JERUSALEM - Archeologists and restoration teams are getting to the innermost chamber of the tomb that held Jesus.
Many thought the cave where the faithful laid Jesus' body after he was taken down from the crucifix was destroyed ages ago, but after digging through marble and using ground-penetrating radar, an archeologist confirmed that the cave existed, The Associated Press reported.
"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." Fredrik Hiebert, National Geographic's archaeologist-in-residence said.
"This is the Holy Rock that has been revered for centuries, but only now can actually be seen," Antonia Moropoulou said. Moropoulou is in charge of the conservation and restoration of the Edicule, the chamber that houses the cave where Jesus was entombed and and believed by Christians to be resurrected, now under the Church of the Holy Sepluchre.
The church dates back to the 12th century and sits on top of 4th-century remains. Six different Christian denominations practice their faith at the same site.
The Edicule was last restored in 1810 after a fire. Now it is in need of reinforcement after exposure to humidity and candle smoke, The AP reported.
It was reinforced in 1947 by a British team using an iron cage built around the cave, but it is not enough.
This week, workers slid open a marble slab hoping to reach the chamber itself. The marble hadn't been moved since 1550. Under that, they found debris and another slab. That slab dates to the 12th century and covered another layer, National Geographic reported.
The team had a total of 60 hours to excavate the inner tomb. It was closed after being fully documented, resealed in the original marble, National Geographic reported.
One part of the tomb will be visible to pilgrims. Experts cut a window in one of the Edicule's marble walls to they can see part of the limestone wall of the tomb. It is the first time the faithful can glimpse the tomb, The AP reported.
National Geographic documented the site on video.
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