Matti Friedman’s latest contribution to his continuing series on objects in the Israel Museum is grand!
The heel bone and nail from the ossuary of Yehohanan. (photo credit: Courtesy the Israel Museum, photographer: Ilan Shtulman)
In Jerusalem around 2,000 years ago a Jew named Yehohanan, who was in his mid-twenties, committed a crime against Roman authority. The nature of his transgression has been lost to time, but his punishment is known — he was crucified.
Convicts were executed by crucifixion in the Roman Empire as a matter of course, and histories of the time regularly describe the practice, which was designed to make death prolonged, painful and public. After the famous slave uprising led by Spartacus was crushed in 71 BCE, for example, an estimated 6,000 rebels were crucified along a highway leading to the capital as an illustration of Roman power.
It is therefore an odd fact that archaeological evidence of this punishment — crosses, for example, or perforated skeletons — has never been found anywhere in the world, with one exception: the stone box containing Yehohanan’s remains.
After Yehohanan’s body was removed from the cross, it would have been laid out in a burial cave. After the flesh had decomposed a year or so later, leaving only the skeleton, his bones were gathered in a simple stone box, an ossuary, in keeping with the Jewish practice of that time. Today, the box is displayed in a gallery at the Israel Museum alongside other artifacts from the period of Roman rule in Judea.
His name is inscribed in simple letters on one side: Yehohanan, son of Hagakol. (Some scholars, interpreting the letters differently, believe the second name is Hezkil.)
Inside the box, archaeologists found a heel bone with an iron stake driven through it, indicating that the occupant of the ossuary had been nailed to a cross.
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Today marks the launch of the Digital Dead Sea Scrolls project by Google and the Israel Museum. Check it out.
The Israel Museum welcomes you to the Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Project, allowing users to examine and explore these most ancient manuscripts from Second Temple times at a level of detail never before possible. Developed in partnership with Google, the new website gives users access to searchable, fast-loading, high-resolution images of the scrolls, as well as short explanatory videos and background information on the texts and their history. The Dead Sea Scrolls, which include the oldest known biblical manuscripts in existence, offer critical insight into Jewish society in the Land of Israel during the Second Temple Period, the time of the birth of Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism. Five complete scrolls from the Israel Museum have been digitized for the project at this stage and are now accessible online.
“We are privileged to house in the Israel Museum’s Shrine of the Book the best preserved and most complete Dead Sea Scrolls ever discovered,” said James S. Snyder, Anne and Jerome Fisher Director of the Israel Museum. “They are of paramount importance among the touchstones of monotheistic world heritage, and they represent unique highlights of our Museum’s encyclopedic holdings. Now, through our partnership with Google, we are able to bring these treasures to the broadest possible public.”
The five Dead Sea Scrolls that have been digitized thus far include the Great Isaiah Scroll, the Community Rule Scroll, the Commentary on Habakkuk Scroll, the Temple Scroll, and the War Scroll, with search queries on Google.com sending users directly to the online scrolls. All five scrolls can be magnified so that users may examine texts in exacting detail. Details invisible to the naked eye are made visible through ultra-high resolution digital photography by photographer Ardon Bar-Hama– at 1,200 mega pixels each, these images are almost two hundred times higher in resolution than those produced by a standard camera. Each picture utilized UV-protected flash tubes with an exposure of 1/4000th of a second to minimize damage to the fragile manuscripts. In addition, the Great Isaiah Scroll may be searched by column, chapter, and verse, and is accompanied by an English translation tool and by an option for users to submit translations of verses in their own languages.