The discovery of a ‘Jesus-Era’ man buried outside Jerusalem, Israel, has cast doubt on the famous Turin Shroud. The man, who is thought to have suffered from both tuberculosis and leprosy, was buried in a cave called the ‘Tomb of the Shroud’, part of the ‘Field of Blood’ (Akeldama), a 1st century AD cemetery in the Lower Hinnom Valley (Gehenna) near Jerusalem. The preservation of bodies in the region is extremely rare, thanks to high humidity levels underground.
The man’s location in the Valley, beside high priest Annas (6-15 AD) – the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest who betrayed Jesus to the Romans – has led the project’s team to conclude that he too was an important figure. The large team comprises experts from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Lakehead University, Canada; University College London and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
And though the man’s remains, which had unusually not undergone a second burial, could hold the oldest evidence of leprosy in the region, it is their shroud’s relation to the famous Turin Shroud that will inevitably steal headlines all over the world.
The Turin Shroud is a mysterious cloth which many believe to have wrapped the body of Christ. It bears the image of a man struck by the wounds of crucifixion, and its efficacy has been fiercely debated for centuries. Yet this shroud, the first found in Jerusalem from Jesus’ era, is completely different, being of a much simpler textile. Assuming it is common of all burial shrouds at the time, this research casts a dark shadow over the Turin Shroud’s authenticity.
A lump of the man’s hair, which had been ritually cut, was also found inside the shroud. The unique find may prove the existence of leprosy in the area many years before thought. Previous estimates have suggested that ‘leprosy’ in the Old Testament may in fact refer to skin rashes such as psoriasis, while the disease actually flourished up to 4,000 years ago in the Indus Valley.
Earlier this month the team dated tuberculosis 3,000 years earlier than previous estimates, when samples were found at a submerged town off the coast of Haifa.