Israel Antiquities Authority/Howard Smithline

Just above the lowest of the cave’s three terraces, the authors discovered a loft-like burial space containing numerous artifacts, including the painted ossuary and anthropomorphic lid visible in the photo above. But like the other finds in this chamber, the ossuary had fused with the cave’s naturally occurring flowstone—slick-looking deposits of calcium carbonate that have hardened over time. Any attempt to remove the artifacts would have involved cutting through the rock and potentially damaging the finds—a risk the authors were not willing to take.