Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

March 19, 2013

Archaeologists discover Caiaphas’ ossuary

Ben Morris
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — Caiaphas, you may recall, was the Sadducean high priest during the life and ministry of Jesus.

As the official head of the Jewish state, Caiaphas presided over the council, or Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was the “Supreme Court” of the Jewish state. Next to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, Caiaphas was the most powerful man in all of Judea and was responsible to Rome for the conduct of the nation. Caiaphas had been appointed to his office by Rome about A.D. 18.

Caiaphas was especially concerned about the growing popularity of Jesus, knowing that the people sought a “political messiah.” Matters came to a head when Jesus reportedly raised a man named Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus had been dead for four days. Caiaphas was fearful that the unrest created by Jesus and his followers would cause Rome to intervene with armed forces. Caiaphas advised that Jesus be arrested and put to death.

In 1990, construction workers using a bulldozer accidentally uncovered a burial cave in the Peace Forest immediately north of Jerusalem, containing 12 limestone ossuaries or bone boxes. Two of the ossuaries were inscribed with the name “Caiaphas.” One beautifully ornate ossuary, measuring 37 centimeters high by 75 centimeters long was inscribed “Joseph, son of Caiaphas,” in Aramaic. Inside, archaeologists found the bones of a 60-year-old male, two babies, an adolescent child, a teenage boy and an adult woman.

Ossilegium, as the practice of using ossuaries has been called, was practiced in Israel, mainly in Jerusalem, from just before the turn of the century until the destruction of the temple in 70 C.E.

After the bones had been examined by physical anthropologists and physicians at the Hadasah Medical Center, they were reburied at night in a secret location on the Mount of Olives. Today, the Caiaphas ossuary can be viewed at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

Ben Morris, MA, RPA, is an archaeological and historical columnist for the Daily News. He can be reached at 812-932-0298 or at