“Jonah” Ossuary Discussed in Print in 1981

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By Eric M. Meyers and Christopher Rollston, ASOR Blog Guest Editors for March 2012

It has come to the attention of the ASOR Blog that a newspaper article about the so-called “Patio Tomb” in East Talpiyot was published in Hebrew in DAVAR on May 22, 1981 (this tomb has also been called “Talpiyot Tomb B”). The article was entitled, “Haredim Prevent Removal of Ossuaries from Ancient Tomb,” written by the late archaeologist and journalist, Zvi Ilan. Within the article, Ilan notes that religious extremists prevented the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) in 1981 from excavating the tomb. Although Amos Kloner (the excavator for the IAA) wished to excavate the tomb, he was not permitted do to so, nor was he even permitted to remove artifacts from the tomb (although he managed to remove a small ossuary belonging to a child). In fact, he was forced to abandon his attempt to write a full scientific report. Kloner’s incomplete report is mentioned briefly in Tabor and Jacobovici’s book.

One of the ossuaries in this tomb has been dubbed by Tabor and Jacobovici as “the Jonah Ossuary,” because of Tabor and Jacobovici’s interpretation of the ornamentation on the ossuary as that of “Jonah and the Whale” (This ossuary in Kloner’s incomplete report is labeled #1). Significantly, however, it is clear from the article in DAVAR that the ornamentation on the ossuaries identified in 1981 include the following: (1) Architectural features (perhaps of the Second Temple?) and (2) An amphora (Heb.agartal). These two understandings of the ornamentation are the very interpretations that were proposed on the ASOR blog (in March 2012). Tabor and Jacobovici did not mention in their book that the ossuary had been previously discussed in print and (most importantly) that the design was long ago suggested to be an amphora. Should one assume that they had not seen this article?

click to enlarge


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