Israel Exploration Society/Masada Excavations

The remains of three skeletons (a female skull appears here) discovered in Masada’s northern palace may have a better claim to having belonged to Jewish defenders. Yadin, in his popular book, identified these as the remains of a family—a warrior (perhaps the last to commit suicide on Masada), a woman and a child. But the unpublished photos and field diaries from the excavation indicate that the skeletal finds from the northern palace were much more fragmentary than Yadin suggested. The forensic scientist’s report indicates that the male remains belonged to a 40-year-old and a 22-year-old, and that only the legs and feet of one of the men were discovered. The condition of the remains suggests that these bones (like those found in the southeastern cave) had been mauled by animals, which had dragged the remains into the palace. The proximity of the sandal to the woman’s skull provides further evidence of animal predation.