How the second-ever evidence of an ancient crucifixion was discovered in northern Italy

(ORDO NEWS) — In 2018, Italian archaeologists described the remains of a man who died two thousand years ago in his early 30s, possibly by crucifixion, and buried without honor in northern Italy.

In 2007, in the Italian commune of Gavello, south of Venice, archaeologists were excavating a site where a gas pipeline was to be laid.

A human skeleton was found underground.

Unlike most Roman burials, this did not have stone walls; a man was simply laid in the ground on his back, arms along the body, buried and left to lie for two thousand years.

Again, contrary to tradition, no grain, no ornaments, no dishes were placed with the body.

Having carefully studied the remains, researchers from the universities of Ferrara and Florence noticed a hole in the calcaneus that did not have time to heal during the life of a person.

Italian scholars explain that the hole may be evidence that the person was crucified; the parameters of the hole in the bone indicate that a nail passed through it, with which the foot, possibly, was nailed to a plane – possibly a wooden cross.

How the second ever evidence of an ancient crucifixion was discovered in northern Italy 2
Burial from Gavello, 2007

The Romans did not invent the crucifixion, but they used it for quite a long time – before Emperor Constantine banned this type of execution in the fourth century.

There are many records of executions by crucifixion, but very few archaeological materials; the Gavello find may be only the second known evidence of this cruel practice.

The authors of the article note that the Romans, as a rule, crucified slaves, foreigners and deserters; death on the cross is slow and painful, so this type of execution was reserved for especially despised condemned.

To which of the listed categories the man buried in Gavello belonged, we do not know. Anthropologists concluded that the skeleton belonged to a man, short and thin, who died in his early thirties.

The man was probably malnourished all his life, and the absence of ritual objects in the burial place may indicate his low social status, which is consistent with the version that he was executed.

So far, only one such find has been made: in 1968, the Greek archaeologist Vasiliio Tzaferis discovered in Jerusalem, in a burial from the time of Roman possession of the city, a skeleton with a 17-centimeter nail, on which a small fragment of a board made from an olive trunk was preserved.

The burial from Gavello is not so eloquent; there is no nail, no wood. no second calcaneus, other parts of the skeleton are poorly preserved.

In addition, archaeologists have found no signs that the hands were once nailed to the tree – the bones did not retain marks that could be interpreted in this way.

However, it is possible that the executioners did not nail the hands of the condemned to the cross, but simply tied them – they did the same with the man whose remains were found in Jerusalem.

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Fragment of a calcaneus, a nail and a fragment of an olive board from a cave burial in Jerusalem

The poor preservation of the bones did not allow dating the find from Gavello by radiocarbon dating, so scientists were guided by what surrounded the burial – other finds and the thickness of the cultural layer.

The man died probably about two thousand years ago, about the same time that, according to the Gospels, Jesus Christ died on the cross.


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