David Harris

The traditional and the true burial spots of James, the brother of Jesus, are visible in this view of Jerusalem from the south. According to the second-century A.D. Christian historian Hegesippus, James was thrown from the pinnacle of the Temple and buried on the spot. The pinnacle is generally identified as the southeastern corner (just left of center in this photo; see detail) of the Temple Mount, the massive platform that supported the Temple until it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. (Today, it supports the golden Dome of the Rock and the silver-domed Al-Aqsa mosque.) By the second century A.D., this area was covered with rubble and thus inaccessible. To make things easier for pilgrims, a legend arose that James’s tomb was actually further east, just across the Kidron Valley. The entrance of the structure that has been called the Tomb of James since at least the fourth century on is just visible low in the valley in this photo.

In the right foreground is the village of Silwan, said to be the findspot of the recently surfaced ossuary, or bone box, inscribed “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.”