"Yosef bar El'asa Artaka" and the elusive Jewish Diaspora of pre-Islamic Iran and Central Asia

Michael Shenkar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The article discusses an inscription on an ossuary that probably once contained the bones of a woman brought from abroad for burial in Jerusalem by her son, nicknamed 'Artaka'. Based on his name, it is suggested that he came to Jerusalem from Parthiena or Bactria - at that time provinces of the Parthian Empire. If so, this inscription provides unique archaeological evidence connected with the Parthian Diaspora and its pilgrimages to Jerusalem. Moreover, this could be the earliest attestation of the later custom of reinterment in the Land of Israel. The only solid find connected with the presence of Jewish communities in the pre-Islamic Iranian world are the ossuaries inscribed with Jewish names that were excavated in the necropolis of Bayram Ali (7th-8th centuries ce). It is noteworthy that the custom of secondary burial in ossuaries, which existed in Jerusalem in the first century bce-first century ce, was also widespread in Central Asia, although the two are probably unrelated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-76
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Jewish Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes

RAMBI Publications

  • Rambi Publications
  • Jews -- Iran -- Parthia
  • Burial -- Religious aspects -- Judaism
  • Ossuaries -- Eretz Israel
  • Inscriptions, Aramaic -- Iran -- Parthia
  • Parthia


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