Sydney doctor a member of Israeli team examining ancient man

December 16, 2009 by Henry Benjamin
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Professor Mark Spigelman is a member of an Israeli research team which has studied the DNA of a 1st century C.E. shrouded man found in a tomb on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

It is the first time fragments of a burial shroud have been found in Jerusalem at the time Jesus was alive.

Studies of the weaving method of the fabric show that it is unlikely that the Shroud of Turin originated in the Jerusalem area according to the research team.

Professor Mark Spigelman

Professor Mark Spigelman

The 69-yr-old former Sydney surgeon is now a medical archaeologist living in Israel. He has been working with the Israeli Antiquities Authority  which organised the excavation in the lower Hinnom Valley on the edge of the Old City of Jerusalem. Spigelman’s task was the molecular investigation of the shrouded man. Sharing the research with another professor and the Centre for the Study of infectious and tropical diseases at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The University has reported that the research has proven that the shrouded man is now known to the earliest recorded sufferer of leprosy in history. His tomb lies next to the one occupied by the remains of the father in law of Caiaphas, the high priest who betrayed Jesus to the Romans. Professor Shimon Gibson, who led the excavation work, said that the shrouded man was either a priest or a member of the aristocracy and that his his tomb would have looked directly towards the temple.

The shrouded man did not have the customary secondary burial where the deceased’s bones were placed in a stone box. Spigelman believes this is because the remains, carbon dated to 1-50 C.E., revealed the leprosy and that his tomb had been sealed.

Spigelman added that whereas the shrouded man had suffered from lepresy, he died from tuberculosis as the professor had discovered the DNA of both diseases in the man’s bones.

The researchers also found a clump of hair which had been ritually cut prior to his burial…a rare find given the extraordinarily high humidity levels in the Jerusalem area.

A statement from the Hebrew University said that the new research “adds a new dimension to the archaeological exploration of disease in ancient times providing a better understanding of the evolution of disease and social health in antiquity”.

All photos below  by Professor Shimon Gibson…

Diagram of the tomb

Diagram of the tomb

The tomb

The tomb

The weave of the shroud - much simpler than the Shroud of Turin

The weave of the shroud - much simpler than the Shroud of Turin

The shrouded man's hair

The shrouded man's hair

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