Victims of Great Revolt against the Romans laid to rest in Ofra

It has been reported, eg. here (Hebrew with pictures) and here, that remains of Jews who perished in the Great Revolt against the Romans and were discovered in Binyamin were secretly buried in Ofra.

The bones of Jews who perished in the Great Revolt by Jews against the Roman Empire, and which were discovered at an archaeological site near the community of Givat Assaf in the Binyamin region, were recently brought to burial secretly in Ofra.

The remains were discovered in 2013 at the archaeological site, which is a Jewish village from the time of the Second Temple. Mikvahs, coins from the time of the Great Revolt and vessels made out of stone were discovered at the site.

The bones belonged to seven women and a boy who hid in a cave, and were killed by the Romans in 69 CE, one year before the destruction of the Second Temple.

The archaeological excavation in question is Kh. el-Maqatir and was carried out by the Associates for Biblical Research, headed by Dr. Scott Stripling and Dr. Bryant Wood. I served as architect of the Maqatir excavation.

Five skeletons were found in a large cave that housed an oilpress and possibly also a winepress and three in a secret cave that led off from it.

An oilpress was discovered inside a cave at Kh. el-Maqatir. The olives were deposited through the hole in the ceiling and put in circular baskets. These were stacked and placed under a beam that was weighed down with stone weights. Nearby stood two upright stones that supported a screw press that may have been used for pressing grapes. The liquids were stored in the large vat at the right of the reconstruction drawing. Five skeletons were found here.

The entrance to the cave was via a staircase that was cut into the rock:

The author standing at the bottom of the staircase that leads into the cave.

The drawing below shows people entering the oilpress cave CAV1 and two women sitting in the secret cave CAV3:

A secret hiding cave was uncovered in the excavations at Kh. el-Maqatir. This secret Cave 3 was accessed from the larger Cave 1 that contained the oilpress (above). The skeletons of three Jews who perished in the Great Revolt  against the Roman Empire were discovered inside this secret cave, turning it into a tomb.

No doubt they thought they were safe. However, that was not the case, as along with the bones, evidence of brutal killing was discovered, in the form of arrow heads and shoe studs of Roman soldiers.

The bones of the victims were identified in 2013, as noted above, and were examined in laboratories for the purpose of determining the date of death. Only this past January were they transferred to Hevra Kadisha and buried in Ofra.

The residents of Ofra built a monument using natural stone on the grave of the women, and placed an explanatory sign that tells their story. A second panel bears the story of the vision of the dry bones from the Book of Ezekiel:

HT: Joe Lauer

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