Ana Cleja

The main chamber of the Goliath family tomb as the archaeologists found it. Shown in an artist’s reconstruction, this rectangular chamber measures 11.5 feet by 8.2 feet, making it by far the largest of the 120 tombs excavated in the huge cemetery near Jericho. Eight burial niches (loculi) are hewn into the rock around the central pit.

Covered boxes (ossuaries) holding bones of the dead lie in and in front of three loculi on the right (north) wall. The fourth arched opening in the corner of this wall is not a burial niche, but an entrance to a second tomb chamber for additional ossuaries of this large and important Jericho family.

In the front left corner of the tomb, excavators found a repository pit containing over 100 skeletons gathered into piles.

An ossuary lid in the rear right corner of the pit is inscribed in charcoal with the first nine letters of the Greek alphabet. Although we don’t know the purpose of this inscription, perhaps, as the author suggests, the person who propped it up in this position 2,000 years ago thought the Greek letters had magic properties and would frighten any evil spirits that saw it as they entered the tomb.