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Decoding ancient tomb graffiti

NPR posted a cool story about how archaeologists are working to unscrambled ancient tomb graffiti in Israel.

One says, “Take courage, Holy Parents of Pharcitae, udes adonitas โ€” no one is immortal.” Stern explains that the dead who are being brought into the catacombs shouldn’t feel that they are weak just because they’ve passed on.

She reads aloud the other inscription: “Good luck on your resurrection.”

“Of course, resurrection is not in the Jewish tradition,” says Emma Maayan Fanar, a professor of Byzantine art at the University of Haifa, who has teamed up with Stern. “It’s very uncommon.”

Tiny menorahs are scattered as engravings throughout the tomb, a symbol of the Temple in Jerusalem and a symbol of the endurance of the Jewish faith.

There are magical spells in Greek. There are also curses in Aramaic that threaten a bad fate to the tomb robber. Those seem to have been ignored, as only the graffiti and heavy stone coffins are left.

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Story: Jacki Lyden, NPR | Photo: W. O’Leary

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