In October 2016, the tomb where Jesus was purportedly buried was opened for the first time in centuries. The tomb is located in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Now, National Geographic has revealed new details in the timeline of the holy site. Until the tomb was reopened, the earliest architectural evidence in or around the tomb was dated no older than 1,000 years old during the Crusader period.
Now, new results have displayed that some of the remains in the limestone cave date all the way back to the ancient Romans. According to Nat Geo, the complete destruction of the church throughout the centuries because of fires, attacks, and earthquakes, caused a questioning about whether or not it could have been the site “identified as the burial place of Christ by a delegation sent from Rome some 17 centuries ago.” The total destruction of the church in 1009 made this doubt particularly prominent.
When the tomb was opened last October, the shrine that encloses it underwent restoration. The construction was completed by an interdisciplinary team from the National Technical University of Athens.
The team took several samples from areas within the shrine in order to date them. The samples were independently dated at separate labs and used OSL (optically stimulated luminescence). Now, the results have been provided to the Chief Scientific Supervisor of National Geographic, Antonia Moropoulou.
The new evidence shows that the original limestone surface of the tomb, as well as a marble slab, dates back to A.D. 345. This report matches up to historical records that the Romans discovered and enshrined the tomb around 326.
According to reports, Constantine’s representatives had gone to Jerusalem to locate the tomb of Jesus Christ sometime near 325 A.D. While there, they were pointed to a temple that had been built around 200 years earlier. Excavations on the temple at that time revealed a tomb in a limestone cave.
Though this new information does not confirm that the site is the same place where Jesus was originally buried, it does line up with historical records. Not only does it give new insight into the earliest shrine on the site, it also matches perfectly to historical records regarding construction.
Archaeologist Martin Biddle said, “Obviously that date is spot-on for whatever Constantine die. That’s very remarkable.”
Moropoulou said, “It is interesting how [these] mortars not only provide evidence for the earliest shrine on the site, but also confirm the historical construction sequence of the Edicule [the enclosure].”
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