Signs of Salome, said to be nurse to baby Jesus, unearthed in Israel

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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.”

An interior view of a Second Temple-period burial cave in Lachish Forest, during excavations on the site of a grave estate from the days of the Second Temple (about 2,000 years ago), that was discovered in the South of Israel. According to Israel Antiques Authority (IAA) archaeologists, the burial cave that was continued to be used in the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods, became known as the ‘Salome Cave’, due to a popular legend that identified it as the burial place of Salome, the midwife of Jesus. EPA-EFE/ATEF SAFADI

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