Burial Cave Dedicated to Midwife of Jesus Reveals Treasures; Soon to Open to Public
Recent excavations in Israel will soon open to the public a tomb that’s venerated as the resting place of Jesus’s midwife, Salome.
Found in 1982 by antiquities robbers, excavations have always been ongoing, but recent breakthroughs have proved the site to be far more grandiose than previously expected, and much of the tomb will soon be open to pilgrims and tourists alike.
A mosaic-floored courtyard spanning 350 square meters (almost 4,000 square feet) counted chief among the latest finds, and it was decorated with soaring arches and intricate stone carvings.
The team from the Israeli Antiquities Authority also found what appears to be a merchant’s stall for selling small oil lamps to pilgrims—the kinds that archaeologists have dug up by the dozens inside the tomb, and that would have lighted their penitent footsteps in the dark interior.
The earliest chamber dates to the Second Temple Period, between 500 BCE and 70 CE.
“According to a Christian tradition, Salome was the midwife from Bethlehem, who was called to participate in the birth of Jesus,” said IAA archaeologist Zvi Firer.
“She could not believe that she was asked to deliver a virgin’s baby, and her hand became dry and was only healed when she held the baby’s cradle.”
The outermost rooms of the tomb date to the Byzantine period, or between 300 to 600 CE, making it a little avant-garde for Salome’s time, but Firer has a theory.
In the tomb’s excavations which turned up relics as recently as last Tuesday, stone funerary boxes called ossuaries were uncovered in the older chambers, which Firer believe could have had the name Salome or “Schlomitt” on them, which fooled the early Christian pilgrims into believing it was the midwife of legend.
These were common names for Jewish people living in the area during the Second Temple Period.
However there are some inscriptions in Greek that seem to dedicate the whole complex to “Holy Salome” so perhaps there’s more to the legend after all.
The site, located in the Lachish region in central Israel, is soon to be part of a 60 mile tourist trail running along the historic spine of Israeli history, a sort of Valley of the Kings, but for the Jews rather than the Pharaohs.
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