Ossuary with lid - ROM2004_1044_16


Ossuary with lid

Medium:Limestone, painted, incised with compass and carved
Geography: Jerusalem
Date: 40 BC-135 AD
Period: Herodian - Roman Imperial Period
26.5 x 39.5 x 20.5 cm
Object number: 910X90.2
On view
Gallery Location:Wirth Gallery of the Middle East
DescriptionIn the first century B.C., the belief in the resurrection of the dead grew in Jerusalem, and was associated with the belief in the coming of a messiah. To prepare for this event, the common burial practice among the Jews was to transfer the bones of the deceased from their original resting place in a burial cave to an ossuary (a stone box). Corpses lay in caves for a year until the flesh decomposed after which the bones were collected, placed in an ossuary and placed in family crypts. Ossuaries are often painted red and decorated with incised six-pointed "Stars of David" and commonly depicted on the one side that was visible in the crypt. The star has no known symbolic meaning in this context other than being a standard feature of these burial boxes. The former suggestion that ossuaries were in the shape of a house and represented the last abode of the dead has been judged by specialists to be false. It is now believed that they represent stone versions of household chests. The small size of this casket implies possibly the remains of a child.
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