Nobody has looked into the supposed tomb of Jesus, in Jeruselum’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, for centuries, until last week.
Since at least 1555, the tomb remained sealed in marble to protect it from looters and vandals. Over the centuries, debate and doubt over what was in the tomb grew.
When the marble lid was removed from the tomb last week, a miraculous discovery was made.
An interior piece of marble, formerly unknown, lay under the cover of dust, engraved with a cross.
A second grey marble slab no one knew existed, engraved with a cross they believe was carved in the 12th century by the Crusaders.
Archaeologist Fredrik Hiebert of National Geographic, which was a partner in the project, says: “The most amazing thing for me was when we removed the first layer of dust and found a second piece of marble.
The find expelled all doubt that the site is truly the place Roman Emporor Constantine found and designated as the place where Christ was laid after his crucifiction.
Mirror continues, quoting Archaeologist Fredrik Hiebert:
“This one was grey, not creamy white like the exterior, and right in the middle of it was a beautifully inscribed cross. We had no idea that was there.
“The shrine has been destroyed many times by fire, earthquakes, and invasions over the centuries. We didn’t really know if they had built it in exactly the same place every time.
“But this seems to be visible proof that the spot the pilgrims worship today really is the same tomb the Roman Emperor Constantine found in the 4th century and the Crusaders revered. It’s amazing.
“When we realised what we had found my knees were shaking a little bit.”
But the tomb was nearly left unopened by the researchers.
Excavation uncovered the limestone burial bed just hours before having to reseal the tomb, and specialists originally planning on leaving the tomb itself unopened decided that they must in order to insure nothing could leak inside.
The New York Times details the delicate operation:
“The main goal was not to break the plate,” said Harris Mouzakis, an assistant professor of civil engineering at National Technical University who is working on the project.
The team felt the pressure. “We had to be very careful,” Mr. Mouzakis said. “It was not just a tomb we had to open. It was the tomb of Jesus Christ that is a symbol for all of Christianity — and not only for them but for other religions.”
Once they removed the marble cladding, they discovered another marble slab with a cross carved into it. Beneath that, they found the limestone slab hewed from the wall of a cave that is believed to be where Jesus lay after his death.
That slab had not been seen since at least the 1500s. The team worked around the clock for three days, gathering dirt and other material from inside the tomb for future study. They closed it again quickly to avoid disrupting the visits of pilgrims who still flock to the church each day.
Details to follow what their findings will detail. Modern science has its first peak at some of these artifacts and exciting updates are sure to emerge.
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