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The Simpler Tomb Façades and the So-called “Chevron”

Simplified Gables without Decorated Pediments

The gable with a decorated pediment above a moulded door frame remained popular among the upper class. This type of ornamented façade doesn’t quite fit any one of Rachel Hachili’s typologies (see posting of May 11), outside of the fact that she mentions them and illustrates them as a subcategory under Type 2: “Façade surrounded by moulded frame.” However, one might say that these façades are a simplified form of the Type 4: “Entrance façade with moulding and pediment,” where the pediment is unornamented, although the gable may or may not have acroteria.(See below, letters a, b-c, d.) Thus we might, for our purposes, call this simplified form “Type 4a”. In many cases the gabled entrance is flanked by pilasters. (See below, letters a, b-c, d, f, g, h.) These doorways tend to be internal doors, which separated various chambers within larger tomb complexes. If there is an acroterion at the apex of the gable, it is often fused to the ceiling above the entrance. (See below, letters d, f, g, h; also see the “Cave of Jehoshaphat”.) At times, the moulding around the doorway and the bottom has eroded or been chiseled away, leaving an upside down “V” (a.k.a, “chevron”?) above the entrance. (See, b-c, h.) At times, the space under the gable may contain a simple ornament like a wreath (letter h), a shield (on a coin of Philip; letter i), or a star (or rather a rosette (?!) above the entrance to the temple on shekels of the Bar Kokhba period; see letter j).

Concerning the so-called “chevron” of the Talpiot tomb: see the methodology suggested in our post of May 7th: “Chevron Toil.” For a proposed parallel to the chevron to achieve an “A” rating, it must be from the same time period, locale, and archaeological context as this first century, Jerusalem tomb façade. Thus, the place to begin a search for relevant parallels is among other first century, Jerusalem tomb façades. It is from these that we should be able to arrive at “A” rating parallels.

Happily, such parallels do exist! We have spent the past few days doing a thorough survey of the tombs of the Second Temple Period in Jerusalem. We have found no examples where an unexpected symbol has appeared above the door of the tomb. Independently, many archaeologists have arrived at very similar conclusions. According to these, the decoration above the door is simply an inelegant, stylized or eroded representation of a gable with an acroterion attached to the ceiling. (S. Gibson, A. Kloner, S. Pfann, S. Cox, et al.). The ring at the center has been interpreted as an eroded rosette (Kloner) and as a wreath (Gibson and Pfann). Shimon Gibson has prepared a detailed and definitive analysis of the decoration on this tomb soon to be published.

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a) Type 4a: Tomb façade in the Hinnom Valley, Jerusalem. (Vincent and Steve, 1954: 343, fig. 93B.)

b-c) Type 4a: Vestibule of Silwan tomb, Jerusalem

d) Type 4a: Entrance to tomb, Hinnom Valley, Jerusalem. (RAF Macalister, PEFQSt (1901) 157, fig. 25b.)

e-g) Type 4a: Tombs of the Hinnom Valley (Hachlili p. 45, fig II-12 b; Avigad 1950-51: fig. 3)

h) Type 4a: The Talpiot Tomb, Jerusalem. (Drawing by S. Gibson)

i) Coin of Herod Philip with façade of temple. (Fontanille, Menorah Project)

j) Silver Sela of the Bar Kokhba revolt. (Meshorer, A Treasury of Jewish Coins, 2001. pl. 66, no. 233)

Summary concerning this study and the decoration on the Talpiot Tomb:

Is the term”chevron” the appropriate term for this tomb façade decoration? Is the “all seeing eye” an appropriate candidate for the circle which appears below it?

Some of the gables and their pediments on the tomb façades are realistic and highly detailed, while others are simplified or stylized, reflecting levels of honor or affluence within society. If a ceiling protrudes from above the doorway, the top acroterion often connects to the ceiling above it. Thus, the appropriate term for this motif is “gable,” not “chevron.”

Wreaths and rosettes commonly decorate tomb entrances. The ring above the Talpiot tomb entrance is likely one of these, with a preference toward the wreath. (in the May 11th posting cf. the “Frieze tomb”, the “Tomb of the Kings” and the “Tomb of the Grapes”)

Since this is not the only one in Talpiot, perhaps in the future this particular tomb should be called “The Tomb of the Wreath”.

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