Ancient glue offers new insight into what may be Jesus’ tomb

JERUSALEM — New archaeological tests have confirmed that the site many Christians believe to be the tomb of Jesus Christ dates back 1,700 years to A.D. 325, the same era when the Romans first identified the place as holy.

With invasions, fires and even earthquakes occurring at Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre over the centuries, historians had questioned whether the tomb had been destroyed or moved.

To date the tomb, known as the Holy Edicule, conservators from the National Technical University of Athens looked at radioactive elements in the architectural glue that fit it together. They also used ground-penetrating radar and laser scanning.

The tomb is the size of a coat closet, and was open for just 60 hours while restoration work was also carried out.

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Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City throughout history
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Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City throughout history
Worshippers hold candles as they take part in the Christian Orthodox Holy Fire ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City April 15, 2017 REUTERS/Ammar Awad TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Christian worshippers surround the Edicule as they take part in a Sunday Easter mass procession in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City April 16, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
Christian worshippers take part in a Sunday Easter mass procession in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City April 16, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
Christian worshippers surround the Edicule as they take part in a Sunday Easter mass procession in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City April 16, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
Visitors stand in line in front of a replica of the Aedicule of Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre at the New Jerusalem Orthodox Monastery near the town of Istra, some 70 km outside Moscow on October 21, 2017. The New Jerusalem Orthodox Monastery was built by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1656 to represent the Christian Holy sites of Jerusalem. / AFP PHOTO / Mladen ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Visitors stand in line in front of a replica of the Aedicule of Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre at the New Jerusalem Orthodox Monastery near the town of Istra, some 70 km outside Moscow on October 21, 2017. The New Jerusalem Orthodox Monastery was built by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1656 to represent the Christian Holy sites of Jerusalem. / AFP PHOTO / Mladen ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Visitors queue in front of a replica of the Aedicule of Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre at the New Jerusalem Orthodox Monastery near the town of Istra, some 70 km outside Moscow, on October 21, 2017. The New Jerusalem Orthodox Monastery was built by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1656 to represent the Christian Holly sites of Jerusalem. / AFP PHOTO / Mladen ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
JERUSALEM - NOVEMBER 13 : Christians visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on November 13, 2017. Jerusalem has for decades been a flashpoint for global tensions as the nexus of three of the world's oldest religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. (Photo by Orhan Akkanat/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Christian worshippers kiss the door at the entrance of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem on September 28, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX (Photo credit should read THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images)
Christian Orthodox worshippers hold candles during the ceremony of the 'Holy Fire' as thousands gather in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City, on April 15, 2017, during Orthodox Easter ceremonies. The ceremony celebrated in the same way for eleven centuries, is marked by the appearance of 'sacred fire' in the two cavities on either side of the Holy Sepulchre. / AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem, Israel, illustration from L'Illustration, Journal Universel, No 527, Volume XXI, April 2, 1853.
Roman Catholic clergy pray during the Easter Sunday procession at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalems Old City on April 16, 2017. Thousands of Christians marked Jesus's resurrection on Easter Sunday at the Jerusalem site where they believe the miracle occurred, with some prostrating themselves over his tomb and leaving in tears. / AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)
Christian Orthodox worshippers hold candles during the ceremony of the 'Holy Fire' as thousands gather in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City, on April 15, 2017, during the Orthodox Easter holy week. The ceremony celebrated in the same way for eleven centuries, is marked by the appearance of 'sacred fire' in the two cavities on either side of the Holy Sepulchre. / AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)
Christian Orthodox worshippers hold up candles during the ceremony of the 'Holy Fire' as thousands gather in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City, on April 15, 2017, during Orthodox Easter ceremonies. The ceremony celebrated in the same way for eleven centuries, is marked by the appearance of 'sacred fire' in the two cavities on either side of the Holy Sepulchre. / AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - APRIL 14, 2017: The Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Sergei Fadeichev/TASS (Photo by Sergei Fadeichev\TASS via Getty Images)
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - APRIL 14, 2017: Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia (L front), at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; a delegation of Russia's St Andrew The First-Called Foundation has arrived in Israel on a mission to bring the Holy Fire to Moscow, as Orthodox Christians prepare to celebrate Easter. Sergei Fadeichev/TASS (Photo by Sergei Fadeichev\TASS via Getty Images)
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also called the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, or the Church of the Resurrection by Eastern Christians, is a church within the Christian Quarter of the walled Old City of Jerusalem. The site is venerated as Golgotha (the Hill of Calvary), where Jesus was crucified, and is said also to contain the place where Jesus was buried (the Sepulchre). The church has been a paramount for many Christians the most important pilgrimage destination, as the purported site of t (Photo by Pallava Bagla/Corbis via Getty Images)
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also called the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, or the Church of the Resurrection by Eastern Christians, is a church within the Christian Quarter of the walled Old City of Jerusalem. The site is venerated as Golgotha (the Hill of Calvary), where Jesus was crucified, and is said also to contain the place where Jesus was buried (the Sepulchre). The church has been a paramount for many Christians the most important pilgrimage destination, as the purported site of t (Photo by Pallava Bagla/Corbis via Getty Images)
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also called the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, or the Church of the Resurrection by Eastern Christians, is a church within the Christian Quarter of the walled Old City of Jerusalem. The site is venerated as Golgotha (the Hill of Calvary), where Jesus was crucified, and is said also to contain the place where Jesus was buried (the Sepulchre). The church has been a paramount for many Christians the most important pilgrimage destination, as the purported site of t (Photo by Pallava Bagla/Corbis via Getty Images)
Priests hold a Palm Sunday celebration at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. (Photo by Antoine GYORI/Sygma via Getty Images)
(Eingeschr�kte Rechte f�r bestimmte redaktionelle Kunden in Deutschland. Limited rights for specific editorial clients in Germany.) Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem, photographer: Elsa Brunsch (Photo by ullstein bild via Getty Images)
Photograph of a British Military group in Jerusalem in the courtyard of the Holy Sepulchre Church during the mandate of Palestine. Dated 1920. (Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
An exterior view of the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre which was originally built by Helena, in 336 AD. Several religious groups worship in the buildings, among them Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Syrian, Coptic, Armenian and Abssinian. (Photo by David Lees/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)
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The results of the tests were first reported Tuesday by National Geographic.

"Scientists and archaeologists are very excited about this because, what it does is, it corroborates our historical accounts," said National Geographic archaeology writer Kristin Romey, who was on site during the nine-month renovation project.

Experts believe the site was identified around A.D. 325 A.D., when the Roman emperor Constantine the Great came to the city with his team to locate places associated with the life of Jesus.

The Romans are said to have torn down a temple in Jerusalem where they found the cave that they believed to be his burial site. They then built a shrine and a church around that site.

Three different Christian denominations — Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox — share custody over the church, and there have been turf wars and brawls in the past over the management of the site.

Even the restoration took decades to settle. In 1959, the various denominations agreed to conserve the edicule, but it took until 2016 to actually agree on a plan for the restoration, National Geographic archaeologist-in-residence Fredrik Hiebert said.

The same Greek team that restored the Acropolis in Athens was chosen to carry out the project.

Archaeologists believe there may be more surprises to come at the site.

“There is so much information in the data that was collected by the restorers during the conservation project,” Hiebert said. “There are many, many stories still to be told.”

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