“The Crucified Man”, a replica of whose bones is offered here by Biblical Reproductions, is a grim remainder from a cruel ancient world. Discovered during excavations in a tomb in the Giv’at Ha-Mivtar neighborhood of northern Jerusalem in 1968, it is the heel bone of a young man, about 20 years old, who was crucified by the Romans. An iron nail was driven through the side of his heel into the side of the cross.
That nail lodged in a knot in the wood of the cross. The hard knot of wood caused the point of the nail to bend and warp, making it impossible to remove the nail from the man’s foot or from the wood. An additional piece of olive wood was found to have been placed between his heel and the head of the nail, making it impossible for the victim to free himself. That too is preserved in his skeleton. The people who buried the crucified man therefore needed to do so with the nail still stuck in his heel, guarded by the olive wood plate and into the knot of wood. And this is the piece that was found: bone, nail and wood stuck together for all eternity. The man’s body was placed first in a burial niche or sarcophagus for a year or two until the flesh has been eaten away and only dry bones were left. Then the bones were transferred into an ossuary, a bone box, which is where he was found more than 1900 years later.
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We learn immediately from the heel bone of the crucified man that his feet were attached to the cross from the side, through the heel bone, to the side of the cross, and not in front of the cross. All of the pictures and icons we have seen of Jesus on the cross are therefore probably incorrect; his feet were not placed together in front of the cross and one nail could not have penetrated both feet.
We know nothing of the young crucified man except his name, Yehohanan ben Hagkol. The name is unknown from any other source and we will never know what his crime was to have deserved such a horrible death. Crucifixion surely was that, a horrible punishment.
Biblical Reproductions.com offers a repproduction of the heel bone and nail, as it was discovered in 1968, in Jerusalem. www.biblicalreproductions.com is licensed by the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Author: Walter Zanger