Police and antiquities inspectors have arrested a gang accused of looting ancient Jewish burial caskets from a cave in the Jerusalem area, the Israel Antiquities Authority said on Monday.
“They were caught while in possession of 11 decorated stone ossuaries — ancient coffins — that the Jewish population used for burial in the Second Temple period, 2,000 years ago,” the IAA said in a statement.
“Some of the ossuaries still contained the skeletal remains of the deceased,” it said.
The suspects, from the West Bank, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, were arrested on Friday as they met prospective Jewish clients at a crossing point between the West Bank and Israeli annexed east Jerusalem.
“Shallow engravings, etched in the past by means of a sharp stylus, were found on the walls of two of the seized ossuaries. They cite the names of the deceased whose bones were collected in the coffins,” the IAA said.
One of the ossuaries bore the name “Ralfin,” written in squared Hebrew script “characteristic of the Second Temple period,” the statement said.
“There is no doubt that the ossuaries were recently looted from a magnificent burial cave in Jerusalem,” it added.