Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Remains of First Century Jews in the Temple Mount?

This past weekend Jews around the world observed Tisah B ' Av, the day that both temples were destroyed. The first temple was destroyed  in 586 BCE by the Babylonians and the second temple by the Romans in 70 CE. While there are few who will claim that these temples never existed, there is also very little archaeological information. The site is a Muslim holy site and has been since the seventh century with some interspersed Christian activity.

Coincidentally, a journalist, Benny Liss,  has released a video he took of a cavern under the temple mount that contains a mass grave of skeletons. Liss is suggesting that these are the bones of Jews killed by the Romans when they took the temple mount in 70 CE. According to Josephus, the Romans first entered Jerusalem through the temple complex and then eventually attacked the upper city. Liss suggests that the mass grave is evidence of a Roman massacre of Jews on the site. Archaeologists, however, are not so sure. Here is what they are saying.

A host of senior archaeologists approached by Israel Hayom said that photographs were not enough to determine the history of the cave and that samples need to be taken from the site and dated.
Professor Dan Bahat, a former Jerusalem District archaeologist, said the bones could be Jewish, but also just as easily be Christian or Muslim. Prominent archaeologist Dr. Gabriel Barkai said that Muslim mass graves had been found in the area in the past, though he does not discount other possibilities. Archaeologist Dr. Ayelet Mazar said that such a finding was unprecedented, but refused to come to any conclusions without further investigations being carried out.
The chances of the site being reopened are very slim as it is located in a particularly sensitive area, where the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf keeps a close watch and interprets every movement by Jews or Israeli authorities on the mount.

This does sound like an interesting find, but without the ability to study the bones and the cavern it is impossible to know what it all means. The times is, of course, interesting. A pile of bones in the temple mount, which no one can access, is announced as being evidence of the Roman conquest all on the day Jews observe the temple's destruction. 

Read the whole article here

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