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Have Israeli archaeologists uncovered the long-lost tomb of the Maccabees?


A large mausoleum recently uncovered in Israel may be the Tomb of the Maccabees, the celebrated Jewish family that led an uprising against the Greeks in the second century B.C. Archaeologists, however, are still searching for conclusive evidence that the site is the Maccabees’ final resting place.

The Israel Antiquities Authority, working with local residents and volunteers, recently excavated the site near the city of Modi’in, 19 miles northwest of Jerusalem, long rumored to be the Maccabees’ tomb.

The Maccabees – Matityahu the Hasmonean and his five sons were from the ancient city of Modi’in. The archaeological site at Horbat Ha-Gardi is close to the Arab village of Al-Midya, which bears a similar name to that of the ancient Modi’in, and attracted nineteenth-century archaeologists.

The tomb is described in two 2,000-year-old books – ‘The Book of the Maccabees’ and the ‘Antiquities of the Jews’, which was written by ancient historian Josephus Flavius. Described as a tall, impressive structure surrounded by columns, the mausoleum was covered with pyramid-like roofs and was said to overlook the sea.

Aerial photograph. (Skyview Company, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.)

Amit Re’em, who managed the recent Horbat Ha-Gardi excavation for the Israel Antiquities Authority, told that the tomb certainly bears a resemblance to the one described in the ancient books. “It was circled with pillars,” he said, adding that the tall building had pyramid-style structures on its roof. “People could see it from the sea, from [the coastal city of] Jaffa.”


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