The possible tomb (Photo: AFP)
Tomb of the Maccabees keeps its secrets despite new dig
An ancient structure thought to be the burial site of the early Jewish rebels has possibly been discovered near Modi'in, however definitive proof has been hard to come by.
Israeli archaeologists had hoped to finally uncover the mystery of the ancient tomb of the Maccabees -- but they have been thwarted yet again.



Archaeological authorities said on Monday that they had carried out another excavation at a site near Modi'in in order to determine "once and for all" whether the tomb was indeed there.


The tomb of the family that led the Jewish revolt against the Greek dynasty of the Seleucids in the 2nd century BC is believed to have been among ancient Judea's most impressive structures.


The possible tomb (Photo: AFP)
The possible tomb (Photo: AFP)


"We exposed the base of what survived from this magnificent building - this is a rare and unique building - but we didn't find the smoking gun yet, and the hard evidence which would enable us to declare that this is tomb of the Maccabees," said Amit Reem, an official working on the project.


Ancient texts describe the tomb a s a "tall, impressive structure surrounded by columns; it was said to overlook the sea and was built of fine stones and was covered with pyramid-like roofs," the Israel Antiquities Authority said.


An imposing building believed to be the tomb was unearthed at the site in the 19th century.


However, later work by French archaeologist Charles Clermont-Ganneau in 1871 found that "the purpose of the structure is unknown and it is Christian in nature," with mosaics adorned with a cross found on the floors of the burial vaults.


Afterwards, Reem said "this place was forgotten" and stones were taken away for use in construction work.


However, the site is much larger that what had previously been uncovered.


Recent excavations with the help of residents were the first to be conducted methodically over a long period of time, said Dan Schachar, another official on the dig.


Vaults in which sarcophagi could be placed, and large pillars that could support another floor were also discovered.


"It brought up a lot of questions, but we still have no proof," Schachar said.


He and Reem say that the Christian building could have been constructed on the site that the Christians themselves identified as the tomb of the Maccabees.


Christians revere the Maccabees as early martyrs.


Further work could yet turn up what archaeologists have been long hoping to discover, they believe.


"Maybe the smoking gun and the hard evidence is a few meters (yards) from here waiting to be revealed," Reem said.


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