New scientific testing conducted at the site of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem appears to confirm that the remains of the tomb enshrined in the church are authentic remnants of the tomb located by ancient Romans.
National Geographic is reporting on the new tests conducted on the mortar from the original limestone surface of the alleged tomb of Jesus, which is housed inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Mortar samples from between the original limestone surface of the tomb and a marble slab that covers it has been dated to around A.D. 345, a date which appears to corroborate historical accounts that the existing tomb was discovered by the Romans and enshrined in the existing edicule or shrine by the Romans in A.D. 326.
"This is a very important finding because it confirms that it was, as historically evidenced, Constantine the Great responsible for cladding bedrock of the tomb of Christ with the marble slabs in the edicule," said Antonia Moropoulou, chief scientific coordinator of the restoration works who is a specialist in preservation from the National Technical University of Athens.
The discoveries were made by researchers who were working to restore the shrine. Until now, the earliest architectural evidence found in and around the tomb complex dated it to the era of the Crusades, making it about 1,000 years old. This date aligns with the church’s destruction and rebuilding in A.D. 1009.
But the new tests suggest the shrine dates back to 325 when Constantine’s representatives arrived in Jerusalem in search of Jesus’ tomb. They were allegedly directed to a Roman temple that had been built at the site 200 years earlier. This temple was razed, and excavations conducted which revealed a tomb carved from a limestone cave. The top of the tomb was sheared off to expose the interior of the tomb and the shrine was built around it.
As National Geographic describes, “A feature of the tomb is a long shelf, or ‘burial bed,’ which according to tradition was where the body of Jesus Christ was laid out following crucifixion. Such shelves and niches, hewn from limestone caves, are a common feature in tombs of wealthy 1st-century Jerusalem Jews.”
There is no reason to doubt the veracity of the testing, which was conducted independently at two different labs using optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) which is a technique that determines when quartz sediment was most recently exposed to light.
More details of the findings will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Archeological Science: Reports.
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