Choosing Death over Slavery
Date- 70 CE
Language and Script- Aramaic, alphabetic
One of 11 inscribed potsherds (ostraca) containing single names, this sherd bears in Aramaic script the name ben Ya’ir, undoubtedly Eleazar ben Ya’ir, leader of Masada’s defenders. The historian Josephus relates that when defense against the Romans seemed hopeless, the men at Masada cast lots to decide the order in which they and their families would commit suicide. This ostracon is probably the lot cast by Masada’s commander.