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Beth Shearim Catacombs, 2nd-4th century CE

Beth Shearim Catacombs

Catacomb

Sarcophagus at Beth Shearim

Sarcophagus

Rabbi Judah the Prince (HaNasi) headed the Sanhedrin from about 160-200 CE. He was based in Beth Shearim until ill health forced him to move to Zippori. Despite the move, he was buried in Beth Shearim according to his request. Thereafter, Beth Shearim became a popular burial place. In Greco-Roman Israel, people were buried initially in a sarcophagus in a cave. After a year, when the body had decomposed, the bones were re-buried. At Beth Shearim there is an enormous cave with many corridors and rooms, each with a beautifully decorated sarcophagus. The ornamentation includes symbols from the pagan world, such as a mask of Zeus, as well as generic decorations like flowers.

Beth Shearim was discovered by accident by Alexander Zaid in 1936 while laying the foundations for his family home.

See also:

Jewish Funerary Inscriptions—Most Are in Greek, Pieter W. van der Horst, BAR 18-05, Sep-Oct 1992.

Posted in: The Rabbis

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