MARY MAGDALENE IS NOW MISSING:
A CORRECTED READING OF RAHMANI OSSUARY 701
By Stephen J. Pfann, Ph.D.
SUMMARY POINTS OF DISCUSSION:
*The original transcription of the inscription was incorrect.
*The inscription does not read “Mariamene the Master”nor does the name Mariamene
or Mariamne appear on the ossuary at all.
*The inscription reflects the writing of two distinct scribes who wrote in different forms of
the Greek script.
*The correct reading of the inscription is “Mariame and Mara,” based on parallels from
contemporary inscriptions and documents.
*The ossuary thus contained the bones of at least two different women, interred at two
separate times, one named Mariame and the other Mara.
*No support exists for ascribing the ossuary to Mary Magdalene.
would leave the words MARIAME KAI MARA "Mariam and Mara." Mara, as noted by Tal
Ilan among other scholars, was a common shortened form of the Aramaic name “Martha.”
(2) these two names are among the most common personal names of the first century, the
combination of these two names together on an ossuary is not unique.
In fact an ossuary was discovered at Dominus Flevit on the west slope of the Mt. of Olives
that has the Hebrew equivalent of the two names as a pair written three times on the same
Multiple burial and DNA
The fact that two individuals were named on the side of an ossuary does not limit the remains
inside to be of those two individuals. There may have been others inside whose names were
not inscribed. To give us an idea as to how many individuals might have been inside a single
ossuary, there was one ossuary, also from the Dominus Flevit tomb complex (Dominus
Flevit, Ossuary 37), which bears the names of five individuals, indicating that the ossuary
contained at least five distinct burials. The named individuals buried in the ossuary were
Zacharias, Mariame, El'azar, Simon, and Sheniit(?).The variety of scripts and character of the
cuts indicate that the inscriptions were written by different individuals with distinct
instruments. There may be the skeletal and DNA remains of at least five individuals in this
box (not accounting for others who went unnamed).
The so-called "Mariamene" ossuary contained the names and remains of two distinct
individuals. The first name on the ossuary, “MARIAME.” was written in the common Greek
documentary script of the period on the occasion of the interment of the bones of this woman.
The second and third words “KAI MARA” were added sometime later by a second scribe,
when the bones of the second woman Mara were added to the ossuary. This scribe's
handwriting includes numerous cursive elements not exhibited by the first scribe who wrote
“Mariame.” In view of the above, there is no longer any reason to be tempted to link this
ossuary (nor the ambiguous traces of DNA inside) to Mary Magdalene or any other person in
Biblical, non-Biblical or church tradition.
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