JERUSALEM, Israel - A 2,000-year-old ossuary, discovered following the robbery of an ancient burial cave, may contain the bones of the daughter of Jesus' crucifier, experts are saying.
The small stone chest bearing burial bones is decorated with a stylized floral motive and an Aramaic inscription from the time of the Second Jewish Temple, which reads, 'Miriam, Daughter of Yeshua, Son of Caiaphas, Priests [of] Ma'aziah from Beth 'Imri."
Researchers ascribe this ancestry to the family of Yehosef Bar Caiaphas, infamous for his involvement in the trial and crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
The Israel Antiquities Authority Unit for Prevention of Antiquities Robbery acquired the ossuary three years ago from antiquities robbers. The robbers had plundered an ancient Jewish tomb of the Second Temple period in the Valley of 'Elah in the Judean Plains.
Researchers from Bar Ilan University and Tel Aviv University, investigating the authenticity and significance of the find, attribute the importance of the inscription to the ancestry of the deceased -- the Caiaphas family.
This reference, they say, indicates the connection to the family of the Ma'aziah line of priests of Beth 'Imri.
Ma'aziah is the last of the 24 priestly lines to serve in the Temple in Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 24:18). This was a famous family of priests active in the 1st century AD, the researchers believe.
Yehosef Bar Caiaphas, a family member, is especially famous for his involvement in the trial and crucifixion of Jesus.
Robbers removed the ossuary far from its original location, taking it out of its archaeological context and making it difficult to trace its entire story, the IAA said.
Since it wasn't discovered in a controlled archaeological excavation, it underwent microscopic examinations using an environmental scanning electron microscope to evaluate its authenticity.
Researchers have determined that the inscription on the ossuary is genuine and ancient.
--Published June 30, 2011.