Tomb of Absalom

By the Editors of the Madain Project

The Tomb of Absalom (Yad Avshalom; literally meaning Absalom's Memorial), also called Absalom's Pillar, is an ancient monumental rock-cut tomb with a conical roof located in the Kidron Valley in Jerusalem. Although traditionally ascribed to Absalom, the rebellious son of King David of Israel (circa 1000 BCE), recent scholarship has attributed it to the 1st century CE.


Muslims gave the tomb the Arabic name Tantur Fir'aun (طنطور فرعون), "Pharaoh's Hat", due to the shape of its dome. Others explain the sense as meaning "Pharaoh's peak."

The Absalom's Pillar, a tomb in itself, also served as a funeral monument to the burial cave system located behind it, the "Cave of Jehoshaphat".


circa 10 BCE

The tomb's exterior design features a Doric frieze (inspect) and Ionic columns (inspect), both being styles originating in ancient Greece and introduced into Judah during the Seleucid Empire, centuries after the death of Absalom. At the start of the 20th century, the monument was considered most likely to be that of Alexander Jannaeus, the Hasmonean king of Judea from 103 to 76 BCE. However, archaeologists have now dated the tomb to the 1st century CE.

circa 10 BCE

On the inside, the upper part of the monument is mostly hollow, with a small arched entrance on the south side set above the seam area (where the masonry part starts). Inside this entrance a short staircase leads down to a burial chamber carved out of the solid, lower section. The chamber is 2.4 metres (7 ft 10 in) square, with arcosolium graves on two sides and a small burial niche. The tomb was found empty when first researched by archaeologists.

circa 10 BCE

Byzantine Inscriptions
In 2003, a 4th-century inscription on one of the walls of the monument was deciphered. It reads, This is the tomb of Zachariah, the martyr, the holy priest, the father of John. This suggests that it was the burial place of the Temple priest Zechariah, father of John the Baptist, who lived 400 or so years earlier than the inscription date. This inscription is part of a secondary usage of this monument during the Byzantine period, where Christian monks commemorated stories from the Christian Bible inside old Jewish tombs in the Kidron Valley. The Zechariah inscription has led to confusion with the nearby "Tomb of Zechariah", which commemorates a much earlier figure, the prophet Zechariah ben Jehoiada, according to local folklore; however, it is not a tomb and might also be a monument for the nearby burial cave of the priestly family of Hezir.

A second inscription of the same age discovered in 2003 says the monument is "the tomb of Simeon who was a very just man and a very devoted el(der) and (who was) waiting for the consolation of the people". The words describing Simeon are identical to those from Luke 2:25 as they appear in the Codex Sinaiticus, a 4th-century manuscript of the Christian Bible.

Cave of Jehoshaphat

circa 10 BCE

(Maarat Yehoshafat). Archeologically, the so-called "Tomb of Absalom" is not only a burial structure in its own right, with its upper part serving as a nefesh or funeral monument for the tomb in its lower part, but it was probably also meant as a nefesh for the adjacent burial cave system known as the "Cave" or "Tomb of Jehoshaphat" (peek inside), with which it forms one entity, built at the same time and following a single plan.

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