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Tombs of the Priesthood and the Prominent (but less ornate)

Not all families, though considered wealthy, could afford the opulent tastes and lifestyle (or burial style!) of the King and other aristocracy. For others, expense was not so much the issue, but, rather, a less audacious image was to be preferred. Whatever the cause, some tombs were not ornamented or were ornamented more simply. In the case of the Benei Hezir tomb (see the May 10th posting) and the so-called “Ananus (the high priest) Tomb,” although both were substantially ornate, the priestly state of their owners may have eliminated the option of even placing floral designs on the tomb.

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Type 7: “Ananus Tomb”, Hinnom Valley, Jerusalem (Avigad, 1950-51; IES 1: 105, fig. 9)

Type 7: Hinnom Valley tomb, Jerusalem. ((in K. O. Dalman ZDPF 62 (1939) 200, fig. 6)

Other tombs are recognized to have been built according to a known design but without ornamentation. Below are two tombs of the distylos in antis style, but which lack the classic entablature or pediment. These may have been tombs of prominent individuals in Jerusalem’s social scene who were not members of the aristocracy. The Tomb of Nicanor belongs to a known, accomplished character in history, of whom a legend was once told that survives till today in the literature. Josephus relates the story of a certain Alexandrian Jew who built gates for Herod’s Temple. As the story goes, he built the gates in Alexandria and then accompanied the two doors, bound together, on a ship destined for the port of Jaffa (from where the doors would then be transported up to Jerusalem). The ship was wrecked at sea, but the doors floated and Nicanor climbed onto them. Miraculously the doors floated all the way to Jaffa Port and together, the doors and their maker, survived. They made their journey to Jerusalem where Nicanor was able to tell the story upon the doors’ installation and dedication. Although these temple doors were subsequently named after their maker and known as “the Nicanor Gates,” his story was considered to be a mere legend for many generations. However, in 1902 on Mt. Scopus in Jerusalem, this tomb was opened and, lo and behold!, an ossuary was discovered inside bearing a Greek inscription: “These are the bones [of the sons] of Nicanor the Alexandrian who built the gates. Nicanor the Alexandrian.”

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Type 6: Sanhedria Tomb VIII. North Jerusalem. (Rahmani CJO. fig. 3)

Type 6: “The Nicanor Tomb”, Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem. (Avigad 1967a; 125, fig. 5)

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