'Jesus Tomb' Tests Show Site Much Older Than Previously Thought

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Violent attacks, fires and earthquakes have damaged both the tomb and the church over the centuries. Now, however, a new series of tests "corroborates our historical accounts" as a National Geographic writer puts it to NBC News.

The discovery was made after mortar samples that were taken a year ago after the tomb was opened for the first time in centuries were tested.

In 2016, when renovations around the site believed to protect the tomb of Christ in Jerusalem were underway, religious leaders agreed to the temporary removal of the marble slab covering the tomb so that restorers could install a moisture barrier to protect it. Now, mortar sampled from between the original limestone surface of the tomb and a marble slab that covers it has been dated to around AD 345.

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Three different denominations - Roman Caltholic, Greek Orthodox, and Armenian Orthodox - have squabbled over the management of the site for centuries, and took from 1959 to 2016 to decide how to conserve and restore the tomb area, known as the Edicule, National Geographic archaeologist Fredrik Hiebert said. "This has continuously been a site worshipped as the tomb of Jesus Christ for 1,700 years".

However, the latest scientific tests, carried out for over a year by the National Technical University of Athens, suggest otherwise.

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The researchers analyzed the samples at two separate labs using optically stimulated luminescence, which allowed them to determine when quartz sediment was most recently exposed to light.

Speaking to National Geographic, Antonia Moropoulou, who directed the Edicule restoration project, said: "It is interesting how mortars not only provide evidence for the earliest shrine on the site, but also confirm the historical construction sequence of the Edicule".

The newly restored shrine around the tomb was unveiled in March and opened to the public, right in time for Easter celebrations.

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The Garden Tomb in Jerusalem, believed to be the burial place of Jesus.

And in December, scientists were amazed to discover, beneath marble cladding that covered a 1555 burial bed, a far older broken marble slab engraved with a cross.

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