Monumental Tombs as a Tool for Understanding Social Mobility in Jerusalem in the Late Second Temple Period

Omri Abadi, Ayelet Levy-Reifer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Dozens of monumental tombs of the late Second Temple period (late 1st cent. B.C.E. – 1st cent. C.E.) in Jerusalem and Judaea are some of the most impressive remains reflecting the wealth and splendor of the city and the province at large. In this article we suggest that the emergence of these tombs is a key to identifying significant changes that occurred in the composition of the upper echelons of the Judaean society following the fall of the Hasmonaean dynasty and the rise of Herod the Great and the Roman administration in the Province of Judaea. Based on the epigraphic finds from the monumental tombs and the socio-historical context which helped us characterize the profiles of the tomb’s owners, we believe that the main utilizers of the tombs were members of the new elite which rose to power during the reign of Herod. This new elite consisted of individuals and groups that came from a variety of backgrounds, who all rose to greatness through their own merits and not by virtue of their ancestry. By virtue of building a family tomb that would be associated with them, these new elite members wished to publicly convey a message of prestige for them and their households. It may also have created the illusion of an “old family” with deep ancestral roots in Jerusalem, overshadowing and blurring their “foreign” image, therefore hoping to secure their social status and identity, which would win support and legitimacy from the population and the Judean elite.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)254-272
Number of pages19
JournalZeitschrift des Deutschen Palastina-Vereins
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, Otto Harrassowitz GmbH. Co.KG. All rights reserved.


  • Early Roman Jerusalem
  • elite identities
  • monumental tombs
  • social mobility


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