These burial caves were discovered during the Gardens’ construction and have been dated to the Second Temple period. The small alcoves held the bodies of the deceased before the bones were collected. The small central pits allowed people to stand upright while arranging the bones of those buried in the cave in the surrounding ossuary boxes. These caves were usually owned by wealthy families, with each cave serving as that family’s crypt.
The large pit in the left-hand cave is unusual in size, and may have been used for ritual purification of the deceased.
Ossuaries are small burial boxes, used by Jews from 20-15 BCE until the 2nd century CE. Among Jews, this burial practice began in Jerusalem.
Plants commonly found as ossuary decorations
Grape vines, figs, dates, lilies, ivy, and pomegranate were all commonly used to decorate ossuaries. The most common motif is the rosette – a six-petal, rose-like shape which was sometimes placed on a background of ivy leaves.