Mortar under Holy Sepulcher dates to time of Constantine
Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem's Old City. (Photo: Juliette Khalil/Wikimedia Commons)
In a recently published discovery at the Holy Sepulcher church in Jerusalem, researchers confirmed that the mortar and marble of a structure covering what is believed to be Yeshua’s burial bed dates back to 345 AD, the time of Roman Emperor Constantine.
The discovery lends weight to the possibility that Yeshua had indeed been buried in this place.
According to historical accounts the Roman Emperor Hadrian built a temple to Venus on top of the tomb at this site, so as to conceal Yeshua’s place of burial. However, the Emperor Constantine subsequently ordered that a church be built to replace the temple around the year 325. It was during this time that Constantine’s mother, Helena, is said to have found the tomb and determined it was Yeshua’s.
A famous focal point for pilgrims and tourists around the world, the tomb at the Holy Sepulchur was opened for the first time in centuries after researchers from the National Technical University of Athens restored the shrine (or Edicule) which surrounds it in 2016. Using a technique known as optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) to determine the dates at which quartz sediment was exposed to light, the researchers found that mortar and a marble slab covering the original burial bed dated back to about 345 AD.
Although it cannot be definitively stated that the tomb was Yeshua’s, the new report counters the claim of many researchers that the structure found over the tomb was placed there during the crusades, only some 1,000 years ago.
Moreover, mortar was found dating to 11th and 16th centuries, confirming historical accounts of restoration of the Edicule after its destruction in 1009.
When archaeologists removed a marble slab from the burial bed they found a second slab older than the first. It was partly broken and engraved with a cross. Analysis of the gypsum mortar determined it dated to 335-345 AD. This is consistent with claims that Constantine built a structure over the tomb in commemoration of Yeshua’s death and resurrection.
“When we opened the tomb and saw this broken gray slab with an engraved cross we didn’t know from which era it was,” Prof. Antonia Moropoulou, who directed the restoration project, told reporters. “We concluded, according to concrete results, that the slab adjoined to the bedrock of the tomb of Christ was of the Constantinean era.”
The Holy Sepulcher is home to several Orthodox and Catholic Christian denominations who worship there. Protestants run the nearby Garden Tomb just outside the Old City walls. Some believe that the tomb there could be Yeshua’s, though currently no evidence conclusively supports either location.
“He is not here; He has risen, just as He said.”
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Karen Faulkner is a British Israeli citizen. She has a Master's degree in Human Rights & Transitional Justice from Hebrew University, Jerusalem.