Courtesy Israel Exploration Journal, Vol. 35, No. 1 (1985)

Crucified in the first century A.D., a man probably in his late twenties was interred in Jerusalem. Since the discovery of his burial, including the remains of a heel bone pierced by a large nail, archaeologists, osteologists and anthropologists have attempted to determine the victim’s position on the cross.

The excavator of the crucified man, Vassilios Tzaferis, followed the analysis of Nico Haas of Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem suggesting a contorted position: the arms were nailed to the crossbeam; the legs were bent, twisted to one side, and held in place by a single nail that passed through a wooden plaque, through both left and right heel bones, and then into the upright of the cross. (See drawing from Israel Exploration Journal 20:1–2.) However, when Joseph Zias and Eliezer Sekeles reexamined the remains, they found no evidence that nails had penetrated the victim’s arms; moreover, the nail in the foot was not long enough to have penetrated the plaque, both feet, and the cross. And, indeed, what were previously thought to be fragments of two heel bones through which the nail passed have now been shown to be fragments of only one heel bone and a long bone. On the basis of this evidence, Zias and Sekeles suggest that the man’s legs straddled the cross and that his arms were tied to the crossbeam with ropes.