On the campus of Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Botanical Garden, Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem
All year Sun-Thu 8–16, Fri 8–15.
Open during the botanical garden open hours.
Visitors must show ID to enter the university campus.
|Light:||Incandescent Electric Light System|
|Guided tours:||self guided|
Gladys Dickson (1903):
The Tomb of Nicanor of Alexandria,
Palestine Exploration Quarterly, 35.4, 326-332, DOI: 10.1179/peq.1903.35.4.326.
R. A. Stewart Macalister (1905): Further Observations on the Ossuary of Nicanor of Alexandria, Palestine Exploration Quarterly, 37:3, 253-257, DOI: 10.1179/peq.1905.37.3.253. odf
|Address:||Cave of Nicanor, The Institute of Archaeology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem 9190501, Tel: +972-2-5882403.|
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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|OCT-1902||discovered by the groundskeeper of John Gray Hill's estate.|
|1914||ground sold to the founders of the Hebrew University.|
|1931||Botanical Garden of the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus established by Prof. Otto Warburg, the founder of the Department of Botany and Dr. Alexander Ig, one of the first researchers in the field of botany and phytogeography in Israel.|
|1934||remains of Leon Pinsker from Odessa were reburied in the Nicanor cave at the initiative of Menachem Ussishkin.|
|1941||Menachem Ussishkin buried in the cave.|
|1948||Israel founded, cave becomes an enclave in Jordanian-ruled territory.|
|2008||exhibition replicas of the ossuaries established by the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University and the Jewish National Fund in the cave.|
מערת ניקנור (Cave of Nicanor) is a burial cave located in the botanical garden of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem. The ancient burial cave contains ossuaries, one of them has an inscription referring to "Nicanor the door maker", hence the name of the cave. Nicanor belonged to a wealthy Alexandrian Jewish family and is often called Nicanor of Alexandria. He is mentioned in the works of the Roman Jewish historian Josephus. In the Talmud he is mentioned as the donor of the bronze doors of the Court of the Women in the Second Temple in Jerusalem. The same fact is also inscribed in Greek on his ossuary. This is quite exceptional, written sources which support archaeological facts are unusual. The cave was hewn out of the soft limestone and comprises a courtyard and five complexes of rooms.
The brass gates were sent by ship from Egypt to Judea when a storm broke out. The ship was in danger to sink because pf the heavy doors, so the crew threw one of them into the sea. But the ship was still too heavy, amd the crew decided to toss the second gate out as well. Hearing their plans, Nicanor declared that if they did so, they should throw him out as well. His self-sacrifice called for a miracle and the storm subsided. When the ship docked, the gate thrown overboard was miraculously found floating in the harbor. All the Temple's gates were plated with gold, except Nicanor's. The rabbis wanted the people to see the "miracle gates" in their pristine bronze form. Their brass finish happened to have a special golden hue – or so the Talmud says...
The grave is located on Mount Scopus, when it was discovered in October 1902, this was the estate of John Gray Hill. Sir John Edward Gray Hill (*1839–✝1914) was an English solicitor, art collector, and travel writer. The cave was discovered in 1902 by his groundskeeper in a field just north of his winter home. As Gray Hill was abroad at the time, the groundskeeper reported the discovery to the British Consul, John Dickson. His daughter Gladys Dickson, was an amateur archaeologist, and inspected the cave and its contents immediately. With the groundskeeper she discovered seven ossuaries, six ordinary ones and one with a bilingual Hebrew/Greek inscription. Unfortunately the groundskeeper had already removed the ossuaries from the cave, and so she was not able to determine their original position. Three days later, R. A. Stewart Macalister, excavating at Tel Gezer, was forced back to Jerusalem by a cholera outbreak. He inspected and authenticated the newly discovered cave and inscription. A photograph of this visit was presented to Charles Simon Clermont-Ganneau, a noted French Orientalist and archaeologist. He published an article about Macalisters visit and Gladys Dickson an article on the cave and its inscriptions, illustrated with plans by Macalister. Both were published in the Palestine Exploration Quarterly.
Gray Hill later donated the ossuary with the inscription to the Palestine Exploration Fund, which transferred it to the British Museum. As the original is now shown in the British Museum, the cave contains a replica today. Gray Hill became ill in 1911 and tried to sell the house, After his death in 1914 the site was sold to a group, who acted as founders of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Due to World War I the sale took effect in 1918. With the establishment of the Hebrew University, the cave became part of the campus.
The cave was first used to rebury the remains of Leon Pinsker, a famous Zionist from Odessa, in 1934. This was an initiative of Menachem Ussishkin, who envisaged a national pantheon on Mt. Scopus. He was the next one who was buried in the cave in 1941, but with the foundation of the Israelian state in 1948 this ended. Mt. Scopus had become an enclave in Jordanian-ruled territory. The national leaders pantheon was established on Mount Herzl instead.
The cave is gated for protection, but is open for self guided visits during the open hours of the botanical garden and there is no entrance fee. However, you should bring your ID card (which is always a good idea in Jerusalem) because the university seems to be a special security area, and you must show your ID to enter.