Those Mysterious Marks in the City of David

Mysterious marks in the City of David. Photo: Sebastian Scheiner, AP

Todd Bolen has tipped us off to a new find in the City of David which was publicized in the media earlier today. Todd’s blog post points to an Associated Press story which includes a couple of good photos — Go there for the background. It is a most intriguing find indeed.

First of all, I have some notion where these spaces under discussion are. When I take people through the City of David site, before we enter the ancient water system I like to go a little further down the slope — the modern staircase descending the eastern flank of the ridge — to view two walls exposed in a trench of Kathleen Kenyon in the 1960s; the walls are built one right behind and above the other — some 1,000 years apart in time, Canaanite and Israelite. Some of you may know the place. Anyway, the last couple of times I’ve been there, say over the past 6 months or so, I’ve noticed at the southwest corner of this trench a metal doorway giving access underground. I suspect that’s the place.

Now, about the V-shaped marks… At the risk of seeming to promote any of his work, I will simply note that Simcha Jacobovici, along with James Tabor, in their “Jesus Family Tomb” book and film, made much of some incised, inverted “V”-shaped marks found in connection with 2nd Temple-period burials. I think most were engraved over the outer doorways of tombs. What interpretation they imposed on these I don’t know, since I’ve never seen the film (even though I’m IN it!) — see on my web-log, here.

In any event, I well remember going to view a certain unrelated ossuary with the two men, at their invitation, in a back workroom of Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology — it was the ‘Alexander son of Simon’ ossuary, on which I had done some research and writing. This would have been in 2005. Prior to the filming, which is what the visit was all about, as the burial chest was being positioned and the lights set up, one face of the ossuary was bathed in strong cross-lighting and Jacobovici let out a whoop of surprise: There, clearly revealed, was a shallowly-incised, inverted “V”, which no one had noticed before! In my photo below, taken later without the special lighting, this mark is just visible:

The ‘Alexander son of Simon’ Ossuary, front. Note the inverted “V”.

I offer the story for what it’s worth, without suggesting any connection whatsoever. With the mark on the ossuary, as with the marks in the City of David, we are simply (until further notice) in the realm of mystery. In that spirit, though, I will pose two Jacobovici-type questions — pure specualtion: Could the rock-hewn rooms in the City of David actually be burial chambers? And where, after all, are the tombs of David and Solomon and the early kings of Judah? I know Simcha would be proud of me for asking!

This entry was posted in Antiquities, Archaeology, City of David, For FUN (mostly) and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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