"Hither were brought /the bones of Uzziah/ King of Judah/ Do not open"

The epitaph once marked the place where the bones of King Uzziah were re-interred many centuries after his death in the eighth century BC. It is written in Aramaic, a language spoken in Israel during the Second Temple period (as were Hebrew and Greek) and in style of script that dates it to the latter part of the Second Temple period.

The Bible describes his burial (2 Chron.26:23): "Uzziah slept with his fathers in the burial field of the kings, because, they said, he was a leper." Evidently the leper king was not buried in the royal tombs within the City of David, but elsewhere, probably outside the city walls. Josephus also relates (Antiquities of the Jews, IX, 10, 4) that "he was buried alone in his gardens."

The inscription was discovered more than fifty years ago in the collections of the Russian Orthodox monastery on the Mount of Olives. There was, however, no record of the place where it had been found at the end of nineteenth century.

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