An early Jewish Limestone Ossuary with Lid, ca. 1st century BCE - 1st century CE
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the hollow rectangular box on four low feet, engraved on one side with two six-petaled rosettes, the two side panels also with a single six-petaled rosette, all separated by a vertical panel and framed with a thin, double-line incised bands.
Before the Roman destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E., it was the custom of the Jews of Jerusalem to practice ossilegium or second burial. About a year after the initial burial, when the flesh had decomposed, the bones of the deceased were placed in a small stone box, called an ossuary. Ossuaries were often decorated, generally with geometric designs (such as this example), or at times with plant motifs or with architectural elements such as columns, ashlars (courses of shaped rectangular stones), or parts of a building. No human faces or figures were represented because of the Second Commandment’s prohibition, as interpreted at the time, on the making of graven images.
See Jerusalem Talmud, Moed Katan, 1:5 [80c], "A man gathers the bones of his father and mother for it is a joy unto him. At first they would bury in pits. [When] the flesh was eaten, they would gather the bones and bury them in chests." One explanation of this practice is that the decomposition of the body would lead to the expiation of one's sins (see no. 29, p. 78 in Westenholz, ed., Sacred Bounty, Sacred Land, The Seven Species of the Land of Israel).
Condition: Intact and in very good condition overall.
Dimensions: Height: 8 1/2 inches (21.6 cm), Length: 15 1/4 inches (38.7 cm), Width: 7 1/2 inches (19 cm)
Provenance: Private collection of Ambassador Morris Draper ( 1928-2005) and Mrs Roberta Hornig Draper ( 1933-2021) acquired in Israel in the 1970s.
Ambassador Morris Draper, was a career diplomat and member of the State Department's Foreign Service for over 35 years. Ambassador Draper served the Department of State and the American people faithfully in diplomatic postings in the Near East, Europe, and East Asia, including as Consul General in Jerusalem and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. He was a key player in the Camp David Peace Accords and the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty of 1979. From 1981-1983, he served as President Reagan's Special Middle East Envoy in negotiations regarding the withdrawal of foreign forces from Lebanon. In many ways our current efforts on behalf of a peaceful, sovereign, independent Lebanon build upon the work Ambassador Draper began over two decades ago.