The Archaeology of Crucifixion

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The Archaeology of Crucifixion

Postby Apxeogyg » Fri Nov 04, 2011 1:32 pm

Line on the left, one cross each: Bioarchaeology of Crucifixion
The Romans practiced crucifixion - literally, "fixed to a cross" - for nearly a millennium. Like death by guillotine in early modern times, crucifixion was a public act, but unlike the swift action of the guillotine, crucifixion involved a long and painful - hence, excruciating - death. So crucifixion was both a deterrent of further crimes and a humiliation of the dying person, who had to spend the last days of his life naked, in full view of any passersby, until he died of dehydration, asphyxiation, infection, or other causes. The Roman orator Cicero noted that "of all punishments, it is the most cruel and most terrifying" and Jewish historian Josephus called it "the most wretched of deaths."

Image Image

As a research topic, this would keep me up at night.
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Re: The Archaeology of Crucifixion

Postby ssfsx17 » Sat Nov 05, 2011 12:49 pm

That is rather interesting - that there is such little physical evidence of crucifixion except in what amounts to a semi-autonomous province.
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Re: The Archaeology of Crucifixion

Postby Dr. Strangelove » Sat Nov 05, 2011 12:55 pm

It was practices all over the empire, dude. Crassus didn't decorate the Appian Way with Christmas trees.
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Re: The Archaeology of Crucifixion

Postby ssfsx17 » Sat Nov 05, 2011 6:43 pm

Dr. Strangelove wrote:It was practices all over the empire, dude. Crassus didn't decorate the Appian Way with Christmas trees.


Yet if the article is to be believed then all those other places have less physical evidence.
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Re: The Archaeology of Crucifixion

Postby Atanamis » Sun Nov 06, 2011 7:10 am

In the first century BC, during the revolt of Spartacus, there were reports of over 6,000 crosses with crucified victims on the road from Capua to Rome, and in the first century AD, Josephus reported that up to 500 Jews were crucified every day during the siege of Jerusalem (Holoubek & Holoubek 1995). The bioarchaeology of crucifixion is therefore a bit of a conundrum: it makes sense that finding evidence may be difficult because of the vagaries of taphonomy, but the sheer volume of people killed in this way over centuries should have given us more direct evidence of the practice.
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Re: The Archaeology of Crucifixion

Postby Dr. Strangelove » Sun Nov 06, 2011 7:25 am

Consider these bodies were not going to be properly buried in those days. Quite often, people used fire anyway. These were condemned men, often bandits, pirates, and gangsters. People didn't care what happened to them. They were just a mess to clear out of the way when some soldiers needed busy work.

If I were to look for evidence, I would look in places like where Judea stood. There most partisans were executed in this way. But those guys had family. The people didn't all despise them. They were more likely to get a proper Jewish burial, which means their bones would be rather well preserved as long as the tomb remains unmolested.

I wouldn't look in Italy, France, or Spain. Consider also there were enormous battles we read about, but we cannot locate. Surely some remains of Varrus' three legions remain buried. Yet nobody has found even though, after a brief search, I found only one good match for the battlefield (three hills enclosing a small pass, allowing an army to cross the line of hills and march south into a valley near a river, and in the Teuteburg forest). But I can't be the only person to notice that. People have likely been all over that spot looking for artifacts.

If you are to question the crucifixion accounts, then you might as well drop most of history. Because most of what we know comes from historical accounts, not artifacts and remains.


BTW: my guess is that it happened in Osnabrück county as people assumed, but the location is where a town named Krebsburg stands today. Coming from the north, he would see an opening between the hills, with a third hill facing him just beyond the southern opening of the pass. Varrus camps on the northern side of the pass. He sends a small force through the pass. They are pulled in by skirmishers. He commits increasingly more troops. Then the real army flanks him from those two hillsides on the right and left, with the main force marching down from that third hill. They are locked out from the northern opening. There is only one escape the SE. If you look at the water table, that area very clearly was a swamp. That is into where one of the eagles were allegedly thrown to save it from capture. A few men make it to the river and escape, just as was accounted. What was left of his troops still in camp likely left the way they came in haste. http://maps.google.com/maps?q=Krebsburg ... y&t=p&z=13
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Re: The Archaeology of Crucifixion

Postby Apxeogyg » Sun Nov 06, 2011 12:45 pm

If you do a sort of Drake's Equation for all things that need to be in place for a crucifixion victim to be archaeologically identified and assign likely probabiliities, you'll see the chances are astronomically small. The main problems are ones of sampling and preservation.

Israel, Egypt, that area would be the best places to look simply because the preservation is so much better there.

Dr. S, the Varus battlefield has been identified with pretty high probability. I am sure we have discussed it here. It's Kalkriese. That's where my avatar is from. I don't know if it is where you predict, but it would be interesting to see what lines up.
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Re: The Archaeology of Crucifixion

Postby Atanamis » Sun Nov 06, 2011 2:51 pm

Dr. Strangelove wrote:If you are to question the crucifixion accounts, then you might as well drop most of history. Because most of what we know comes from historical accounts, not artifacts and remains.
Hey, I'm a guy who considers the Bible to be the most reliable source of history we have, so I'm definitely not questioning crucifixion as a historical act. I do find it interesting how little of our historical knowledge we can back up with physical artifacts though. We often base our knowledge on a small number of writers, it would be nice if something like crucifixion which was reportedly quite common left a little more in the way of artifacts. This same thing likely does apply to a great deal of what we know about history.
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Re: The Archaeology of Crucifixion

Postby Harry K » Sun Nov 06, 2011 2:54 pm

Atanamis wrote:
Dr. Strangelove wrote:If you are to question the crucifixion accounts, then you might as well drop most of history. Because most of what we know comes from historical accounts, not artifacts and remains.
Hey, I'm a guy who considers the Bible to be the most reliable source of history we have, so I'm definitely not questioning crucifixion as a historical act. I do find it interesting how little of our historical knowledge we can back up with physical artifacts though. We often base our knowledge on a small number of writers, it would be nice if something like crucifixion which was reportedly quite common left a little more in the way of artifacts. This same thing likely does apply to a great deal of what we know about history.



Discard the skeletal remains and the timber could be used for other purposes. No different when stone walls outlived their usefulness people took what they needed for other designs.
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Re: The Archaeology of Crucifixion

Postby robin » Tue Nov 08, 2011 7:04 pm

Wood does not even have to be dead to crucify someone on it. Two branches sticking out to wrap ones arms around it and some rope for binding. Better yet just tie their hands up to the trunk of a tree. Seems like we would have little to no physical evidence after thousands of years. Organic material does not usually last very long and as already mentioned re purposing the materials is almost guaranteed as well.

I imagine Crassus had his men use pretty much anything available to tie up the slaves. One of the main reasons this was such a horrible way to go is the aspect of being exposed elements and not getting food or water. Breaking someones legs to encourage and aid suffocation or being stabbed is the humane way to end the crucifixion.

Image


I also think we have some evidence as well. It might just be a little more modern than you want.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... fixion.jpg
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Re: The Archaeology of Crucifixion

Postby Apxeogyg » Wed Nov 09, 2011 2:09 pm

Since we're on the topic here's something from the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (Medical theories on the cause of death in crucifixion). Apparently "In modern times, the medical profession has shown considerable interest in crucifixion." :huh:

They talk about three main hypotheses of how crucifixion kills you, but unfortunately ...
...it is unknown which of these three widely stated hypotheses is correct, since crucifixion is not employed as a modern legal method of execution.

Science loses out again :( .

And there is a 22-entry bibliography for those so inclined.
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