Rare evidence of Roman crucifixion discovered in Italy

Gavella, June 6, 2018

The skeleton is that of an early-30s male from the Roman era.

Photo: static.timesofisrael.com Photo: static.timesofisrael.com

New archaeological evidence attesting to the Roman practice of crucifixion has been unearthed in northern Italy, reports The Times of Israel.

That the practice existed is not in any doubt, as a number of historical writings bear witness to it, most importantly the holy Gospels, but this discovery near Venice is only the second example of archaeological proof of the brutal punishment.

The new findings were initially published in the April 2018 edition of the journal Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, and are based on analyses of a skeleton with a lesion on its foot discovered in a Roman burial site in 2007.

Photo: www.thesun.co.uk Photo: www.thesun.co.uk

The lesion passes through the “entire width” of the heel bone, penetrating in the mid-back section of the heel. “The perforation (length 24 mm) shows a regular round hole passing from the medial side (diameter 9 mm) to the lateral one (diameter 6.5 mm). The pattern of the cross-sectional lesion is linear in the first part, turning slightly downward in the last part,” write Emanuela Gualdi and Ursula Thun Hohenstein, the authors of the new article “A multidisciplinary study of calcaneal trauma in Roman Italy: a possible case of crucifixion?

The fractures found in the bones suggest the injury was inflicted perimortem, from medial to lateral, which means the heel was possibly nailed to a hard surface prior to the victim’s death.

However, the authors note that their findings are not entirely conclusive, given the poor state of the skeleton, and the fact that with only one other example of crucifixion yet found, it is difficult to establish what the normative practices were.

But, “despite the poorly preserved conditions, we could demonstrate the presence of signs on the skeleton that indicate a violence similar to crucifixion,” Gualdi said. Radiocarbon dating was not possible due to the poor preservation of the bones, but fragments of Roman bricks and tiles were also found, placing the remains in the Roman era, about 2,000 years ago.

There were no signs found that the man’s wrist were nailed to his cross, but the archaeologists believe his arms may have been tied, which was also a Roman practice of the time, Live Science reports.

Thus the man was essentially a contemporary of Christ. Moreover, he is believed to have been between 30 and 34 years of age when he died, much like the Lord Jesus Christ Who was crucified at the age of 33.

The only other archaeological evidence of Roman crucifixions is much clearer. In a 1968 Jerusalem excavation of a Second Temple era Jewish cemetery, Vassilios Tzaferis discovered the skeleton of a male, 20 to 24 years old, with a 7-inch nail through its heel, and a small piece of olive wood on the nail.

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