Israeli authorities have uncovered 11 stolen burial boxes containing bones and believed to be from the time of Jesus in Jerusalem.
The Israeli Antiquities Authority announced Monday that they had recovered 11 burial boxes last week when police noticed a suspicious transaction taking place between two cars at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The antiquities authority confirmed that suspects were trying to sell the burial boxes to Jewish merchants at the checkpoint; the thieves most likely raided the boxes from a burial cave in Jerusalem, authorities said.
As LiveScience reports, the boxes, also known as ossuaries, are suspected of being 2,000 years old and are covered in Hebrew inscriptions, as well as some paint remnants. They are filled with bones and possibly pottery that was buried with the deceased.
According to Fox News, the burial boxes are suspected to be from a 1.2 mile radius in Jerusalem and come from the Second Temple Period, spanning from roughly 515 B.C. to A.D. 70. The common Jewish practice of that time was to lay a body out in a cave for a year to allow the flesh to rot off. After a year, family members would go into the cave and collect the bones of the deceased to put into the burial boxes, which sometimes had the deceased's name written on the side, as well as ornate carvings that would signify social status.
"The ossuaries are decorated with typical Jewish symbols, among them the lily flower, the six-petal rosette and other symbols," the Antiquities Authority said in a statement. "The decorations adorning the ossuaries were a major element of the Jewish art of the period."
Dr. Eitan Klein, deputy director of the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery, told The Associated Press that although the authority already has over 1,000 of such boxes in its possession, each new discovery lends a unique look into the Jewish culture from the Second Temple Period.
"We can learn from each ossuary about a different aspect of language, art and burial practice," he said. "And we can learn about the soul of the person."
Klein added that "the inscriptions on the ossuaries provide us with additional characters and names from amongst the Jewish population in the Second Temple period, and the motifs adorning the ossuaries will supplement our knowledge with new information about the world of Jewish art in this period."
"There is no doubt that the ossuaries were recently looted from a magnificent burial cave in Jerusalem," the deputy director added.