The recent discovery of a piece of burial cloth from the first century has added to the controversy surrounding the Shroud of Turin, which many believe is the cloth used to wrap the body of Jesus after his death.
Researchers announced Wednesday that for the first time ever they have found a shroud that has been verified to be from the era of Jesus in a tomb on the edge of the Old City of Jerusalem. The DNA-tested shroud had a simple weave, researchers said. In contrast, the Shroud of Turin has a much different weaving that is more complex and not known to be available until the medieval period.
Past carbon-date testing of the Shroud of Turin, which is kept at the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, Italy, has yielded various results. The first study done in the late 1980s suggested the shroud was from anywhere between A.D. 1260 and 1390, which means it could not have been Jesus'.
Then another study in 2005 argued that the 1980s testing was done using a patch added in the Middle Ages and the shroud is actually between 1,300 and 3,000 years old.
Negatives of the Shroud of Turin reveal the image of a bearded man with pierced wrists and feet. The head is also bloodstained, causing many to believe the man wrapped by the shroud was injured by being crucified.
However, the latest shroud discovery suggests that doubters of the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin are correct, that it is not from the first century when Jesus died.
"In all of the approximately 1,000 tombs from the first century A.D. which have been excavated around Jerusalem, not one fragment of a shroud had been found" until now, said archaeologist Shimon Gibson, who excavated the site for the Israel Antiquities Authority, according to National Geographic News.
"We really hit the jackpot."
Because of the high humidity levels in Jerusalem, it is not normal for organic materials to last for a long time.
The discovery of the shroud, besides contributing to the Shroud of Turin controversy, also showed that leprosy existed and affected all social classes during the time period. DNA-testing of the shroud found the earliest known case of leprosy.
Moreover, the tomb's location and style of wrappings, researchers say, indicated that the man who had leprosy was affluent. Surrounding tombs in the cemetery were filled with priests and aristocrats. This shows that during Jesus' era, leprosy affected wealthy people and they remain well-off even after being infected by the disease, countering historical accounts that lepers were ostracized.
The tomb discovery unintentionally helped track the history of ancient diseases.