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The Geochemistry of Intrusive Sediment Sampled from the 1st Century CE Inscribed Ossuaries of James and the Talpiot Tomb, Jerusalem

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DOI: 10.4236/ad.2020.81006    178 Downloads   590 Views


In 2002 an ossuary of unknown provenance was revealed to the public during a press conference; it is inscribed “James son of Joseph brother of Jesus”. Because its inscription seems to refer to a member of the Jesus of Nazareth’s family, it is natural to wonder what relationship this ossuary could have to the Talpiot tomb. Discovered in 1980 during construction operations in SE Jerusalem, the tomb contained several ossuaries inscribed with names from the Jesus family. In pursuit of physical evidence regarding such a relationship, we investigated the geochemistry of the James ossuary’s sediment which accumulated through millennia in its interior. For comparison, we similarly investigated samples of material from ossuaries taken from the Talpiot tomb, and also from a wide sample of ossuaries from other tombs in the Jerusalem area. Our purpose was to answer, if possible, two questions. First, is the chemistry of the inorganic materials (soils) which were flushed into the Talpiot tomb and ossuaries therein distinct from other ossuaries removed from tombs in the Jerusalem area? Second, presuming such a distinction exists, does the geochemistry of the materials from the James ossuary resemble either grouping? While we recognize the controversies surrounding both the origin and inscription of the James ossuary and the interpretation of the Talpiot tomb inscriptions, this geochemical evidence is worth investigation and discussion on its own merits. Employing chemical (ICP, SEM and Pb isotope) analyses we have found, based on chemical data alone, that the ossuary of James is far more similar to ossuaries removed from the Talpiot tomb than it is to any other group of ossuaries we sampled.

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E. Shimron, A. , Shirav, M. , Kilty, K. , Halicz, L. , Pedersen, R. and Furnes, H. (2020) The Geochemistry of Intrusive Sediment Sampled from the 1st Century CE Inscribed Ossuaries of James and the Talpiot Tomb, Jerusalem. Archaeological Discovery, 8, 92-115. doi: 10.4236/ad.2020.81006.

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