‘Could someone have stolen Jesus Christ’s DNA? Lucy Challoner is in Canada to investigate. Lucy!’
‘A laboratory in Canada that was briefly at the centre of a controversial investigation has recently had a break-in and they have only just realised some vital samples and files were tampered with during that burglary.
‘Lakehead University is located in Thunder Bay, Ontario sitting on the north coast of Lake Superior, around 60 kms from the USA border with Minnesota. Thunder Bay is a city of just a little over 100,000 inhabitants; historically this had been good fur-trapping country. So it is something of a surprise to learn that the university’s Paleo-DNA laboratory is one of the global leaders in investigating ancient DNA samples. Forget the fictional CSI television series, this is the real deal.
‘It was perhaps then not at all surprising when it was they that were called upon by the film team, its archaeologists, and its documentary team, to investigate DNA traces found on some two-thousand-year-old bones. The bones had been found in two ossuaries within a cave discovered just to the south of Jerusalem; the tomb that has become popularised as the ‘Lost Tomb of Jesus’.
‘This tomb was uncovered originally by archaeologists back in 1980 when the foundations were being laid for a new apartment block. At the time it sparked no particular interest. However, as is usual in these circumstances their investigation time was limited, the developers keen to complete their building. So the archaeologists had made sketches at the time and the relics were removed to be stored at the Rockefeller Museum. The bones of the dead, removed from the ossuaries, were then respectfully given a religious re-burial.
‘As almost a thousand of these sorts of tombs have been found in the same area, it was unsurprising that no particular enthusiasm or significance was noted back in the ‘80s. It was merely recorded as being of the Second Temple period which is a pretty vague term as this period spans six centuries – from 500 BCE to 70 CE. This was the period after the Romans sieged and then sacked Jerusalem destroying the original temple.
‘The so-called ‘Jesus’ tomb was not reopened until 2005, when the documentary team made their film. But, as they had not obtained all the necessary permits, the tomb was rapidly resealed and is not being made available for further investigation. This of course just serves to add to the mystery and mystique surrounding the tomb, allowing unsubstantiated claims to run rife.
‘The ossuaries in this case refer to a series of ten small limestone containers of the bones of a buried family, the burials inside the tomb are said to have spanned several generations of that family. Only four of these ossuaries were originally recorded by the original archaeologist to have had markings or epigraphs scratched onto them, but, during this more recent investigation, markings were found on a further two.
‘It also appears that one of the ossuaries, that had been recorded as being unmarked, disappeared from the museum’s courtyard. Not too surprising in that there is an enormously lucrative black market in Holy Land religious materials.