As some of you know I began working on the matter of the skeletal remains at Masada back in the 1990s and have gradually over the years continued to accumulate evidence. I published a Summary of Findings on this blog in 2016 and it has had thousands of views over the years: Masada Mysteries: What Do We Know About the Bones?
This controversial subject has drawn its share of critical discussion back and forth over the years, see especially Joe Zias’s article in 1998 in Biblical Archaeology Review “Whose Bones,” that explores some of the parameters of the discussion, as well as his revised contribution to Bible & Interpretation, with my response, here and here.
Last week I did an interview with Neal Sendlack, host of the Youtube Channel “Gnostic Informant ” in which I survey what we know at this point and some future directions that I hope to pursue in the future.
Here is a bit of background with further reading:
The Dead Sea desert fortress Masada, built by the Hasmoneans and fortified by Herod the Great, was the site of the famous “last stand” of the Jews against the Roman during the revolt for independence from 66-73 CE, has become legendary. Almost every tourist traveling to Israel–whether Jewish, Christian, or other, includes a visit to Masada on their visit. It is often the highlight of a tour. According to the 1st century Jewish historian Josephus, 960 men, women, and children died by choice rather than face Roman crucifixion or slavery. It is commonly reported that the skeletal remains of three individuals were found in various locations in the northern palace–but less known, never published, and seldom talked about, even in scholarly circles, is the group of 27 (14 men, 6 women, 4 children, and a fetus) in the caves at the steep southern end of the plateau.
These remains were Carbon-14 dates to c. 70 CE and they are by all evidence Jewish defenders of the fortress–but separate from the main group. I have repelled down to that Cave three different times and I have been gathering all possible information on what we can now know. I also briefly report on the DNA tests that are ongoing, including a surprising connection with the individual in the Abba Tomb in Jerusalem–possibly identified as Antigonus the last Hasmonean priest/King, defeated by the young Herod the Great in 37 BCE–and both crucified and beheaded by Marc Antony.
Of particular interest is the photo that has surfaced of a single intact skeleton, of whom we know nothing, other than this male individual is laid out for an honorable burial. Where are these bones? What do we know about them? And why is Cave 2002-2002 where they were found such a mystery?
For more on the Abba Tomb which I also discuss, with its DNA connection to Masada, see:
And for more on the Tomb of the Shroud, the following posts: