Picture Credit: The Church of the Holy Sepulchre – the Crucifixion Altar
One could say that Frederik Hiebert has an interesting job – he’s a National Geographic Fellow but with almost no constraints. Check this out: “Fredrik Hiebert, archaeologist and explorer, has traced ancient trade routes overland and across the seas for more than 20 years. Hiebert has led excavations at ancient Silk Road sites across Asia, from Egypt to Mongolia. His excavations at a 4,000-year-old Silk Road city (Chang’an– home of some of the earliest tea traded) in Turkmenistan made headlines around the world. He also conducts underwater archaeology projects in the Black Sea and in South America’s highest lake, Lake Titicaca, in search of submerged settlements.”
This past week, Professor Hiebert was in the Jerusalem’s Old City (right here) for an uncovering of the Tomb of Jesus Christ (video here) at The Church of the Holy Sepulchre during a 60 hour sprint with a restoration team from the National Technical University of Athens. According to the New Testament, Jesus was crucified at Golgotha, “the place of the skull” (Matt. 27:33–35; Mark 15:22–25; John 19:17–24) and the tomb was placed nearby in a church built by Roman emperor Constantine I. In 326, Constantine’s mother, Saint Helena, made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where, according to legend, she discovered the relic of the cross of Jesus (the “True Cross”). The liberation of the holy places, the foremost of which was the Holy Sepulchre, was an important motivation for the First Crusade between 1096 and 1099 and the church was reconsecrated in 1149.
Picture Credit: Medievalist.net – The First Crusade
The last removal of the marble cladding covering Christ’s tomb was in 1555, so this restoration effort to address water damage to the Edicule or burial chamber was an historic event. “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,” Hiebert told National Geographic. Researchers confirmed the existence of the original limestone cave walls within the 18th-century Edicule, leading Dr. Hiebert to conclude that, “it appears to be visible proof that the location of the tomb has not shifted through time, something that scientists and historians have wondered for decades.” National Geographic is filming the restoration process for the Explorer series, which will air in November 2016.
The Discovery Channel claimed that the bones of Christ were located in 2012 in an excavation originating nearby (video here) and led by Dr. James N. Tabor of UNC Charlotte who is rebuilding his Jesus Discovery website.
Advances in restoration technology, sensors and miniature cameras are making it now possible to explore ancient archeological sites without destroying them as many of the early 20th century explorers and looters of the Pyramids of Egypt and other ancient sites did. For example, since the Egyptian Revolution in 2011, many sites have been looted. According to Popular Archeology, “El Hibeh is not the only site in Egypt that has been subjected to looting and destruction during and since the revolution. There are a number of others. But El Hibeh is especially significant because it is one of the least disturbed sites of the Third Intermediate Period. It was built about 1070 BCE by the High Priests of Amun at Luxor/Thebes and was occupied for over 1,700 years through the Pharaonic, Ptolemaic, Roman, Coptic, and early Islamic periods.” And the destruction of ancient sites in Syria, Iran, Yemen and Afghanistan are also a bi-product of the Middle Eastern Wars unleashed since 9/11. Alas…