A team of engineers and architects has recovered a marble stone slab at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem that they believe to be the surface on which the body of Jesus Christ was lain after the crucifixion.
National Geographic reports the slab was found during the course of an ongoing renovation of a section of the church called the Edicule, a shrine Christian tradition holds houses the tomb.
“The marble covering of the tomb has been pulled back, and we were surprised by the amount of fill material beneath it,” said Fredrik Hiebert, archaeologist and partner in the restoration project. “It will be a long scientific analysis, but we will finally be able to see the original rock surface on which, according to tradition, the body of Christ was laid.”
“We are at the critical moment for rehabilitating the Edicule,” said Antonia Moropoulou, an architect from the National Technical University of Athens who is overseeing the project. “The techniques we’re using to document this unique monument will enable the world to study our findings as if they themselves were in the tomb of Christ.”
The team used ground-penetrating radar tests to confirm that the tomb itself, buried deep beneath the Edicule, is still standing. Though archaeologists will continue to excavate in and around the tomb, it will not be incorporated into the shrine or open to the public. The tomb will be re-sealed at the renovation’s conclusion. (RELATED: The Church Where Jesus Died Is About To Get Its First Makeover In Centuries)
“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.”
Hiebert and Moropoulou say scientists who study the rock may enable them to further reconstruct the tomb in its original form.
The ongoing renovation project focuses primarily on the Edicule of the Tomb. No significant structural repairs have taken place in the Edicule since 1810. Moropoulou says that the Edicule’s marble and stone slabs, while stable, are warped and need immediate attention after decades of exposure to water, humidity, candle smoke and incense. The shrine also needs additional protection against potential earthquake damage.
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