Rethinking The Crucified Man From Giv’at Ha-Mivtar -- By: John Jefferson Davis

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 15:4 (Fall 2002)
Article: Rethinking The Crucified Man From Giv’at Ha-Mivtar
Author: John Jefferson Davis

Rethinking The Crucified Man From Giv’at Ha-Mivtar

John J. Davis

The 1968 discovery of the remains of a crucified man in a cave at Giv’at ha-Mivtar in Israel created considerable interest among both Biblical and archaeological scholars (Kuhn 1978:118–22, 1979:303–34; Naveh 1970:33–37; Strange 1976:199–200; Tzaferis 1970:18–32 Yadin 1973:18–22). A brief summary of N. Haas’s original work appeared in the last issue of Bible and Spade (Davis 2002). Haas’s osteological analysis (Haas 1970:38–59), however, was done rather rapidly due to the demands of the religious community for reburial of the bones (Zias and Sekeles 1985:22). He suggested that the osteological evidence pointed to the fact that the victim’s heels had been nailed together sideways on the cross (Hass 1970:57).

A later reexamination of the right calcaneum (heel bone) revealed that the two heels had not been nailed together, but nailed separately to either side of the upright post of the cross, so that he straddled it (Zias and Sekeles 1985:22–24). Also later challenged was Haas’s assertion that a nail had pierced the distal ends of the radius and ulna of the forearm. The scratches in the wrist area were determined to be non-traumatic and, therefore, not evidence of crucifixion (Zias and Sekeles 1985:24). Haas had also claimed that there was evidence that the legs of the victim had been broken (Haas 1970:57), but this was apparently based on what is described as “inconclusive evidence” (Zias and Sekeles 1985:24–25).

Two proposals for ancient crucifixion as demonstrated by N. Haas. The position on the right was the original anthropological speculation which was later changed to the position on the left. However, both positions may be incorrect as shown in the drawing on page 120.

Yadin has challenged Haas’s assertion that the cross was made of olive wood (Yadin 1973:20) and Zias and Sekeles have denied that the right talus of the victim had been cut by sharp instrument to aid removal of the body from the cross (Zias and Sekeles 1985:24). In fact, they have suggested that bone morphology suggests that it belonged to a third individual buried in the ossuary! It was originally suggested that the bones of two individuals had been placed in the ossuary: one adult male, 24-28 years old and a child that was 3-4 years old (Haas 1970:42–43).

These re-appraisals do not diminish the archaeological importance of the find, however. The bones still give clear evidence of first century AD Roman crucifixion. These later reappraisals do remind us that archaeological research is a dynamic process by which earlier...

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