Family burial, family structure, and the urbanization of herodian jerusalem

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Epigraphic, archaeological, and historical data indicate that most of the population in Herodian Jerusalem was buried in family caves. In several cases, however, Diaspora Jews and proselytes were buried together, replacing the family by an alternative reference group of other immigrants or proselytes. Furthermore, the Qumran sectarians, and perhaps also some early Christians and pharisaic haverim, chose to withdraw from their families and to be buried in the sphere of the sect. This distinctive burial practice results from the ideological tension between the sect and the family (of the sectarian member). Analysis of the number of niches in 306 burial caves (presumably familial caves) in light of the skeletal remains from some of these caves leads to a tentative reconstruction of the family structure in Herodian Jerusalem. Most prevalent were the nuclear and the small extended families, whereas hamulas were distinctively rare. It seems that the average family became smaller during the Herodian period. It is suggested that this process was due to the urbanization of Jerusalem, and that the change in family structure accelerated the growth of individualism in Jerusalem society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-131
Number of pages23
JournalPalestine Exploration Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2004


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