Jesus Christ died on a Roman cross as recorded in the four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. A recent archaeological discovery is providing more evidence that Jesus indeed died more than 2,000 years ago.

A new study of the skeletal remains of a man buried in northern Italy 2,000 years ago reveals a lesion and unhealed fracture on one of the heel bones which suggests that his feet had been nailed to a wooden cross. This same method was used for the execution of Jesus described in the Bible.

While crucifixion was a common form of capital punishment for both slaves and criminals in ancient Rome, the new discovery is only the second time that direct archaeological evidence of it has been found. While the Bible, as well as other historical writing has referenced the punishment, we now have archaeological proof!

The skeleton was originally uncovered during a 2006-2007 dig in northern Italy’s Gavello municipality. The man was found lying on his back, “with the upper limbs at his side and the lower limbs outstretched.”

The researchers ran genetic and biological tests on the remains and found that they were from a man below-average height and slim nature. He was likely between 30 and 34 years old when he died.

What was strange about the finding for a Roman-era burial is that the man was buried directly in the ground and without grave goods. The lack of grave goods and the dead man’s small build suggested he may have been an underfed slave who was buried without the regular Roman funeral ceremonies. After closer examination of the bones more recently, researchers noticed “particular lesions” on the right heal.

The researchers believe “the upper limbs were fixed to the cross by nails through the wrist, as per ancient historical sources.” They also think the heel may have been nailed to a hard surface prior to the death of the victim.

“In the specific case, despite the poorly preserved conditions, we could demonstrate the presence of signs on the skeleton that indicate a violence similar to crucifixion,” co-author Emanuel Gualdi from the University of Ferrara told Italian paper Estense.

“The importance of the discovery lies in the fact that it is the second case documented in the world,” co-author Ursula Thun Hohenstein said.

“Although this brutal type of execution has been perfected and practiced for a long time by the Romans, the difficulties in preserving damaged bones, and, subsequently, in interpreting traumas, hinder the recognition of crucifixion victims, making this testimony even more precious,” Thun Hohenstein said.

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