Aceldama or Akeldama (Aramaic:חקל דמא; field of blood) is
the Aramaic name for a place in Jerusalem associated with
Judas Iscariot, one of the followers of Jesus.
The earth in this area is of rich clay and was formerly used
by potters. For this reason it was formerly known as the
Potter's Field. The clay had a strong red colour, which may
be the origin of the modern name. More recently it was used
as a burial place for non-Jews. It was used for this purpose
up to the first quarter of the nineteenth century.
Christian tradition connects it with the death of Judas
Iscariot, who is supposed to have bought it with the money
he received for betraying Jesus. In this account (Acts of
the Apostles 1:19) Judas fell over in this field in such a
way that his intestines burst out and he died. This would
imply that the name refers to the blood of Judas.
In another version (Gospel of Matthew 27:7) Judas hanged
himself after returning the money to the Temple authorities,
who then used the money to buy the field called the Potter's
Field, which was then used as a burial place for foreigners.
Here the implication is that the name refers either to the
blood of the buried or the blood of Jesus.
The Akeldama (Hakl-ed-damm) of today presents a large,
square sepulchre, of which the southern half is excavated in
the rock, the remainder being built of massive masonry. In
the center stands a huge pillar, constructed partly of rough
blocks and partly of polished stones. Much of its clay was
taken away by Empress Helena and other prominent Christians,
It lies on a narrow level terrace on the south face of the
valley of Hinnom.
In his "Onomasticon" (ed. Klostermann, p. 102, 16) Eusebius
says the "field of Haceldama" lies nearer to "Thafeth of the
valley of Ennom". But under the word "Haceldama" (p. 38, 20)
he says that this field was pointed out as being "north of
Mount Sion". St. Jerome changed this to "south of Mount
Sion" (p. 39, 27).
In the twelfth century, the crusaders erected beyond the
field, on the south side of the valley of Hinnom, a large
building now in a ruined condition, measuring seventy-eight
feet in length from east to west, fifty-eight feet in width
and thirty in height on the north. It is roofed and covers
towards the southern end several natural grottoes, which
were once used as sepulchres of the Jewish type, and a ditch
is hollowed out at the northern end which is sixty-eight
feet long, twenty-one feet wide and thirty feet deep. It is
estimated that the bones and rubbish accumulated there form
a bed from ten to fifteen feet thick. Akeldama has been the
property of the non-United Armenians since the sixteenth
In 1892 the Greek Orthodox Church built a monastery at the
site, named after Saint Onuphrius. Many burial caves have
been identified in and around the monastery.