The Associated Press reports that 11 ancient burial boxes that date back 2,000 years were recovered by Israeli police last week and were unveiled today by the Israeli Antiquities Authority. Israeli police intervened early Friday morning, raiding a suspicious transaction involving two cars, four individuals, and the 11 boxes, and arresting the suspects and confiscating the boxes.
The designs engraved on the boxes, as well as bone remnants and pottery fragments inside, quickly identified them as archeologically significant, and the police notified the Israeli Antiquities Authority.
The boxes are believed to have originated in the Second Temple period, somewhere within a 1.3 mile radius of Jerusalem. The Antiquities Authority already has more than 1,000 boxes of this kind in its possession, but deputy director Eitan Klein says that each individual burial box is significant. This particular batch of boxes features elaborate engravings and names inscribed, which Klein said might indicate an individual’s wealth and high social status.
Israeli antiquities law states that all antiquities discovered or found within Israel are considered property of the state. Klein said the boxes were likely found near Mt. Scopus in Jerusalem, either by individuals actively looting an old cave or in a burial cave inadvertently uncovered during a construction or excavation project. Two of the suspects involved in the thwarted exchange are still being held in police custody, and the other two are under house arrest.
Lily Wilf is an editorial intern at Tablet.