Caiaphas' Cave

Have archaeologists found the burial site for the priest who judged Jesus?

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Construction crews in Israel often uncover artifacts that date to biblical times. Rarely, however, do they stumble across the people who inhabit the Scriptures. But workers building a water park south of the Old City of Jerusalem may have performed precisely that feat two years ago when they uncovered a burial cave. As reported in this week's issue of Biblical Archaeology Review by Zvi Greenhut, Jerusalem's chief archaeologist, the cave is the final resting place for the Caiaphas family, whose most famous member was the high priest who, according to the Gospels, handed Jesus over to the Romans for crucifixion.

Within the cave Greenhut found 12 ossuaries, or bone boxes, dating to the 1st century. Six of the limestone containers had been disturbed by grave robbers. But one of the intact ossuaries bore the inscription "Yehosef bar Qayafa," or Joseph, son of Caiaphas, and included the remains of a woman, a man of about 60 and four children. The outside of the ossuary is decorated in a rare and intricate pattern of concentric circles and rosettes, perhaps befitting a priest's tomb. After almost 2,000 years, however, it is impossible to know for sure.