A worker of the Israel Antiquities Authority shows the inscription on a 2,000-year-old ossuary in the IAA offices at the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem, Wednesday, June 29, 2011. Israeli scholars said Wednesday they have confirmed the authenticity of the ancient ossuary bearing the name of a relative of the high priest Caiaphas of the New Testament. The ossuary bears an inscription with the name “Miriam daughter of Yeshua son of Caiaphas, priest of Maaziah from Beth Imri.” (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
Israeli scholars say biblical burial box genuine
The Associated Press
Wednesday, June 29, 2011 11:01 AM EDT
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli scholars have confirmed the authenticity of a 2,000-year-old burial box that appears to bear the name of a relative of the high priest Caiaphas mentioned in the New Testament, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Wednesday.
The find offers support for the existence of the biblical Caiaphas, who appears in the New Testament as a temple priest and an adversary of Jesus who played a key role in his crucifixion.
The ossuary — a stone chest used to store bones — is decorated with the stylized shapes of flowers and bears an inscription with the name “Miriam daughter of Yeshua son of Caiaphas, priest of Maaziah from Beth Imri.”
The ossuary was seized from tomb robbers three years ago, the government antiquities body said in a statement. Because it “was not found in a controlled archaeological excavation and because of its special scientific importance,” the statement said, it has been undergoing lab tests since then.
The tests, which used powerful microscopes to inspect layers of buildup on the box and inscription, were carried out by two scholars, one from Tel Aviv University and the other from Bar Ilan University, the statement said. The research indicated that the inscription is “genuine and ancient.”
Careful tests were necessary because forgery is common in the world of biblical artifacts, where a brisk black market exists and where antiquities linked in some way to the Bible can fetch millions of dollars.
A similar ossuary — bearing the inscription “James son of Joseph brother of Jesus” — is currently at the center of a fraud trial under way in Israel.
The James ossuary was exhibited to widespread acclaim as the only known archaeological link to Jesus, but lab tests run by the Israel Antiquities Authority indicated the inscription was fake. An Israeli collector has been charged with forging the ossuary and other biblical antiquities, and a verdict is pending. The collector says the box is authentic.
The scholars believe the Miriam ossuary was plundered from a tomb in the Valley of Elah, southwest of Jerusalem.
The word “maaziah” on the inscription refers to a subset of the priestly caste. Scholars believe “Beth Imri” refers either to a priestly family or to the family’s village of origin.
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“The July issue of the National Geographic magazine, on newsstands June 28th” National Geographic
Where, oh where is Cleopatra? She’s everywhere, of course—her name immortalized by slot machines, board games, dry cleaners, exotic dancers, and even a Mediterranean pollution-monitoring project. She is orbiting the sun as the asteroid 216 Kleopatra. Her “bath rituals and decadent lifestyle” are credited with inspiring a perfume. Today the woman who ruled as the last pharaoh of Egypt and who is alleged to have tested toxic potions on prisoners is instead poisoning her subjects as the most popular brand of cigarettes in the Middle East.
In the memorable phrase of critic Harold Bloom, she was the “world’s first celebrity.” If history is a stage, no actress was ever so versatile: royal daughter, royal mother, royal sister from a family that makes the Sopranos look like the Waltons. When not serving as a Rorschach test of male fixations, Cleopatra is an inexhaustible muse. To a recent best-selling biography add—from 1540 to 1905—five ballets, 45 operas, and 77 plays. She starred in at least seven films; an upcoming version will feature Angelina Jolie.
Yet if she is everywhere, Cleopatra is also nowhere, obscured in what biographer Michael Grant called the “fog of fiction and vituperation which has surrounded her personality from her own lifetime onwards.” Despite her reputed powers of seduction, there is no reliable depiction of her face. What images do exist are based on unflattering silhouettes on coins. There is an unrevealing 20-foot-tall relief on a temple at Dendera, and museums display a few marble busts, most of which may not even be of Cleopatra.
“Photos are in the July 2011 issue of National Geographic magazine, on newsstands now.”