Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Search for the Tomb of the Maccabees

Matti Friedman has written a mini-history of the search for the famous tomb of the Maccabees, concluding with today’s best hope for finding the remains:

All of which has led [IAA archaeologist Amit] Reem and other modern scholars back to the same site that drew the interest of the French diggers all those years ago.

Though Clermont-Ganneau conclusively established that the structure at Sheikh el-Gherbawy was Christian – the mosaic cross left no doubt about it – his finding might actually strengthen the possibility that the tombs are there, Reem said.

Early Christians saw the Maccabees as martyrs and would certainly have venerated their graves, he believes: In this version, the structure could have been constructed atop the lost tombs to mark their place.

In 2009, Reem made an effort to clean and investigate the site. Many of the remains the Frenchmen had seen all those years before had been long since looted, but the team used radar to peer under the ground and detected massive walls and subterranean chambers of considerable size.

The site, he noted, has remains of monumental construction; proximity to al-Midiya, which has the best claim to be ancient Modi’in; and a clear sightline to the sea. In other words, it would seem to match the criteria from the ancient writings.

Since then, Reem has been trying, without success, to drum up funding that would allow the site to be properly excavated for the first time.

“Neither I nor my colleagues are saying that this is the site of the tombs, but it’s the leading candidate,” he said. “Only a large, methodical excavation would prove or disprove the idea and solve the riddle of this place.”

The full story is here.

Modiin aerial from southeast, tb010703322

The modern city of Modi’in (photo source)

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