Monday, March 16, 2009

Bones of contention

Kurt Sansone (Times of Malta)

A written undertaking between the heritage authorities and the Jewish community to reinstate the human bones found in four catacombs in Rabat barely lasted 24 hours after Jewish representatives pulled out of the commitment.

The heritage authorities are still in the dark as to precisely why the Jewish representatives withdrew once the archaeological works had started as agreed with members of the Jewish community observing the operation.

On its part, the Jewish community asked the "political authorities" to intervene in the matter claiming that the archaeological investigations did not respect the agreement reached.

"The heritage authorities wanted to document each and every bone found in the catacombs, measure them, take pictures and then pass them on to us. This process goes against our beliefs and we always objected to it," Lawrence Attard Bezzina, a representative of the Jewish community, said.

Mr Attard Bezzina said the process would have taken ages and "perpetuated the sacrilege".

Controversy has surrounded the tranquil site in Rabat, which forms part of the St Paul's catacombs complex, after the Jewish community asked for the ancient human remains to be given a proper burial according to Jewish rites and traditions.

The site is also an important archaeological area and, even though the heritage authorities have agreed to be respectful to Jewish burial traditions, they are insisting that they be documented and studied.

The catacombs are reportedly about 1500 years old. The article also has a picture of a menorah that is engraved in one of the walls.

Background here.