A 1900-year-old skeleton is the best-preserved evidence of a Roman crucifixion

Anita Durairaj

Painting by Vasily Vereshchagin - Crucifixion by the RomansCredit: Playing Futures: Applied Nomadology; CC-BY-SA-2.0

There are very few pieces of evidence pertaining to ancient Roman crucifixions.

The evidence is rare because the wooden crosses used in the crucifixion would decompose easily. Also, the victims of the crucifixion were not given a formal burial. Thus, these bodies were never found.

It is also hard to prove that a crucifixion has occurred as the injuries sustained mainly show up in soft tissue and not on bone. Also, most crucifixions were conducted using ropes and not nails as was commonly depicted.

There are only 3 other instances where archaeologists have obtained solid proof of a crucifixion. However, these findings were less preserved and subject to controversy.

Even then, it was not exactly clear how the Romans went about positioning the prisoner's body for crucifixion. Scientists would examine the bones and the bone morphology of the victim to determine how this was done but they never had clear-cut evidence.

A recent discovery made in 2021 has become the first tangible evidence of a Roman crucifixion. The discovery was made in Cambridgeshire, England.

English archaeologists found the remains of a 1900-year-old skeleton at the site of an ancient Roman settlement. The skeleton was that of a young man who had been buried with his arms across his chest.

Careful examination of the skeleton revealed that there was a nail driven through the heel bone. The nail was protruding a few centimeters on either side of the heel.

This was the first time that archaeologists had found physical evidence of crucifixion in northern Europe.

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Trained with a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Cincinnati, I write unique and interesting articles focused on science, history, and current events.


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