Scientists digging in Northern Italy recently revealed a discovery that provides more evidence for the biblical account of Jesus' death and the method of execution.
The Bible recounts in the four Gospels that Jesus was crucified on a wooden cross. The stories claim the Roman soldiers who carried out the execution used nails, as opposed to rope — which was the most common method during that time — to secure Jesus to the cross. In fact, the amount of evidence showing the Roman Empire used nails during crucifixion is very small.
However, that seemingly changed when scientists discovered the remains of a man in Northern Italy, who appeared to have been executed via nail and wooden cross.
What are the details?
In 2007, while excavating a site in Gavello, Italy, about an hour outside Venice, a team led by scientists from the University of Ferrara discovered the skeletal remains of a Roman-era man. He was lying on his back with his arms and legs outstretched.
What was unusual about the burial was the fact the man was buried directly into the ground, not in a tomb, and with no burial goods. And upon closer examination, the scientists discovered he had a lesion and unhealed fracture on one of his heel bones.
In a study published in the "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences" journal in April, the scientists said the injury is consistent with a metal nail being driven through the man's foot to a hard surface — such as a wooden cross.
Very little is known about what happens to a human body during crucifixion because there exits very little evidence of the Roman torture technique. That's because the rope most often used to secure a person to a cross did not leave marks on the bones.
Scientists have previously discovered only one other instance showing physical evidence of crucifixion, according to the Times of Israel. In 1968, Greek archaeologist Vassilio Tzaferis discovered the remains of a man with a 7-inch nail through his heel attached to a piece of olive wood. The discovery was also unusual because Roman soldiers most often removed the nails from their victims before leaving them to rot.
Are the scientists conclusive about their discovery?
Not completely. More from History.com:
In the case of the remains from Gavello, the new study’s authors admit that their findings are not as conclusive. The man’s other heel bone is missing, for one thing, and the remaining bones aren’t in good condition.They also have not found evidence that wrists were nailed to the cross, as was commonly done in Roman-era crucifixion. Still, they suggest his arms could have been tied to the cross with rope instead, as is thought to be the case with the man found in Jerusalem.
Due to the poor condition of the bones, the researchers also could not use radiocarbon dating techniques. But the location of the remains within the layers of Roman-era remains led them to reasonably conclude the man was killed approximately 2,000 years ago, placing his death roughly within the same time period as Jesus’ crucifixion.
"The importance of the discovery lies in the fact that it is the second case documented in the world," scientist Ursula Thun Hohenstein told Italian news publication Estense.