Ossuary of Nicanor


Nicanor_Ossuary_Inscription (1)

Inscription on the Ossuary of Nicanor

Roman/Jewish, from Jerusalem, currently in the British Museum.

Limestone chests of this type were used to hold the bones of a dead person or family which were gathered together after burial in the soil, when the flesh had decomposed. This practice was common among the Jewish people of Jerusalem in the first century BCE and the first century CE. The chests were placed in a burial chamber.

This chest is particularly interesting because the Greek inscription states that it contains the ‘bones of the family of Nicanor, the Alexandrian, who made the gates’ and the Hebrew inscription reads ‘Nicanor Alexa’. Both the Bible and the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus mention a wealthy Jew of Alexandria named Nicanor as the presenter of a pair of bronze gates to the Temple of Herod in Jerusalem in 10 BCE. They gave access to its Inner Court from the east, and were famous for their beauty.

Millard, Alan, Discoveries from the Time of Jesus. Oxford- Lion Publishing, 1990, p. 86.