Israel Thinks It's Cracked Mystery of Maccabees' Tomb

Scholars and archaeologists have pointed to this site for 150 years
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 22, 2015 8:26 AM CDT
Tomb of the Maccabees possibly uncovered in Modi’in, between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.   (Israel Antiquities Authority)

(Newser) – For 150 years, scholars and archaeologists have sought the final resting place of the Maccabees, a band of rebels who established a Jewish kingdom in the second century BC, in one of the great mysteries of Jewish history, reports the AP. Now the Israeli Antiquities Authority says that it may have hit pay dirt while excavating the fabled Horbat Ha-Gardi site, near the city of Modi’in between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and that it closely matches earlier descriptions of the tomb. "The descriptions from 150 years ago were revealed right here in front of our eyes, and we discovered the magnificent burial vaults," one archaeologist tells the Jerusalem Post.

They're not going so far as to call the mystery solved, but archaeologists and volunteers recently cleared away rubble to reveal a mosaic cross—which may have been used to mark the burial of important figures—and are calling it a major clue. They also found other buildings, stone pillars, and a courtyard near the tomb, reports Live Science. The Maccabees, including Mattathias and his five sons, revolted against Hellenic rulers who banned Jewish practices and desecrated the Second Temple in Jerusalem. They are commemorated during Hanukkah. (See where the Maccabees rank on this list of history's most badass Jews.)

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