By Dedi Hayoun
LACHISH FOREST, Israel (Reuters) – Excavations of a cave reputed to be the burial place of Salome, said in non-canonical scripture to have been nurse to the newborn Jesus, have found more signs it was both an important Jewish tomb and a Christian pilgrimage site, archaelogists say.
The Book of James, among early Christian writings called the Apochrypha which are not included in the Bible, describes Salome as doubting the account of the virgin birth. Stricken in one arm, she cradles the baby, proclaims him “a great king … born unto Israel,” and is cured.
Work to prepare the 2,000-year-old cave for public access unearthed a 350 square-metre (3,767-square-foot) forecourt whose stone slabs and mosaic floors are consistent with a family tomb for prominent Jews, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said.
Also found were inscriptions – some in Arabic – and decorated oil lamps consistent with the site having served Christian pilgrims, including through to the ninth century after the Muslim conquest of the region, the IAA said.
The site, about 35 km (22 miles) southwest of Bethlehem, has been known for generations as the Cave of Salome.
Earlier excavations located Jewish relics “but the surprise was the adaptation of the cave into a Christian chapel,” the IAA said. “Judging by the crosses and the dozens of inscriptions engraved on the cave walls in the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods, the chapel was dedicated to the sacred Salome.”