Tomb of Absalom (Hebrew : יד אבשלום, Transl. Yad Avshalom; literally 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, a few metres from the Tomb of Zechariah and the Tomb of Benei Hezir. Although traditionally ascribed to Absalom, the rebellious son of King David of Israel (circa 1000 BC), recent scholarship has dated it to the 1st century AD.
The tomb 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, with which it forms one entity, built at the same time and following a single plan.
The freestanding monument contains a burial chamber with three burial sites. The chamber is carved out of the solid lower section of the monument, but can only be accessed from the upper section via a built entrance and a staircase. It has been compared to Petra, given the rock-cut nature of the bottom segment and the style of the finial.
Absalom's Pillar is approximately 20 metres (66 ft) in height. The monument proper stands on a square base and consists of two distinct parts. The lower section is a monolith, hewn out of the rocky slope of the Mount of Olives, while the upper part, rising higher than the original bedrock, is built of neatly cut ashlars.
The lower half is thus a solid, almost perfectly cubical monolithic block, about 6 m (20 ft) square by 6.4 m (21 ft) high, surrounded on three sides by passageways which separate it from the vertically-cut rock of the Mount of Olives. It is decorated from the outside on each side by pairs of Ionic half-columns, flanked in the corners by quarter-columns and pillars (a so-called distyle in antis arrangement). The four square facades are crowned by a Doric frieze of triglyphs and metopes and an Egyptian cornice.
The upper, ashlar-built part of the monument consists of three differently-shaped segments: a square base set on top of the Egyptian cornice of the lower part, followed by a round drum crowned by a rope-shaped decoration, which sustains a conical roof with concave sides (the easily recognisable "hat"), topped by a half-closed lotus flower. The upper part of the monument corresponds to the outline of a classical tholos and is not unlike contemporary Nabatean structures from Petra.
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.
An analysis of the architectural styles used indicates that the monument's construction and its first stage of use happened during the 1st century CE.
The irregular-shaped holes made into the monument are of later date, probably from the Byzantine period. Even the original entrance has been widened in such rather defacing manner. See also under Inscriptions below.
Absalom's shrine has traditionally been identified as the monument of Absalom, rebellious son of King David, based on a verse in the Book of Samuel:
Absalom in his lifetime had taken and reared up for himself a pillar, which is in the king's dale: for he said, I have no son to keep my name in remembrance: and he called the Monument after his own name: and it is called unto this day, Absalom's Monument. 2 Samuel 18:18
A "monument of Absalom" did exist in the days of Josephus, and was referred to in his Antiquities .The 19th-century English translation by Havercamp states that the "monument of Absalom" stood at a distance of "two furlongs" from Jerusalem.
The attribution of this particular monument to Absalom was quite persistent, although the Book of Samuel reports that Absalom's body was covered over with stones in a pit in the Wood of Ephraim (2 Samuel 18:17).
For centuries, it was the custom among passersby—Jews, Christians and Muslims—to throw stones at the monument. Residents of Jerusalem would bring their unruly children to the site to teach them what became of a rebellious son.
The tomb's exterior design features a Doric frieze and Ionic columns, 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 AD.
In a 2013 conference, Professor Gabriel Barkay suggested that it could be the tomb of Herod Agrippa, the grandson of Herod the Great, based in part on the similarity to Herod's newly discovered tomb at Herodium.
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", with which it forms one entity, built at the same time and following a single plan.
During the times of the Second Temple, many wealthy citizens of Jerusalem would have monuments built adjacent to their family burial caves. These monuments were built according to the architectural fashions of the time, many times with a pyramid on top, or in this case, a cone. Jewish sages of that era opposed the building of such monuments by saying: "You do not make Nefashot for the righteous; their words are their commiseration."
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.
Another inscription discovered in 2003 says the monument is the tomb of "Simeon who was a very just man and a very devoted old (person) and waiting for the consolation of the people". The passage is identical to Luke 2:25 as it appears in the Codex Sinaiticus, a 4th-century manuscript of the Bible.
According to a local legend, Napoleon fired a mortar at the tomb, and removed the shape of a hand that topped the conical roof.However, Napoleon never reached Jerusalem during his campaign in the Holy Land. Actually, the top of the monument is not at all broken, but rather is carved to resemble a lotus flower.
A Muslim tradition connects the tomb to the Pharaohs, hence the Arabic name "Pharaoh's Hat".
Absalom, according to the Hebrew Bible, was the third son of David, King of Israel with Maacah, daughter of Talmai, King of Geshur.
Akeldama is the Aramaic name for a place in Jerusalem associated with Judas Iscariot, one of the original twelve apostles of Jesus.
Zechariah is a figure in the New Testament part of the Christian Bible and the Quran, hence venerated in Christianity and Islam. In the Bible he is the father of John the Baptist, a priest of the sons of Aaron in the Gospel of Luke (1:67-79), and the husband of Elizabeth who is a relative of the Virgin Mary.
Rock-cut tombs are a form of burial and interment chamber used in ancient Israel. Cut into the landscapes surrounding ancient Judean cities, their design ranges from single chambered, with simple square or rectangular layouts, to multi-chambered with more complex designs. Almost all burial chambers contain a platform for primary burial and an ossuary or other receptacle for secondary burial. There is debate on if these tombs were originally intended for secondary burials, or if that practice arose later. The use of rock-cut cave tombs in the region began in the early Canaanite period, from 3100–2900 BCE. The custom lapsed a millennium, however, before reemerging in the earliest Israelite tombs, dating to the 9th century BCE in Jerusalem. The use of rock-cut tombs reached its peak in the 7th and 8th centuries BCE, before rapidly declining and eventually falling out of use in the 6th century BCE in some regions. Use of the tombs has been recorded as recently as the Late Roman Period around the 3rd century CE. The use of such tombs was generally reserved for the middle- and upper-classes, and each typically belonged to a single nuclear or extended family.
The Mount of Olives or Mount Olivet is a mountain ridge east of and adjacent to Jerusalem's Old City. It is named for the olive groves that once covered its slopes. The southern part of the mount was the Silwan necropolis, attributed to the ancient Judean kingdom. The mount has been used as a Jewish cemetery for over 3,000 years and holds approximately 150,000 graves, making it central in the tradition of Jewish cemeteries.
The Cave of the Patriarchs or Tomb of the Patriarchs, known to Jews as the Cave of Machpelah and to Muslims as the Sanctuary of Abraham, is a series of caves located in the heart of the Old City of Hebron in the southern West Bank. According to the Abrahamic religions, the cave and adjoining field were purchased by Abraham as a burial plot.
A nefesh is a Semitic monument placed near a grave so as to be seen from afar.
The Kidron Valley is the valley originating slightly northeast of the Old City of Jerusalem, which then separates the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives. It continues in a general south-easterly direction through the Judean desert in the West Bank, reaching the Dead Sea near the settlement of Ovnat, and descending 4,000 feet (1,200 m) along its 20-mile (32 km) course. The ancient Mar Saba monastery is located in the lower part of the valley. Other names include Arabic: وادي الجوز, Wadi el-Joz, 'Valley of the Walnut', for the upper segment near the Temple Mount; and Wadi en-Nar, 'Fire Valley', for the rest of it – with at least the segment at Mar Saba monastery also known in the 19th century as Wadi er-Rahib, 'Monk's Valley'.
The Tomb of Zechariah is an ancient stone monument adjacent to the Tomb of Benei Hezir that is considered in Jewish tradition to be the tomb of Zechariah ben Jehoiada. It is a few meters from the Tomb of Absalom and adjacent to the Tomb of Benei Hezir.
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Tombs of the Sanhedrin, also Tombs of the Judges, is an underground complex of 63 rock-cut tombs located in a public park in the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Sanhedria. Built in the 1st century CE, the tombs are noted for their elaborate design and symmetry. They have been a site for Jewish pilgrimage since the medieval period. The popular name of the complex, which has the most magnificently carved pediment of ancient Jerusalem, is due to the fact that the number of burial niches it contains is somewhat close to that of the members of the ancient Jewish supreme court, the Great Sanhedrin, namely 71.
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