Ancient ossuary damaged

AP, Nov. 1, 2002

TORONTO, Canada (AP) –An ancient limestone burial box that may be the oldest archaeological link to Jesus has been damaged in transit from Israel to Canada, Royal Ontario Museum officials said Friday.

“There is some consultation going on right now,” said Marilynne Friedman, senior publicist for the Royal Ontario Museum.

She said the ossuary arrived at the museum in “a damaged state” but didn’t know the degree of damage or where in transit it occurred.

The limestone box, which is scheduled to go on display November 16, is inscribed in Aramaic with the words “Ya’akov (James), son of Yosef (Joseph), brother of Yeshua (Jesus).”

If, as some scholars maintain, the box and the inscription are authentic, it would be one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of our time.

Israel granted a four-month export license for the ancient burial box early this week. The ossuary belongs to an Israeli private collector.

The inscription would fit a New Testament account that Jesus had a brother, James, and the tradition that James was the son of Joseph, husband of Jesus’ mother, Mary.

However, the names James, Joseph and Jesus were common in the first century, and it is possible the inscription refers to someone other than Jesus of Nazareth.

The existence of the ossuary was announced last week in the United States by the Biblical Archaeology Review.

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