Tomb Tracking: A New Burial Survey of Roman Galilee (1st-6th cent. CE)

Posted in: Ancient Near East Today, ASOR
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02000 By: Jessica Dello Russo Eldad Keynan, a native of Israel’s Galilee region, finishes a lunch of hummus and pita on the outskirts of the Christian town of Mailia, and engages in the customary post-prandial coffee with none other than the restaurant owner, an agile widow in her mid-seventies who keeps a baby stroller below the counter and faded posters of Italian soccer stars on her eatery’s inner walls. Conversing in Modern Hebrew, the lingua franca of this multi-cultural region of Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Druze, they name rural localities that only homegrown Galileans can visualize without a map. After about ten minutes of rapid discussion, during which time I study the triumphal scenes of the 2006 World Cup, the mid-afternoon traffic outside the window, and a small group of townsfolk who enter without any immediate need of being served, Keynan turns to me and signals, with satisfaction, another victory: “she has told me of a place near here where tombs are found.” This fits the pattern of many of our visits to Northeast Galilee, where open and friendly contact with area residents provides oral testimonies of the underground burials that we seek. A landowner in Mailia permits us to cross his pasture and climb down a flight of stairs into a finely-carved and as-yet undocumented rock-cut tomb: some children

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