Discovery of coffin may prove Jesus' resting place



Discovery of coffin may prove Jesus` resting place Washington: Archaeologists have stumbled upon a coffin bearing engravings inside a first-century Christian tomb in Jerusalem which they believe could prove that the site is the final resting place of Jesus.

The burial chamber located below a modern condominium building has been dated to before AD 70, so if its engravings are indeed early Christian, they were most likely made by some of Jesus' earliest followers, the excavators said.

Using a remote-controlled camera connected to a robotic arm, the excavators found that one of the limestone boxes, also known as ossuaries, bears an inscription in Greek that refers to "Divine Jehovah", raising someone up.

A second ossuary has an image that appears to be a large fish with a stick figure in its mouth. The excavators believe the image represents the story of Jonah, the biblical prophet who was swallowed by a fish or whale and then released.

A computer-enhanced image of the fish engraving thought to represent the story of the prophet Jonah. Together both the inscription and the image of the fish represent the Christian belief in resurrection from death, LiveScience reported.

While images of the Jonah story became common on more recent Christian tombs, they do not appear in first-century art, and iconographic images like this on ossuaries are extremely rare, the researchers said.

"If anyone had claimed to find either a statement about resurrection or a Jonah image in a Jewish tomb of this period I would have said impossible -- until now," James Tabor, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and one of the excavators, said.

The researchers, who published their findings online in 'The Bible and Interpretation', however, acknowledged that the discovery and their interpretation may become controversial.

This tomb was originally uncovered in 1981, but the excavators were forced to leave by Orthodox Jewish groups who oppose the excavation of Jewish tombs. The tomb was then resealed and buried beneath the condominium complex in the neighbourhood of East Talpiot.

Almost two decades later, Tabor and colleagues got a license to go back into the tomb; however, because of the condos on top of it and the threat of protests from Orthodox Jewish groups, they took an unconventional route into the tomb.

They inserted a robotic arm, developed for this project, carrying high-definition cameras, through holes drilled in the basement floor of the building. The cameras photographed the ossuaries inside from all sides.

This tomb is located adjacent to another one, uncovered in 1980, that contained ossuaries with names some have associated with Jesus and his family. That tomb was thoroughly excavated at the time.

PTI