The Talpiot Tomb – An Accidental Discovery

Discovery of the Talpiot Tomb

In March 1980 a bulldozer while working at a new construction site on Dov Gruner Street, located in the south of the Old City of Jerusalem, in the vicinity of East Talpiot, uncovered part of a burial cave belonging to the Second Temple period. While some such accidental discoveries may have gone unreported, luckily one of the neighbors informed the Department of Antiquities about this discovery and a formal excavation was conducted. Yosef Gath together with Amos Kloner and Eliot Braun excavated the double-chambered loculi and acrosolia tomb. Shimon Gibson charted the architectural plan of the tomb.

The excavation went on for over two weeks because of a meter thick terra rosa soil inside the tomb. Some believe that the terra rosa soil in the tomb was the consequence of a break-in or a collapse of a portion of the roof sometime in the distant past, as a result exposed the tomb’s interior to the elements for almost two centuries. According to some accounts the reddish soil had also poured in through the entrance and filled the central chamber and portions of the individual chambers.

The Talpiot tomb was about 3 x 3 meters and about 2 meters high. It was a modest tomb hewn into the rock. It was obvious that this was a tomb that was neither indicative of “high status or wealth”. The tombs of the rich and powerful were located near the Old City. However the tombs, as one moved south of “Akeldama, around the Mount of Offense, and south into Talpiot, are often more modest in form and size” (1).

Considering all that was found in the tomb, Amos Kloner clarifies that the tomb can be dated to around the end of the first century BCE to about 70 CE.

The Tomb Is In The Vicinity Of The Second Temple

The tomb was found some 2.5 kms south of the Second Temple in the Old City of Jerusalem. A portion of the tomb’s vestibule was damaged as a result of blasting during construction work. On the exterior of the fascia of the tomb’s entrance was carved in relief, a circle below an upward pointing gable. Inside, on each of the other three walls were two kokhim – making a total of six. Each of the kokhim was approximately 1.6 m long and almost .5 m wide – large enough to hold two or three ossuaries. Carved into the walls of the tomb were two arcosolia – shelves on which bodies were meant to be laid out. There was no golal – blocking stone – found, indicating that the tomb had been accessed.

The Contents Of The Tomb

The tomb contained notably ten ossuaries and some pottery from the Herodian period (BCE. 30—70 CE). However what is not know is whether the tomb also contained ointment vessels that one would normally find in such burial caves or even if there were shards of pottery from that period. It was subsequently recorded by the Israel Antiquities Authority that ten ossuaries of “no particular significance” were taken from the tomb to an old factory in one of the by lanes of Romemma, a dilapidated suburb of Jerusalem. They were numbered (IAA) 80-500 to (IAA) 80-509 (2).

It was the practice of the Israel Antiquities Authority to store ossuaries that were plain in open courtyards since they did not have place indoors for all the ossuaries that were excavated. This was the case with the ten ossuaries that were removed from the Talpiot tomb. However when the time came to catalogue the ossuaries from Talpiot, they found that one of them was missing. The remaining nine ossuaries were renumbered by Israeli archeologist Levi Yitzkhaq Rahmani (701-709) and catalogued (3). Six of the nine ossuaries were found to be inscribed (See fig. 15). These were numbered 701 – 706.

“The inscribed names for the East Talpiyot cache, as given in the 1994 Catalogue of Jewish Ossuaries (ed, LY Rahmani), and item: A Tomb with Inscribed Ossuaries in East Talpiyot, Jerusalem (by Amos Kloner), Atiqot, vol 19, 1996, are:

701 (80.500): Mariamene e Mara (inscribed in Greek) [equiv. meaning ‘Miriam or Martha’]

702 (80.501): Yehuda bar Yehoshua (inscribed in Hebrew) [equiv. ‘Judas son of Joshua’]

703 (80.502): Matya (inscribed in Hebrew) [equiv. ‘Matityahu’ or ‘Matthew’]

704 (80.503): Yehoshua bar Yehosef (inscribed in Aramaic) [equiv. ‘Joshua son of Joseph’]*

705 (80.504): Yose (inscribed in Hebrew) [equiv. ‘Joses’]

706 (80.505): Marya (inscribed in Hebrew) [equiv. contraction of ‘Maryam’]**

* The name Jesus, as given in the New Testament gospels, is the Greek form of the Jewish name Joshua.
** The name Mary, as in the gospels, is a Greco-Egyptian variation of the Jewish name Miriam.”

The inscriptions on the ossuaries from the Talpiot Tomb (Fig. 1)
Please also read my blogs:

Judah – Was He The Son Of Jesus And Mary Magdalene? at

Is This The Ossuary of Mary Magdalene? at

Jesus And Mary His Mother – Are These Their Ossuaries? at

(1)Ben-David, Yirmәyahu . (2008). Talpiot Tomb Disputations. Retrieved 2013, from

(2) Ben-David, Yirmәyahu .(2008). Burning Issues: Talpiot Tomb Complex. Retrieved 2011, from

(3) Ben-David, Yirmәyahu .(2008). Burning Issues: Talpiot Tomb Complex. Retrieved 2011, from

Picture Credits:
The inscriptions on the ossuaries from the Talpiot Tomb


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