plate with a good

picture of the IA 80-500 (Rahmani's 701) and after watching it carefully

with a magnifying glass I realized that it read "mariame kai mara".

I found it incredible that no one else have noticed this!

Then I was comforted by the news that Prof. Emile Puech, of the Ecole

Biblique et Archaeologique, interpreted the words in the same way. At

least I wasn´t alone...

Early today I came through your article, with its careful explanations,

pictures and examples. It really made my day!

God bless you! Best regards from Mendoza, Argentina.

Fernando D. Saravi

Prof. Fernando D. Saravi, BD, MD, PhD, CCD

Department of Morphology and Physiology

Faculty of Medical Sciences

National University of Cuyo

Mendoza MZ 5500 Argentina

Demythologizing Jesus (of Talpiot)

Posted by admin on May 02, 2007

Rudolf Bultmann first introduced the idea of demythologizing the New Testament in a 1941 lecture, which was published as an essay under the title "The New Testament and Mythology." The goal of finding the Historical Jesus (of Nazareth), "the Jesus of History," could only be achieved by "demythologizing" the perception of Jesus portrayed in the four Gospels, a portrayal which, according to Bultmann, was derived from the early church's "Jesus of Faith".

Founder of the Jesus Seminar, Robert W. Funk, reaffirmed this methodology as the goal of the Jesus Seminar, whose working assumptions included the dismissal of the miracles and any apocalyptic sayings attributed to Jesus [cf., Honest to Jesus: Jesus for a New Millennium (1996); The Acts of Jesus: The Search for the Authentic Deeds (1998); A Credible Jesus (2002)]. These methods were intended to reduce the persona and acts of Jesus to a minimum number of elements that might be considered "credible", as presented in the Five Gospels (since the Jesus Seminar included the first-second century Gospel of Thomas as well).

The film producers of The Lost Tomb of Jesus and their advisers have taken this methodology a step further. They have continued to reduce Jesus' historical persona and acts, on the one hand, but have been adding to them through elements taken from local traditions (and culture), late fictitious Gospels and now a tomb from East Talpiot.

This Judean tomb and its inhabitants, are now being connected with a specific historical family. Each ossuary has had a face and story from the New Testament superimposed upon it. This becomes problematic for those of us who would like to study and understand the tomb and its family/families on their own merit.

Due to this, we are left with an interesting situation which is, indeed, very reminiscent of historical Jesus studies. We are faced with the task of demythologizing the Jesus Family Tomb in order to clarify the identity of the real Jesus of Talpiot and the family members of that tomb according to their actual archaeological, social and historical context. It is our hope that over the coming month, before the next showing of this movie, we may be able to achieve this goal, at least in part.

Stephen Pfann, Ph.D.