Ketef Hinnom is an archaeological site in Jerusalem containing a burial caves dating back to the First Temple period.
Thousands of years ago this area was a necropolis, like the Kidron Valley, and quite a few burial spots dating to the days of the kings of Judah were discovered in the entire area.
However, Ketef Hinnom is the largest and provided the richest finds.
The burial caves that were discovered behind the Begin Museum in a similar condition to how it is today.
It was group of seven caves, five caves of a single burial chamber, and two multi-chamber caves were reviled at the site.
A large room, hewn entirely in rock, and from which smaller rooms, also hewn in bedrock, can be see.
In each room there are rock-hewn beds, on which the dead were placed, and below them a large pit, to which the bones were collected after a period of about a year.
The ceiling of most of the caves collapsed throughout history, and most of the pits were found empty due to grave robbery.
However, finds from completely different periods were discovered, including remains from the Ottoman period, which indicates various uses made of the caves over the years.
The form of burial in rock-hewn caves with berths of the dead is familiar in burial caves from the days of the First and Second Temple periods.
The dead man was placed on laid on the bed, face up, and was surrounded items designed to “accompany” him to the next world.
The beds at Ketef Hinnom is special in the fact that they include “headboards.”
They are rock-hewn depressions designed to stabilize the deceased’s head on top of the bed.
For a year the deceased lay on the bed, until only bones remained.
At the end of the year his family members were gathered to his grave, and after a short ceremony the body and items were placed in urns, and transferred to the large pit below the bunk.
All the graves at Ketef Hinnom were discovered empty, due to the robbery of graves, except for one one in one of the caves that was discovered intact.
This was thanks to a the fact that the ceiling separating it from the bed above it was cut to cover it completely, and when it fell it, it hid it’s contents.
It seems that as a result, the grave robbers concluded that it was empty, not realizing that all its contents were actually buried under the “floor.”
In fact, during the excavation it was initially believed that it was empty, but that parts of urns and bone fragments that protruded from the “floor.”
This was accidentally discovered by a boy who participated in the excavation.
The most significant find found was the Birkat Cohanim amulet.
Not only does it indicate that the family buried here is priestly family, it is the earliest Biblical texts ever discovered.
Visit Ketef Hinnom
Ketef Hinnom is very inconspicuous and you need to know its there and what you’re looking for to find it.
However, it’s actually very easy to get to.
Walk from Nakhon street and turn to go down the hill to the Begin Heritage Center/Museum.
Keep your eye out for break in the fence, this is the enterence.
Ketef Hinnom is open to the public 24/7 for free.
I usually stop by when walking from Jerusalem City Center or the Old City to the First Station when showing friends or family around.