2,000-year-old tomb in Jerusalem contains first known case of leprosy

Published on December 16th, 2009 | by Admin


A first-century tomb found near the Old City in Jerusalem contains the first known case of leprosy. The man was buried in a shroud made up of a simple two-way weave, which is nothing like the complex weave of the Turin shroud, making it further evidence that it is a medieval fake.

The tomb is very unusual because it is clear that this man, whose remains are dated by radiocarbon methods to 1 CE to 50 CE, did not receive a subsequent burial. Secondary burials were common practice at the time, when the bones were removed after a year and placed in an ossuary (a bone box made of stone). In this case, however, the entrance to this part of the tomb was completely sealed with plaster. Spigelman believes this is because the man had suffered from leprosy and died of tuberculosis, as DNA of both diseases was found in his bones.

Historically, disfiguring diseases such as leprosy led to the sufferer being ostracized from their community. However, a number of indications – the location and size of the tomb, the type of textiles used as shroud wrappings, and the clean state of the hair – suggest that the shrouded individual was a fairly affluent member of Jerusalem society, and that tuberculosis and leprosy may have crossed social boundaries at that time.

This is also the first time fragments of a burial shroud have been found from the time of Jesus in Jerusalem. The shroud is very different to that of the Turin Shroud, until now assumed to be the one that was used to wrap the body of Jesus after his crucifixion. Unlike the complex weave of the Turin Shroud, this is made up of a simple two-way weave, as textile historian Dr. Orit Shamir was able to demonstrate.

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