Pit, Loculus, and Ossuary: The Family and the Individual in Late Second Temple Judean Burial Caves

Eyal Regev, Omri Y. Abadi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


From the Hasmonean period until 70 C.E., there were three consecutive types of family burial in Ju-dea: pit-bench caves, loculi caves, and ossuaries. In each, the treatment of skeletal remains and their distribution within the caves attest to different types of family relationships and different ways in which families perceived themselves. It is suggested that the place of the individual within the family developed gradually along with these burial methods. Pit-bench caves from the Hasmonean period were used by a limited number of families who wished to strengthen their ties or self-identity. The skeletal remains in most of the loculi and ossuaries included adults and children who were buried together. Those buried in the loculi and ossuaries were probably nuclear families, maintaining their identity in relation to other members of the extended family who may have been buried in other loculi/ossuaries in the cave. This attests to the growing importance of the nuclear family in society. Burying a person with only a few close relatives (e.g., young children and spouse) commemorated the individual’s identity. Interment in loculi, and to a greater degree in ossuaries, rendered the identity of the nuclear family and the individual more distinct from other nuclear families and individuals in the cave.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-233
Number of pages23
JournalBulletin of ASOR
StatePublished - Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

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© 2022 American Society of Overseas Research.


  • Hasmoneans
  • burial
  • family
  • individualism
  • ossuaries


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