Tomb with a rolling stone door

Tell Abu Shusha (or Tel Shush) is located at the intersection of highways 66 and 6953 to the north of  Tell al-Mutesellim (Megiddo), Israel. A spectacular "rolling stone tomb" with a rare "stone disk door" is visible in the road cut at its base. 

The opening seen to the right of the rectangular door is a false one. Erosion (or possibly construction) has opened up the back end of one of the internal niches, kochim, or loculi. These "fingers," the size of an outstretched human body, were cut into the stone walls of the central tomb chamber and radiated outwardly. They were used as a place for primary burial. As the Jewish custom of the day is understood, the dead would be anointed with oil, dressed in favorite clothing, wound in sheets, and placed in this niche. Spices would be folded into the cloth to provide a pleasing aroma. This preparation and burial would happen within hours of the moment of death.

In the period around the time of Christ, a secondary burial of the body would take place about a year after the primary burial. Decomposition would have taken away the flesh at this time and the dry bones would be collected out of the niche and placed in a small "bone box" or ossuary. The ossuary would be kept in the tomb and may have been used for keeping the bones of more than one individual. The niche, now empty, would be ready to receive another body.

As described in the gospels, Jesus was placed in a "new tomb" belonging to one Joseph of Arimathea (e.g. Matthew 27:57-60). This suggests that the tomb he was placed in was freshly carved and had not been used previously for either a primary or a secondary burial.

Photograph by Bible Land Explorer Dan Blanton.


Dr. Mark Ziese, Dean of the School of Bible and Theology at Johnson University, manages the website Bible Land Explorer and teaches regularly in the Biblical heartland. You are invited to join Mark and Vicki for a Mediterranean Cruise aboard the Celebrity Reflection in October, 2018. See the link here for details.

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