Friday, February 2, 2007

Crucifixion of Yohanan Ben Ha'galgol

Despite the many thousands of people crucified by the Romans, there is only one archaeological discovery of a crucified body dating back to the Roman Empire around the time of Jesus. The remains were excavated just north of Jerusalem. The remains, accidentally found in an ossuary in 1968, were preserved because family members gave this particular person a customary burial. Usually, a crucified body was left to decay on the cross and would not be preserved.

The ossuary had an Aramaic inscription on it with the crucified man's name, Yehohanan or Yohanan Ben Ha'galgol (the son of Ha'galgol). Contained within was a heel with a nail driven through its side, indicating that the heels may have been driven through the sides of the tree (one on the left side, one on the right side, and not with both feet together in front). The nail had olive wood on it indicating that he was crucified on a cross made of olive wood or on an olive tree. Since olive trees are not very tall, this would suggest that victims were crucified at eye level.

Additionally, the piece of olive wood was located between the heel and the head of the nail, presumably to keep the victim from freeing his foot by sliding it over the nail. His legs were found broken. It is thought that since in Roman times iron was expensive, the nails were removed from the dead body to cut the costs, which would help to explain why only one has been found, as the back of the nail was bent in such a way that it couldn't be removed.

Yohanan was 24 to 28 years old when he died.

(photo of heel bones of Yohanan)

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