Ossuary of Joseph, son of Caiaphas
Photo © Israel Museum, Jerusalem

Ossuary of Joseph, son of Caiaphas.
1st century
Israel Antiquities Authority Collection, exhibited at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem

The name of the deceased was often inscribed on the ossuary after it was decorated. In most cases, it was done by the family members and not by a professional engraver. This explains the poor quality of the inscription as compared with the decoration.

On the ossuary displayed here, the name Joseph, son of Caiaphas, was engraved twice, once on the side of the ossuary and once on its back. It is quite likely that this is indeed the ossuary of Joseph Caiaphas, the high priest from the Second Temple, known to us from the Christian Gospels as the man who arrested Jesus and handed him over to the Roman authorities.

Decorated ossuary
Photo © The Israel Museum, by Dr. Jean-Luc Pilon, Canadian Museum of Civilization

Decorated ossuary.
1st century CE
Israel Museum Collection, Jerusalem

Thousands of ossuaries have been found around Jerusalem. They were carved in soft limestone quarried in the mountains around the city. The one displayed here is elaborately decorated with the common Jewish motifs of the period: rosettes, vines, geometric designs and lilies.

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