Fredrik Hiebert couldn’t keep his knees from shaking.
In late October, during an ongoing restoration project in Jerusalem, conservators caught a brief glimpse of the original limestone bed said to be where the body of Jesus was placed after he was crucified.
The platform came into view as conservators worked to shore up the shrine that houses Jesus’ final resting place, according to Live Science.
It was the first time in centuries that it has been exposed. The tomb, located in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem, had reportedly been covered by marble cladding that had been in place for at least 500 years, presumably to protect the original limestone from souvenir seekers and graffiti artists.
Removing the marble cladding revealed a layer of loose fill material.
Brushing the material aside, conservators found another layer of marble and the original grey-beige limestone surface, reported National Geographic magazine, which was on the scene.
Conservators didn’t know what they were looking at.
Time to bring in the scientific tools, one said.
“We can’t say 100 percent, but it appears to be visible proof that the location of the tomb has not shifted through time, something that scientists and historians have wondered for decades,” Hiebert, an archaeologist with the National Geographic Society, told the magazine, the first to report the findings.
“It will be a long scientific analysis, but we will finally be able to see the original rock surface on which, according to tradition, the body of Christ was laid.”
Christian tradition holds that after Jesus was crucified his body was laid on a “burial bed,” or shelf inside a limestone cave.
The structure enclosing the burial shelf and the interior tomb are being restored by scientists from the National Technical University in Athens. National Geographic is a partner in the project.
Photographer Oded Balilty told National Geographic magazine what it was like to be just one of 30 people with access to the tomb when it was opened.
“I opened a window and showed people something that I don’t think will happen (again) in my lifetime,” he said. “The most important part of our job is to show people what’s happening on the other side of the globe. I gave them the chance to see it. That’s a great feeling.”
Conservators replaced the marble around the limestone slab, possibly forever.