The lone remaining ossuary found in Kfar Kanna (Photo: Antiquities Authority)

In an operation by the Israeli police in Kfar Kanna and the robbery prevention unit of the Antiquities Authority, a Jewish burial cave was uncovered in the Galilee last Sunday. This is new evidence of a Jewish settlement that took place there in the second century AD. As part of an operational activity, Kfar Kanna station policemen and Antiquities Authority inspectors arrived at a private lot in the Mashhad Regional Council.

Inspectors of the anti-theft unit at the Antiquities Authority noticed a number of piles of earth in the area of ​​the lot, which seemed to be hiding something behind them. The owner of the land and the person responsible for the construction site was asked to remove the piles of dirt, and behind them, an ancient burial cave was discovered, with nine burial mounds in it. Following the destruction caused by the engineering works, only a single burial mound remained intact.

At the cave entrance were found three decorated stone chests (ossuaries), which were used in ancient times to collect human bones. The chests were found empty and not in their natural place, which raised the immediate suspicion that the cave had recently been robbed of its antiquities.

Dr. Eitan Klein, Deputy Director of the Robbery Prevention Unit at the Antiquities Authority, explained the significance of the findings: "The Jewish population in the Galilee used the decorated coffins during the third century AD. Models belonging to the Jewish burial world and influenced by Greek culture were carved on the coffins. This burial custom became widespread in Galilee following the failure of the Bar Kochba rebellion and the arrival of a Jewish population in the area from Judea and Jerusalem. Therefore, the finding of decorated stone coffins in a cave in Kfar Mashhad near Kfar Kanna indicates the existence of a Jewish settlement there in the second century AD."

Amir Ganor, Director of the Robbery Prevention Unit at the Antiquities Authority added: "The excavation operations completely destroyed an ancient burial cave, and were seemingly in the midst of robbing another burial cave before they stopped. We will never know what the destroyed cave looked like or what was inside it and disappeared. Cultural assets almost 2,000 years old were lost forever. Thanks to the vigilance and determined activity of the Kfar Kanna station policemen, and successful cooperation with the Antiquities Authority, one of the coffins was saved. Thanks to the ancient finds found in the area, we can save, if only to some extent, the archaeological and historical information about the site and the ancient settlement.”

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