1,900-yr-old skeleton proof of Roman crucifixions - UK archaeologists

While experts previously had some knowledge of the use of crucifixion by ancient civilizations, this is 'the first tangible evidence to actually see how it worked.'

Nineteenth-century French illustrator Victor Armand Poirson envisages the crucifixion of Spendius and his lieutenants in front of Tunis. (photo credit: VICTOR ARMAND POIRSON/PUBLIC DOMAIN/VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
Nineteenth-century French illustrator Victor Armand Poirson envisages the crucifixion of Spendius and his lieutenants in front of Tunis.
(photo credit: VICTOR ARMAND POIRSON/PUBLIC DOMAIN/VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Excavations conducted by English archaeologists yielded a new discovery that may grant insight into the use of capital punishment by the Roman Empire, publishing their findings in British Archaeology magazine on Wednesday.

The team, led by Albion Archaeology's project manager David Ingham, unearthed a skeleton at a Roman settlement in Fenstanton that is almost 1,900 years old, with a nail through the heel bone, suggesting the man was crucified. This is the best evidence of crucifixion by the Romans to date, The Guardian noted.

While experts previously had some knowledge of the use of crucifixion by ancient civilizations, this is "the first tangible evidence to actually see how it worked,” The Guardian quoted Ingham as saying.

Another of the only three other known pieces of evidence of ancient crucifixion are the remains of a 24-to-28-year-old man found in Givat Hamivtar north of Jerusalem, currently in the possession of the Israel Museum, according to Smithsonian Magazine.

The crucifixion victim found by the English team was between 25 and 35 years old when he perished. The thinness of his leg bones suggests he was "chained to a wall" for an extended period of time prior to his execution, Ingham added, according to Live Science.

An Indonesian Christian worshipper holds a cross as she walks the Via Dolarosa on Good Friday in Jerusalem's Old City April 6, 2012. Christian worshippers retraced the route Jesus took along Via Dolorosa to his crucifixion in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. (credit: DARREN WHITESIDE / REUTERS)An Indonesian Christian worshipper holds a cross as she walks the Via Dolarosa on Good Friday in Jerusalem's Old City April 6, 2012. Christian worshippers retraced the route Jesus took along Via Dolorosa to his crucifixion in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. (credit: DARREN WHITESIDE / REUTERS)

The skeleton was discovered in a cemetery with 48 other graves, along with a nearby workshop where animal bone marrow was used to make soap. The remains indicated that the deceased had been involved in strenuous physical labor, Live Science said.

The Romans used crucifixion as an extreme punishment, "a shameful execution method reserved for enslaved people, Christians, foreigners, political activists and disgraced soldiers," Smithsonian noted, adding that the latest discovery will be published next year in an academic journal.