Jason's Tomb (Jerusalem)

By the Editors of the Madain Project

The Jason's Tomb (Hebrew kever Yason) is a rock-cut tomb dating to the first century BCE in the Hasmonean period, discovered in the Rehavia neighborhood in Jerusalem, Israel/Palestine. It has been identified as the burial site of a certain Jason, possibly a naval commander, based on the charcoal drawing of two warships discovered in the cave. The graffito incised on one of the walls asks the visitor to lament the death of Jason.


The tomb was discovered in 1956 CE and the authorities in charge of Antiquities expropriated the site from its owners in order to preserve it. Levi Yitzhak Rahmani excavated it and published his findings in 1967 CE.

The tomb is considered to date from the time of Alexander Jannaeus (reigned circa 103-76 BCE). A ceramic assemblage found here was dated by one expert, Rachel Bar-Nathan, to no later than the 31 BCE Judea earthquake, a date not readily accepted by everyone. Coins found at the site date to the first third of the first century CE. The tomb was finally blocked in 30/31 CE.

The architecture of the tomb not only holds uncanny parallels with the contemporary Alexandrian tombs, it also shares clear prototype-architectural-elements for the structure in older tombs from Deir el-Medina at Thebes, on the western bank of the Nile in Egypt.

Jason's tomb demonstrates that the Jerusalem's elite soon imitated the new tomb style introduced by Simon, which itself was inspired by the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. Berlin describes Jason's tomb as "the earliest surviving 'display tomb' in the city of Jerusalem at the time.


circa 25 CE

The main building is fronted by a courtyard. The simple facade of the tomb has a large entrance with a single Doric column decorating the entrance to the burial chamber. The burial chamber is topped with a reconstructed pyramid-shaped roof. Among the carved inscriptions in Greek and Aramaic is one that laments the deceased Jason: "A powerful lament make for Jason, son of P.....(my brother) peace ...... who hast built thyself a tomb, Elder rest in peace". Another inscription states that Jason sailed to the coast of Egypt. Inside the cave are eight burial niches. To make room for additional burials the bones were later removed to the charnel space in front.

circa 25 CE

Inner Porch
View of the backwall of the (third) courtyard of Jason's Tomb. The hole-entrance on the left is to the area of 8 shaft graves. Visible in the center is the entrance to the chamber in which secondary burials were made. Note the two blocking stones which were used to close these chambers. On the walls of the tomb were charcoal drawings of ships, one Greek and several Aramaic inscriptions - some of which are still (barely) visible.


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