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Ancient Jewish cemetery discovered while digging tunnel in Turkey

By Mason White 1:59 PM May 2, 2013
Turkish construction site illustration 

By: David Ross
An ancient Jewish cemetery was unexpectedly discovered during a construction project in Turkey, the Turkish government said in a statement.

Graves and bones belonging to an ancient Jewish cemetery were found in the ground during the construction of the tunnel in the Aegean province of Izmir.

The remains were found in the area below the Archaeology Museum, seven meters below ground. The bones were packaged and delivered to the Jewish community of Izmir, while the graves were removed from the tunnel. A letter requesting permission for the removal and transfer of the tombstones was submitted to the Ministry of Culture, as it is the main authority in the field.

Jak Kaya, the Izmir Jewish Community President said that the bones will be reburied in the Altindag Jewish cemetery following a religious ritual. “The excavations are ongoing. Since there is a possibility that more bones can be found, we are suspending the burials until we are certain that all bones were collected. We know that this cemetery had been used during the 19th century. It was kept open for burials until the Republican period, after we started to use the Gurcesme and Altindag cemeteries,” Kaya said.

“The Turkish government deserves praise for reporting the find to the local Jewish community. Now, the Jewish bones will be able to be reburied with respect in a cemetery that is still being used today,” Sarah Ward, 56, of Houston, Texas told after learning about the discovery.