Holy Sepulchre tomb

Discussion in 'General discussion' started by David, Oct 28, 2016.

  1. David

    David Well-Known Member

    Archaeologist at Jesus' tomb site: "What was found is astonishing"

    JERUSALEM -- In the innermost chamber of the site said to be the tomb of Jesus, a restoration team has peeled away a marble layer for the first time in centuries in an effort to reach what it believes is the original rock surface where Jesus’ body was laid.

    Many historians have long believed that the original cave, identified a few centuries after Jesus’ death as his tomb, was obliterated ages ago.

    But an archaeologist accompanying the restoration team said ground penetrating radar tests determined that cave walls are in fact standing -- at a height of six feet and connected to bedrock -- behind the marbled panels of the chamber at the center of Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

    “What was found,” said National Geographic archaeologist Fredrik Hiebert, “is astonishing.”

    The work is part of a historic renovation project to reinforce and preserve the Edicule, the chamber housing the cave where Jesus is said to have been entombed and resurrected. It is the centerpiece of one of Christianity’s oldest churches and one of its most important shrines.

    “I usually spend my time in Tut’s tomb,” said Hiebert about the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun’s burial site, “but this is more important.”

    National Geographic is partnering with Greek restoration experts to document the work.

    A 12th-century building sitting on 4th-century remains, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the only place where six Christian denominations practice their faith at the same site.

    The Edicule was last restored in 1810 following a fire, and is in need of reinforcement after years of exposure to humidity and candle smoke. A hulking iron cage built around the Edicule by British authorities in 1947 for support still stands, but is not enough.

    Renovations at this holiest of spots require mutual agreement by the church’s various custodians, and that is notoriously hard to secure. The denominations jealously guard different parts of the site and often object to even the slightest of changes.

    Last year, Israeli police briefly shut down the building after Israel’s Antiquities Authority deemed it unsafe. It prompted the Christian denominations to green light the repairs, which began in June.

    Pilgrims line up throughout the day for the chance to crouch in the Edicule’s tiny room. They kneel before a white marble encasing, said to cover a surface hewn from the side of the limestone cave where Jesus’ body was laid before his resurrection.

    Church officials closed the Edicule to pilgrims beginning Wednesday evening, and workers used a pulley to slide open the marble slab, in hopes of reaching the burial surface. Hiebert said the slab hadn’t been removed since the year 1550.

    Underneath the marble was a layer of debris. By Thursday afternoon, workers had finished removing the debris, revealing something unexpected: another marble slab.

    Hiebert said he thinks the second slab, which is grey and features a small etching of a cross, dates to the 12th century. It is cracked down the middle, and underneath it is a whitish layer.

    “I don’t believe ... that is the original rock,” Hiebert said. “We still have more to go.”

    The main Christian communities that govern the church have allowed the work crew only 60 hours to excavate the inner sanctum, Hiebert said. Experts are working day and night to reach the tomb’s core and to analyze it.

    “We will close the tomb after we document it,” said Antonia Moropoulou, an architect at the National Technical University of Athens, which is supervising the renovation.

    The restoration team wants to tightly seal the core of the tomb before injecting parts of the shrine with mortar for reinforcement, so the material doesn’t seep inside what is considered to be the holy rock.

    One part of the tomb will remain exposed. Experts on Thursday cut a rectangular window in one of the Edicule’s marble walls, so pilgrims will be able to glimpse, for the first time, a part of the limestone wall thought to be the tomb of Jesus.

    David Grenier, secretary of a group that oversees Roman Catholic church properties in the Holy Land, stood with a few other Franciscan friars, watching the work crew in awe.

    “What happened here 2,000 years ago completely changed the history of the world,” he said. “To be able to dig, let’s say, to the rock where the body of Jesus was laid ... it’s overwhelming joy.”

    At one point, a National Geographic film crew documented the site as clergy burned incense around them in a daily church rite.

    After the film crew cleared out, a pair of clergymen in brown frocks, and an Israeli policeman stationed at the church to help keep the peace, clambered over a pile of work tools, electrical wires and a yellow hard hat on the Edicule floor to lean into the inner chamber and snap cell phone photos of the exposed tomb.

    “It’s a historic moment, huh?” the policeman said.


    Below is a beautiful image which captures a nun praying directly over the marble slab which has covered the tomb for centuries.


    and below is a photo taken directly over and looking down on to that marble slab as it is being removed.

    Last edited: Mar 6, 2017
  2. David

    David Well-Known Member

    Here is an updated video after the marble cover was removed.

  3. David

    David Well-Known Member

    Unsealing of Christ's Reputed Tomb Turns Up New Revelations

    For just 60 hours, researchers had the opportunity to examine the holiest site in Christianity. Here's what they found.

    By Kristin Romey

    JERUSALEM Researchers have continued their investigation into the site where the body of Jesus Christ is traditionally believed to have been buried, and their preliminary findings appear to confirm that portions of the tomb are still present today, having survived centuries of damage, destruction, and reconstruction of the surrounding Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City.

    The most venerated site in the Christian world, the tomb today consists of a limestone shelf or burial bed that was hewn from the wall of a cave. Since at least 1555, and most likely centuries earlier, the burial bed has been covered in marble cladding, allegedly to prevent eager pilgrims from removing bits of the original rock as souvenirs.

    When the marble cladding was first removed on the night of October 26, an initial inspection by the conservation team from the National Technical University of Athens showed only a layer of fill material underneath. However, as researchers continued their nonstop work over the course of 60 hours, another marble slab with a cross carved into its surface was exposed. By the night of October 28, just hours before the tomb was to be resealed, the original limestone burial bed was revealed intact.
    "I'm absolutely amazed. My knees are shaking a little bit because I wasn't expecting this,” said Fredrik Hiebert, National Geographic's archaeologist-in-residence. "We can't say 100 percent, but it appears to be visible proof that the location of the tomb has not shifted through time, something that scientists and historians have wondered for decades."

    In addition, researchers confirmed the existence of the original limestone cave walls within the 18th-century Edicule, or shrine, which encloses the tomb. A window has been cut into the southern interior wall of the shrine to expose one of the cave walls.


    Top: A restorer removes debris beneath a broken marble slab to expose the original rock surface of what is considered the burial place of Jesus.
    Above: Inscribed with a Christian cross, this broken marble slab may date to the Crusades.

    "This is the Holy Rock that has been revered for centuries, but only now can actually be seen," said Chief Scientific Supervisor Professor Antonia Moropoulou, who is directing the conservation and restoration of the Edicule.

    Top: Chief Scientific Supervisor Antonia Moropoulou shows the exposed tomb to Nourhan Manougian and Franciscan Custos Fr. Francesco Patton, representatives of the Armenian Patriarch, and Thephilos III, the Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem.PHOTOGRAPH BY ELISAVET TSILIMANTOU, JERUSALEM PATRIARCHATE - NATIONAL TECHNICAL UNIVERSITY OF ATHENS
    Franciscan priests visit the traditional site of Jesus' tomb during its renovation in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.PHOTOGRAPH BY ODED BALILTY, AP FOR NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
    Above: Women pray atop the marble cover of the tomb before it was removed for restoration work.PHOTOGRAPH BY ODED BALILTY, AP FOR NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

    While it is archaeologically impossible to say that the tomb recently uncovered in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the burial site of an individual Jew known as Jesus of Nazareth, there is indirect evidence to suggest that the identification of the site by representatives of the Roman emperor Constantine some 300 years later may be a reasonable one.

    The earliest accounts of Jesus' burial come from the Canonical Gospels, the first four books of the New Testament, which are believed to have been composed decades after Christ's crucifixion around A.D. 30. While there are variations in the details, the accounts consistently describe how Christ was buried in a rock-cut tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy Jewish follower of Jesus.

    Archaeologists have identified more than a thousand such rock-cut tombs in the area around Jerusalem, says archaeologist and National Geographic grantee Jodi Magness. Each one of these family tombs consisted of one or more burial chambers with long niches cut into the sides of the rock to accommodate individual bodies.

    "All of this is perfectly consistent with what we know about how wealthy Jews disposed of their dead in the time of Jesus," says Magness. "This does not, of course, prove that the event was historical. But what it does suggest is that whatever the sources were for the gospel accounts, they were familiar with this tradition and these burial customs."

    A conservator cleans the surface of the stone slab venerated as the final resting place of Jesus Christ.

    Jewish tradition forbade burial within the walls of a city, and the Gospels specify that Jesus was buried outside of Jerusalem, near the site of his crucifixion on Golgotha ("the place of skulls"). A few years after the burial is said to have occurred, the walls of Jerusalem were expanded, putting Golgotha and the nearby tomb within the city.

    When Constantine's representatives arrived in Jerusalem around A.D. 325 to locate the tomb, they were allegedly pointed to a temple built by the Roman emperor Hadrian some 200 years earlier. Historical sources suggest that Hadrian had the temple built over the tomb to assert the dominance of Roman state religion at the site venerated by Christians.

    According to Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, the Roman temple was razed and excavations beneath it revealed a rock-cut tomb. The top of the cave was sheared off to expose the interior, and a church was built around it to enclose the tomb. The church was completely destroyed by the Fatimids in 1009 and rebuilt in the mid-11th century.

    Excavations inside of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre during the 20th century revealed remains of what is believed to be Hadrian's temple and walls from Constantine's original church. Archaeologists also documented an ancient limestone quarry and at least half a dozen other rock-cut tombs, some of which can be seen today.

    The presence of other tombs of the period is important archaeological evidence, according to Magness. "What they show is that in fact this area was a Jewish cemetery outside the walls of Jerusalem in the time of Jesus."

    According to Dan Bahat, former city archaeologist of Jerusalem, "We may not be absolutely certain that the site of the Holy Sepulchre Church is the site of Jesus' burial, but we certainly have no other site that can lay a claim nearly as weighty, and we really have no reason to reject the authenticity of the site.”


    Last edited: Mar 4, 2017
  4. David

    David Well-Known Member


    During the past few days, the burial bed has been resealed in its original marble cladding and may not be exposed again for centuries or even millennia. "The architectural conservation which we are implementing is intended to last forever," says Moropoulou. Before it was resealed, however, extensive documentation was performed on the surface of the rock.

    Archaeologist Martin Biddle, who published a seminal study on the history of the tomb in 1999, believes that the only way to really know, or understand why people believe, that the tomb is indeed the one in which the Gospels say Jesus' body was laid, is to carefully review the data collected when the burial bed and cave walls were exposed.

    An engineer uses ground-penetrating radar to detect the walls of the original tomb behind its marble facade.

    "The surfaces of the rock must be looked at with the greatest care, I mean minutely, for traces of graffiti," Biddle says, citing other tombs in the area that must have been of considerable importance because they are covered with crosses and inscriptions painted and scratched onto the rock surfaces.

    "The issue of the graffiti is absolutely crucial,” Biddle says. “We know that there are at least half a dozen other rock-cut tombs below various parts of the church. So why did Bishop Eusebius identify this tomb as the tomb of Christ? He doesn't say, and we don't know. I don't myself think Eusebius got it wrong—he was a very good scholar—so there probably is evidence if only it is looked for."

    Meanwhile, the team from the National Technical University of Athens continues its restoration of the Edicule. Conservators will be reinforcing, cleaning, and documenting every inch of the shrine for at least another five months, collecting valuable information that scholars will study for years in an attempt to better understand the origin and history of one of the world's most sacred sites.

    Last edited: Mar 4, 2017
  5. David

    David Well-Known Member

    Age of Jesus Christ’s Purported Tomb Revealed

    Construction materials date to Roman times, suggesting the original holy site's legacy has survived despite its destruction 1,000 years ago.

    By Kristin Romey

    Over the centuries, Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre has suffered violent attacks, fires, and earthquakes. It was totally destroyed in 1009 and subsequently rebuilt, leading modern scholars to question whether it could possibly be the site identified as the burial place of Christ by a delegation sent from Rome some 17 centuries ago.

    Now the results of scientific tests provided to National Geographic appear to confirm that the remains of a limestone cave enshrined within the church are remnants of the tomb located by the ancient Romans.

    Mortar sampled from between the original limestone surface of the tomb and a marble slab that covers it has been dated to around A.D. 345. According to historical accounts, the tomb was discovered by the Romans and enshrined around 326.

    Until now, the earliest architectural evidence found in and around the tomb complex dated to the Crusader period, making it no older than 1,000 years.
    While it is archaeologically impossible to say that the tomb is the burial site of an individual Jew known as Jesus of Nazareth, who according to New Testament accounts was crucified in Jerusalem in 30 or 33, new dating results put the original construction of today's tomb complex securely in the time of Constantine, Rome's first Christian emperor.

    The tomb was opened for the first time in centuries in October 2016, when the shrine that encloses the tomb, known as the Edicule, underwent a significant restoration by an interdisciplinary team from the National Technical University of Athens.

    When Constantine's representatives arrived in Jerusalem around 325 to locate the tomb, they were allegedly pointed to a Roman temple built some 200 years earlier. The Roman temple was razed and excavations beneath it revealed a tomb hewn from a limestone cave. The top of the cave was sheared off to expose the interior of the tomb, and the Edicule was built around it.

    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.

    The marble cladding that covers the "burial bed" is believed to have been installed in 1555 at the latest, and most likely was present since the mid-1300s, according to pilgrim accounts.

    When the tomb was opened on the night of October 26, 2016, scientists were surprised by what they found beneath the marble cladding: an older, broken marble slab incised with a cross, resting directly atop the original limestone surface of the "burial bed."

    Some researchers speculated that this older slab may have been laid down in the Crusader period, while others offered an earlier date, suggesting that it may have already been in place and broken when the church was destroyed in 1009. No one, however, was ready to claim that this might be the first physical evidence for the earliest Roman shrine on the site.

    During their year-long restoration of the Edicule, the scientists were also able to determine that a significant amount of the burial cave remains enclosed within the walls of the shrine. Mortar samples taken from remains of the southern wall of the cave were dated to 335 and 1570, which provide additional evidence for construction works from the Roman period, as well as a documented 16th-century restoration. Mortar taken from the tomb entrance has been dated to the 11th century and is consistent with the reconstruction of the Edicule following its destruction in 1009. "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," Moropoulou observes.

    The mortar samples were independently dated at two separate labs using optically stimulated luminescence (OSL), a technique that determines when quartz sediment was most recently exposed to light. The scientific results will be published by Moropoulou and her team in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.

  6. David

    David Well-Known Member

    Tests offer new information on date of site believed to be tomb of Christ

    WASHINGTON, D.C. - Scientists who helped restore a shrine above the site believed to be the place where Christ was buried say testing of samples has dated the tomb to at least the fourth century.

    The traditional site of Jesus’ burial and resurrection is called the “Edicule,” and is in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City of Jerusalem.

    The new information published recently by National Geographic is consistent with historical accounts that say Constantine, the first Roman emperor to stop persecuting Christians and who became one, began protecting the tomb around the year 326.

    In the fourth century, Constantine is said to have sent a team from Rome to the Holy Land in search of the site, and after the group believed they had located it, they tore down a pagan temple on top of it and protected the tomb.

    Over the centuries, the structures above the tomb have been the victims of natural and human attacks. At some point, a marble slab was placed on top of the tomb, perhaps to prevent eager pilgrims from taking home pieces of it.

    In October 2016, when a team from the National Technical University of Athens was commissioned to restore the shrine around the tomb, which was in danger of collapsing, they also placed a moisture barrier to protect the tomb. It likely hadn’t been opened in centuries, but the opportunity allowed the team to take samples.

    “Mortar sampled from between the original limestone surface of the tomb and a marble slab that covers it has been dated to around A.D. 345,” said National Geographic in a Nov. 28 news story. Until the results were revealed to National Geographic in late November by scientist and professor Antonia Moropoulou, who directed the restoration project, there was no scientific evidence to support that the tomb was older than 1,000 years, the story says.

    What’s harder to pin down scientifically is evidence to prove that the person who was placed on the tomb’s limestone rock shelf and buried there was Jesus of Nazareth. However, a documentary set to air Dec. 3 on National Geographic‘s cable channel shows interviews with scholars who say oral history strongly supports the possibility that the location of the shrine is the place where Jesus is believed to have been buried, a place where Christians believe he returned to life.

    “Why would people remember for several generations that this is the spot?” asked National Geographic archaeologist-in-residence Fred Hiebert in a Nov. 9 interview with Catholic News Service.

    In the absence of scientific data, you have to take into account people’s traditions, village traditions, that pointed to the site, 300 or so years after the actual event of Christ’s crucifixion, as the place where many believe he was buried, Hiebert said.

    “In the television documentary, you will see a very good case for the historical accuracy of (the site) because we know from the scientific data that this is the same spot, the exact same spot, where the Emperor Constantine said, ‘X marks the spot,'” Hiebert said, meaning that’s where Christ was buried.

    If you are a student of oral history and anthropology, it makes sense, said Hiebert, and it makes sense from a scholarly point of view.

    “From an archaeological point of view, there’s no conclusive proof. There’s no DNA. There’s no sign that says it, there’s no artifact that says ‘this is it’ as opposed to over here,” he said. “But I do believe the scholars in the film who say oral tradition is very strong, and if the unified oral tradition in this area was ‘this is the spot,’ then it certainly ranks pretty high. Can we prove it? No.”

    But Hiebert, who witnessed the restoration of the shrine from 2016-2017 and was present for the opening of the tomb, said he remembered what a Greek church official said to him when he asked a question about the likelihood of the site’s accuracy as Christ’s tomb: Each person has to make the decision about what to believe.

    “From an archaeological point of view, from a historical point of view, I can promise you that I can document that was pretty much the place that was identified in the fourth century A.D. (as the tomb of Christ), and for me that’s as much personal satisfaction as I need,” he said.

  7. ian987

    ian987 Guest

    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 15, 2017
  8. David

    David Well-Known Member

    Yes, my last post reported the new information from National Geographic that confirms the 4th century origin of the tomb area. It is unfortunate that the reporting involves so much advertising which makes it a bit difficult to read everything.

    I found the following video on YouTube which is reporting the latest discovery although with very limited access to photographs, no doubt because of copyright issues!

    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 15, 2017

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