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Site History: East Talpiot, Jerusalem (Two Thousand Years Ago to the Present)

According to the Bible, some two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ died on a cross in order to redeem the sins of believers in God so that they might have eternal life.

After Jesusí death, it is believed that Jesusí body was laid in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, one of his apostles. Jesusí body was brought to this tomb, close to the execution site at Golgotha, prior to the onset of the Sabbath:

"And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in rock; and he rolled a large stone against the entrance and went away." (Matthew 27:59)

In the past, there has been much debate over the exact location of Jesusí burial and resurrection. One hypothesis was that the site where Jesus was buried is the Garden Tomb, located in the garden outside the Holy City of Jerusalem. This site is believed to be the garden of Joseph of Arimathea. A second hypothesis is that the site of Jesus Christís burial is the tomb located inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the church built by the emperor Constantine and his mother, Helena, which is located inside the walls of the Holy City.

However, archaeological breakthroughs in the 1980s in the neighborhood of East Talpiot, located just south of Jerusalemís Old City, shattered these theories. The finding of a first century family tomb by British archaeologist Shimon Gibson and his team located the ossuary inscribed with the name of Jesus in Aramaic, along with other ossuaries containing the names Mary, Joseph, Jude and a second Mary.

Ten ossuaries were found in total, with six of the ossuaries containing inscriptions. In addition to the ossuaries inscribed with the apparent names of Jesus Christís family, a 6-inch shard of pottery was also found, engraved with the name Jesus and engraved with an emblem of a fish. Three skulls were also found placed to form what appears to be a ritualistic triangle.

Since the 1970s, hundreds of tombs and thousands of ossuaries have been located in and around the city of Jerusalem.

Archaeologists moved the tombís ossuaries into museum storage at Romemma, a suburb of Jerusalem. Gibsonís findings also enabled him to record a layout of the tomb of East Talpiot, providing archaeologists with an important map of the tomb and the exact locations where the ossuaries were found. The public was never notified of these findings.

It was not until 1996 that this incredible finding was made public. At this time, Gibsonís official drawings of the tomb, including a detailed layout of the tombís contents, were published. By 1996, the burial site of East Talpiot was made more accessible. The tomb, located beneath a new apartment building block that looked like so many others in the city of Jerusalem, garnered increasing attention from the public and from academics alike.

The neighborhood of East Talpiot had also changed since the first archaeological discovery of the 1980s. The area, established more than twenty years ago, was now the home of a heterogeneous population of 12 450 residents and had one of the highest concentrations of new immigrants in Jerusalem, with immigrants making up 40% of the cityís population. East Talpiot is currently comprised of a vast socioeconomic makeup, ranging from lower middle class to upper middle class residents. The area continues to be an important industrial center and is a modern city that is home to nigh clubs, discos and shops.

The modern tapestry of East Talpiot is a sharp contrast to the ancient tombs and ossuaries found in the area. These archaeological findings, based on the close analysis of ossuaries and of the original excavation files in 2005 by a new archaeological team, paired with affirmative DNA testing, hold the key to unlocking the mysteries of the past. Such a finding will unravel the secrets of some of the most important figures of the Bible, including Jesus Christ himself.


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