Two Israeli specialists discuss aspects of First Century burials
|The “Jesus Tomb” has been the hot topic on many religious and biblical study blogs and news sources. Vision researcher Peter Nathan conducted interviews with two of the people involved in the archaeology of the tomb that was uncovered in Talpiot, Jerusalem, in 1980. |
Shimon Gibson was a junior archaeologist at the time, working with the Israel Department of Antiquities (now known as the Israel Antiquities Authority), and was intimately involved with this excavation. Today he is a Senior Fellow with the W.F. Albright Archaeological Institute in Jerusalem and an independent researcher excavating on Mount Zion.
Joe Zias was the curator of the Israel Department of Antiquities at the time of the Talpiot excavation. Although not directly involved at the front line of the dig, as an anthropologist he was largely responsible for analyzing human remains unearthed in this and other such projects.
Both men have published widely on their work and discoveries.
The tomb at Talpiot is just one of numerous tombs that have been discovered and excavated in the Jerusalem area. These two men bring their individual expertise and memory to bear on the subject. Clearly the passing of 27 years has faded some details pertaining to this particular tomb. Nonetheless, Gibson and Zias provide a useful insight into burial practices of the first century C.E. as we understand them today.
PN The Talpiot tomb is described as a salvage operation. How does that differ from a regular excavation?
SG In a regular university-sponsored excavation, one has specific research objectives in mind. Together with students and volunteers, a professional scientific staff sets out to excavate a given archaeological site. Without undue pressure, archaeologists basically set out to solve research problems they have in the field.
PN When did people in the Jerusalem area start using ossuaries?
There’s also no way of telling relationships. Just because it says “Jesus, son of Joseph,” it doesn’t mean that there is any relationship between that and the ossuary that says “Joseph.” The ossuary that says “Joseph” may have been two or three generations before him. There’s no way of telling. That Joseph could have been an uncle, a second cousin, so on.