Nails which were found in a burial cave in Jerusalem and date back to the first century have fragments of bone and wood embedded in them – something which would be consistent with a crucifixion. The burial cave is believed to be the resting place of Caiaphas – the Jewish priest who, according to the Bible, sent Jesus Christ to his death. The nails were first discovered in the 1990s during an excavation but went missing shortly after.
However, a 2011 documentary from filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici claimed the nails had been rediscovered, and Mr Jacobovici went as far as to say the nails were used on Christ during his crucifixion – supposedly around the year 33AD.
Scholars had originally dismissed Mr Jacobovici’s claims, but a new study has revealed the iron nails also contain fragments of human bones and wood.
Scientist Dr Aryeh Shimron led the team which made the bombshell find after comparing the contents of the nails to the contents of the tomb’s ossuaries – boxes which were used to contain the remains of the dead.
Dr Shimron said: “The materials invading caves differ subtly from cave to cave depending on topography, soil composition in the area, the microclimate and neighbouring vegetation.
“Consequently caves have distinct physical and chemical signatures.
“The physical and chemical properties of the materials which, over centuries, have invaded the tomb and its ossuaries were investigated.
“Our analysis clearly and unequivocally demonstrates that these materials are chemically and physically identical to those which have, over centuries, also become attached to the nails.”
According to the research, the ossuary of Caiaphas’ cave was the only match from 25 tombs which were tested.
Dr Shimron continued: “We have also discovered fine slivers of wood accreted within the iron oxide rust of the nails.
“But the only evidence we have that they were used to crucify the Jesus of the Gospels is that they were found in the tomb of Caiaphas.
“Does our evidence suffice? I really cannot say, I choose to rely on good science rather than speculation.
“Perhaps a reader of the full manuscript should rely on his or her own judgement.”
A statement from the Israel Antiquities Authority said: “It seems reasonable that the nails mentioned in the research indeed came from a cave in Jerusalem dating to the same period.
“However, a direct connection to this specific cave was not proven.
“In fact, even if a connection was found, we still cannot determine with any degree of certainty that the cave is indeed the burial place of the high priest Caiaphas.
“Questions have risen in the past concerning, for example, the cave’s simplicity, which did not suit this individual’s supreme social status.
“The IAA’s official opinion is that the nails could have been used on any one of the hundreds of people who broke Roman law and suffered this type of execution.
“It seems, therefore, that any conclusion which is not derived directly from the finds should be closely scrutinised with the scientific tools available to researchers today.”