UPDATE JULY 31, 2012 - Added information and links for second gem shown. Also revised interpretation of Alexamenos Graffito (he is wearing a tunic) with an added link, made corrections and added new information to Lex Puteoli, revised interpretation of Pozzuoli graffito with an added link, added new information to Pompeiian Graffiti.
UPDATE JANUARY 17, 2010: What I have found out since posting these four parts will require a major rewrite. Parts 2, 3 and 4 will be broken up. Videos showing where Christianity got The Crucifixion FROM will be presented. The series will rerun under a new title, "The Romans NEVER CRUCIFIED the Way We Think They Did."
Crucifixion in Antiquity
Was Jesus Crucified in the Manner Shown?
Mishnah - Shabbat 6:10 - Crucifixion Nails
Crucifixion Bone Fragment - Jehohanan (article revised and reposted with New Analysis)
New Analysis of Crucifixion Bone fragment - Jehohanan (article deleted)
Crucifixion Graffito Found in Pompeii
Puzzuoli Article in Italian (Translation with help of “Google Translator.”)
Medical Theories on the Cause of Death in Crucifixion
"A Forensic Way of the Cross" Frederick T. Zugibe, M.D., Ph.D.
Regio I - Insula XIII - Domus delle Gorgoni
University of Texas - Roman Civic Images - Graffito
Flicker Photo Album - Graffito Blasphemo - excellent photos!
Jehovah's Witnesses.net - Facts on Crucifixion
The Crucifixion Graffito of the Palatine
1st Century Crucifixion Nail Found in Archaeological Dig
Crucifixion Nails and Spikes for Sale
Crucifixion Gem with Kneeling Supplicants
Magical Amulet from Gaza Representing Jesus Christ on Cross
Jesus Was Nailed to the Cross - Jasper Gem dated 200 CE shows crucified hanging
British Museum Magical Gem / Intaglio - Click on image of Jasper Gem for large HD image.
Cambridge Journals / Harvard Theolog. Review - Crucifixion Conundrum and the Santa Sabina Doors
Excerpt from Crucifixion Conundrum and the Santa Sabina Doors
Jewish Encyclopaedia, "Ass-Worship", paragraph: Origin in the Egyptian Typhon-Worship
Clear Image of Pozzuoli Graffito (downloadable!)
Despite all the people the Romans crucified, no crucified remains were found before 1968. An obviously reason is that the bodies usually were torn apart by scavengers instead of buried – but they were buried in Judea! Another reason is that the nails and whips were taken home by the superstitious locals for use as magic talismans with healing properties of some sort. The Jewish Rabbis permitted Jews to do this, even on the weekly Sabbath (The Mishnah, Shabbath 6.10). In 1968, Jewish tomb containing an ossuary (a stone box containing bones) was discovered at a construction site in Jerusalem and dated to about 21 CE. In the ossuary, archaeologists found the remains of a young Jewish man who was crucified in the 1st Century CE. As was the custom of the day, the victim’s name – Jehohanan son of Hagaqol - was scratched on the back side of the box. He was determined to be in his twenties when he was killed. His executioners apparently had some difficulty pulling out the nails that transfixed Jehohanan to his cross or stake (let's assume cross). The nail was still piercing his Calcaneum (heel bone) when his remains were found and analysed. The model of the nailed foot pictured (left photo) demonstrates the actual heel bone of Jehohanan (right photo).
The man’s feet were not nailed to the front of the cross with a single nail, because it turns out the nail was too short for that purpose. It appears his heels were nailed to the outsides of the stipes (main upright) with one nail each. He was straddling the stipes, legs spread about a foot wide, with his heels nailed to either side (see drawing above). This would likely make the genitals appear prominent. And despite the loincloth shown, it was likely Jehohanan was crucified completely naked.
As shown in the remnant and the model, the nail passed first through a square or rectangular washer, made of wood. A bit of the original washer was still present between Jehohanan’s heel and the nail head. Tests showed it was from either an acacia or pistacia tree. The wooden washer broadened the head of the nail, making it very difficult for Jehohanan to pull himself free. The heel was tightly secured between the washer and the stipes. After hammering the nail through the plaque of wood the soldier responsible hammered it through the heel bone into the stipes. Combined with the washer, the nail placement made it virtually impossible for Jehohanan to free himself. The heel bone is also a logical place in the foot to secure the nail for it can support half the full weight of the body.
When the nail penetrated the stipes, it hit a knot and turned back on itself, hooking itself into the wood. Vassilios Tsaferis, Zias, and others tested the wood that still clung to the hooked point, but found that the amount was insufficient to determine the species.
Jehohanan’s lower leg bones (tibia and fibula) were shown to be broken at a 60 to 65 degree angle. Originally Tsaferis postulated that the crucified had his legs broken the same day he was crucified to hasten death so that he could be buried before sundown per Jewish Torah Code (Deuteronomy 21:22-23). But tests have determined that they had been broken post-mortem (Hershel Shanks); that means Jehohanan died on his cross and could have been suffering on that cross for days! This means once the Romans replaced the Hasmonean Kings with their own Prefects, Roman laws probably applied to crucifixion: no burial of the crucified allowed. Even so, they still could have deferred to local custom, allowed burial after the crucified passed on, or made exceptions to the Roman laws for days like Caesar’s birthday, local high holy days and the like (John 19:31).
After Jehohanan died, the soldiers began removing the nails to take him off of the cross so his family could bury him. He may have been still crucified on the eve of a holy day, since the authorities, per request, had him taken down and permitted his relatives to bury him. But the soldiers who tried to extract the nail from his right foot, they found out it was impossible because the nail was hooked into the knot. So they yanked his foot loose, pulling the washer, nail and knot with it. Nineteen hundred years later, when the archaeologists analysed his bones, they found the whole assembly intact. They had unearthed a very important clue as to how Romans crucifiied people.
The Pompeii Graffiti.
As we all know, Mount Vesuvius blew up and buried Pompeii and Herculaneum in ash in 79 CE. A short phrase about crucifixion was found on a wall in Pompeii and perhaps other graffiti as well:
…[The] word crux has been found in Pompeii, as for example, one published in Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, Vol. IV., at No. 2082, ‘In cruce figarus.’ Professor Zangermeister says figarus stands for figaris.Source: Edward Walford, John Charles cox and George Latimer Apperson, editors. The Antiquary, Volume 34, “The Antiquary’s Note-Book, [heading] The Crucifixion Graffito of the Palatine,” pp. 148-149
The graffito in question certainly does read "IN CRVCE FIGARVS" which translates as "may you be fixed on / by a crux. yes, "by." Not, "may you be nailed to a cross" as so many scholars interpret. It's all in the simple rules of the Latin. You see, when the preposition in is joined with the ablative, and cruce is the ablative of crux, it becomes a locational-instrumental ablative, such as in hoc signo vinces "in / by this sign you will conquer" or caput adfixum gestari iussit in pilo, "he ordered the head carried about, affixed to / by a pike". So graffito was an obscenity of the worst kind, and the sort of crucifixion wished upon the dear reader was a va te faire crucifixion, either a simple direct impalement or a crucifixion on a cross equipped with a cornu.
The Puzzuoli Graffito.
This Graffito was found in Puzzuoli, Italy. I am not sure of what time period it is dated to; the graffito was discovered in the old ampitheatre at Puzzuoli, Italy and presented by Fr. Umberto Fasola before a conference of the International Congress of Sindonology in Turin, Italy in 1978. Following is an interpretation by Gino Zaniotto:
The element of crucifixion is a crux commissa. (Tau Cross) The crucified man is attached to the patibulum, hanging by his wrists. Each foot, in opposition, is fixed with one nail. He is riding a “cornu” and is presenting a divergence of the knees. His body seems covered with animal skin likely to attract the beasts to the conclusion of the torture to make havoc of the corpse and devour what they can tear off of it.Source: Gino Zaninotto, “La Crocifissione Negli Spettacoli Latini Il Graffito Della Taberna Di Pozzuoli,” Collegamento Pro Sindone, 1987 September/October, p. 18-26 (link below).
He appears to be depicted from behind as in the “graffito blasphemo” of Palatine Hill in Rome with arms extended and hands attached to the end of the patibulum. There do not appear to be any ropes or rings. His feet are secured, probably nailed, to the stipes in opposition to each other. At a third of the way up the stipes projects a little pale, on which ‘rides’ the crucified. Its function is to support the weight of his body. It is clearly seen that the arms are outstretched; also there appears to be a circular motion of his right hand around the wound in his wrist: this is probably not random if one considers the crudeness of the design. Surrounding graffiti are in the Greek alphabet, presumably inscribed in a period after this graffito was created. The first four letters show a hand different from that which affected the subsequent letters. Because of its location along the highway to Cuma, it is considered that the taberna (backstage? canteen? tavern?) remained in operation mainly in the 1st Century CE. It is also possible that it was in the time following the opening of the Via Domitiana. The dating to the 1st Century CE is corroborated by examinations of the wall that was built in "opus reticulatum" (network of works). The simple lines of this engraving shows the dramatic description of the “servile supplicium” lacks any figurative information. We could say that the most humble of Fine Arts was responsible for sending a crucifixion, which, like pantomime, was then the latest in performing arts.
There may be references to a cult or mocking of Christian graffiti at this site as well….
Fr. Fasola believes that the graffiti depicts an individual male crucified in the Puteoli amphitheater…. [According to Fr. Fasola, it] is… of a crucified man in complete nudity. The trunk lines are strongly stretched to emphasize the ribs for the expansion of the chest. The signs of asphyxiation were given by mouth wide open as to the person who, feeling choked, is trying to breathe air. And the person who likely drew the graffiti "was to bring a strong impression in the memory of the show"
My interpretation: This is definitely a man. Note the strong V-shape and the narrow hips. Not also that the undercarriage (genitals viewed from the back) are visible below the line of the left leg.* (Better image here.) It appears that his penis is erect, slightly above vertical, and his testicles are drawn up to the body. There is no evidence of ropes or rings anywhere. The crucifixion execution is presented from the back. The crux appears to be a crux commissa: the stipes (main post) ends at the patibulum, but there is a narrow post above it, presumably for the missing titulus.. The condemned man appears to be astride and slightly above a mockery of a seat called the “sedile.” It is crudely drawn in: it appears to resemble an uncircumcised penis, pointing out and at a slight down angle –- but with a thornlike peg (acuta crux) (cornu) (skolops) of an undisclosed length penetrating the crucified through his anus. The ancient writers, both Christian and non-Christian, would shed more light on how the “cornu” was oriented. The crucified at the very least, undoubtedly was screaming in pain from the nails and the racking effect of being suspended by his wrists with outstretched arms. His feet are shown to be nailed to the stipes and his legs appear to be very obscenely spread. His back is covered with stripes; possibly from being scourged prior to being lifted up by his nailed wrists and nailed in place through his heels.
* I have seen photos of female aquatic athletes in embarassing positions and the female undercarriage does not look like the undercarriage of the portrayed subject of this graffito, for the curvatures are opposite.
Aanother peculiar thing about this graffito is that the crucified is apparently depicted to be smiling. It is as though he was enjoying the ride -- the tagger definitely drew him in a state of arousal. If that is the depiction, this graffito is a mockery of the someone the artist knew, and was crucified. Or it is his pornographic fantasy of seeing a young male crucified. And the spectators in an ampitheatre would most certainly get a kick out of one crucified enjoying it. That’s Rome for you!
Concerning Fr. Fasola’s determination that the crucified was suffering asphyxiation, Dr. Frederick T. Zugibe had found through controlled experiments that crucified people with their hands secured so that their arms formed the presumably typical suspension angle of 60 to 70 degrees from vertical, the people had no trouble breathing and their blood oxygen remained steady or increased. At least in his lab this was true, where he used straps and special gloves in lieu of ropes and nails, so the crucified people can come down from the cross and walk away unharmed. And under the Roman Empire, those nailed to the cross reportedly survived for several hours or more typically, days. So it appears the asphyxiation hypothesis for death from Roman crucifixion, with the arms raised no more than 60 degrees from vertical, has been debunked.
Another possibility this graffito is showing is that the cornu was pointed down and the crucified was unable to either ride it, probably leading to a quick death within an hour or two through exhaustion, severe cramping and finally asphyxiation, depending upon the final position of the arms. Executions carried out and experiments conducted (including by the Nazis) have indicated that when people were suspended by their arms with their wrists at 40” apart or less, asphyxiation would rapidly occur.
The Funeral / Execution Contractor’s Posted Regulations.
The House of the Gorgons in Ostia was discovered just prior to or during the beginning of the Second World War. There have been several interpretations as to what it was, like a wealthy residence or a brothel. Further investigation revealed it to be a funeral, execution and executed body disposal contractor. One the site was posted an inscription (since lost) of the regulations that governed this type of contractor.
Other inscriptions were found in Puteoli and Cumae. They are postings of the regulations, called the “leges libitinariae,” that are applicable to this sort of enterprise. Lines 8 through 14 describes the requirement for the executing contractor for carrying out a crucifixion in the original Latin with the parts in parentheses added by the interpreter:
8. Qui supplic(ium) de ser(vo) servave privatim sumer(e) volet, uti is sumi volet ita supplic(ium) sumet, si in cruc(em)
9. patibul(atum) agere volet, redempt(or) asser(es) vincul(a) restes verberatorib(us) et verberator(es) praeber(e) d(ebeto), et
10. quisq(uis) supplic(ium) sumet pro oper(is) sing(ulis) quae patibul(um) ferunt
verberatorib(us)q(ue) item carnif(ici) HS IIII d(are) d(ebeto)
11. Quot(iens) supplic(ium) magistrat(us) public(e) sumet, ita imperat(o); quotienscumq(ue) imperat(um) er(it), praestu esse su-
12. p(p)licium sumer(e) cruces statuere clavos pecem ceram candel(as) quaeq(ue) ad eas res opus erunt red(emptor)
13. gratis praest(are) debeto; item si u(n)co extrahere iussus erit, oper(is) russat(is) id cadaver ubi plura
14. cadavera erunt cum tintinnabulo extrahere debebit.
The English translation below was provided by (Mr. or Dr.) Jan Theo Bakker at the webpage titled “Regio I – Insula XIII – Domus delle Gorgoni” (link at top). After using online translators, I made a some changes shown in italics where I thought they were more true to the Latin.
8. If someone, privately, wants to inflict punishment on a male or female slave, then the punishment must be inflicted in the way that has been asked for, so that if he wishes to drive to the crux** The phrase "if he wishes to drive to the crux the patibulated slave" meaning if he wants to impel the slave bound to the patibulum on the way to the crux / cross. The original Latin without interpreter's marks was "SI IN CRUC PATIBUL AGERE VOLET" could be either si in crucem patibulatum agere volet as above, or si in crucem patibulo agere volet, meaning, if he wishes to drive [the slave] onto the crux from a patibulum, that is, hang him from the transverse of the cross and impale him on its acuta-crux or on a separate stake. Note the second instance of "PATIBUL" in verse 10 is interpreted as patibulum. So both interpretations are valid.
9. the patibulated [slave]**, the contractor must provide the beams, the fetters, the whips for the floggers, and the floggers, and
10. each person asking for inflicting punishment must pay 4 sesterces for each worker carrying the crossbeam, and for each flogger, and likewise for the executioner.
11. For each public punishment the magistrate must give the appropriate orders. Each time the orders have been given the contractor must guarantee
12. that the punishment will be inflicted, that the cruces will be erected, that there will be nails, pitch, wax, candles or wax-lights, and everything that is needed,
13. free of charge. Furthermore, if the order has been given to drag the body away with a hook, the contractor must guarantee that the corpse will be dragged
14. to the place where many corpses will be by workers clothed in red, using a signal-bell.
In verse 12 there is mention of using pitch, wax, and candles or wax-lights. I am of the opinion they were used for nighttime illumination and for insect control, especially at dusk, to benefit the guards. This means the guards often had to watch the crucified overnight, lest somehow he managed to extricate himself from his cross or someone removed him from it. Which means he was still alive; this strongly hints at a bodily support for the crucified.
The Graffito Blasphemo: "Alexemenos, Worship God."
This crude (and rude!) graffito was found in Rome proper on Palatine Hill. Dr. Tim Moore of the University of Texas interpreted it thusly:
Graffito depicting a crucifixion, from the Palatine Hill, Rome, first half of 3rd cent. AD. The crude graffito shows a crucifix with a donkey's head, seen from behind and dressed in a short tunic. To the left stands a man with the same clothes and his arm raised. Between the two figures is a Greek graffito: “Alexemenos sebete theon” (Alexamenos worships his god). Apparently, the author of the drawing is making fun of a Christian, Alexamenos, who is praying to a god with a donkey's head. The Y visible on the plaster, to the right, at the top, has been interpreted as a symbol of a gallows, or a transcription of a scream of pain. This is one of the oldest representations of the crucifixion.
Now I used to disagree with the object of worship described as “dressed in a short tunic”, but since then I have found better photos of this graffito. There is evidence of a shirtsleeve flap drawn on the victim's right upper arm near his shoulder. He is obviously shown naked from the buttocks down – although men appear shown in a similar state of dress/undress on Trajan’s Column (except they are wearing leather riding trousers of the same length as our capri pants) - and Romans crucified the condemned completely naked. The neckline of the tunic represented; the same lack of a neckline shows on Alexameno's tunic also. The strong horizontal line that Dr Moore interpreted as the bottom of the tunic is suspiciously at the level of the perianal region (crotch and anus). The graffito artist drew lines to represent the lines of the buttocks and shoulders, plus the knee and elbow joints! Still, the thick black line at the crucified’s crotch and anus level seems to indicate what the tagger knew was coming next... the installation of the seat of the cross, itself an acuta crux (Seneca, Epistles 101:10-12).
Here are my other observations. A suppedaneum is represented here for support of the feet. The legs are drawn spread apart. The crucified’s genitals may be portrayed, but that is just a blemish in the rock. There are lines that may appear to indicate rope bindings on the arms of the crucified person.
And the Y visible on the plaster next to the donkey's head has also been interpreted to represent the Egyptian Gnostic deity Typhon-Seth, which has been indicated on numerous defixiones (curse tablets, usually lead plates transpierced with iron nails) that have been discovered by archaeologists.
It has been noted back at the end of the 19th Century that there was at least one other cross on Palatine Hill that had been utterly obliterated by an offended Christian, who left only traces of the cross itself remaining. It may be identical with, or a separate, damaged graffito from the Crestus graffito.
Tertullian (wrote 190 – 220 CE) saw a graffito with a similar portrayal of the crucified one worshipped by Alexamenos! He notes:
"A new representation of our god has quite recently been publicized in this city, started by a certain criminal hired to dodge wild beasts in the arena. He displayed a picture with this inscription: 'Onokoites, the god of the Christians'. The figure had the ears of an ass, one foot was cloven, and it was dressed in a toga and carrying a book. We laughed at both the caption and the cartoon" (Apologeticus, 16.12-14).Nails.
A nail from the time of Christ's crucifixion which was hidden by the same knights who featured in The Da Vinci Code has been found in an archaeological dig. According to Archaeologist Bryn Walters, the iron nail is of the type used in thousands of crucifixions and dates from the 1st to 2nd Century CE. Other crucifixion nails have been the objects of collectors. A pair have recently been sold over the internet.
These are two ancient Crucifixion gems showing upright posture and legs spread wide. Whoever made these gems could very well have had first-hand eyewitness knowledge of someone being crucified.
This first one was made sometime between 200 CE and 600 CE (although some claim it’s from the Middle Byzantine period). But Jesus appears to have short hair! That prejudices me toward an early date. Note the angle of the two kneeling supplicants (one looks like an Orthodox priest!) on either side of the crucified Jesus. This posture determines the vertical line of the stipes of the cross. So, I have provided a “T” to indicate the cross because the gem was produced without one yet shows him in his apparent crucified position – no loincloth, arms stretched out, erect posture, buttocks slightly forward of the cross, legs slightly spread and feet apparently nailed to the sides of the stipes, like Jehohanan’s feet were. It may have been that the creator of this gem thought the cross itself was too obscene to show.
View large HD image at the British Museum website,
by clicking on identical image there same size as this.
There are also names of apparent Egyptian beings that are invoked -- Badetophoth and Satraperkmephthe. So the possibility is strong that this is an occult Gnostic Christian, Jewish Christian or Pagan gem. This is in keeping with ancient Roman magical and therapeutic practice where there was a high demand for crucifixion nails and even fragments of those nails. Acts 19:13-17 is an anecdote of a Jewish Exorcist using the name of Ιησους Χριστος (early manuscripts show only the genitive IY XY of the Nomina Sacra IC XC). And Lucan's Pharsalia (Civil War) 6,538-553 speaks of a witch that harvests ropes, nails and even rancid bodily fluids from a person executed by crucifixion.
Both gems appear to be consistent with Roman crucifixion practice: don’t set the condemned so low that they exhaust themselves trying to breathe and asphyxiate within minutes once they finally hang in the down position. They also suggest the Romans supplied some sort of item that kept the condemned postures erect and crucified them in a manner (like nailing the feet through the ankles to the sides, although neither gem shows any nailing!) that kept their legs spread and their private parts exposed as their upper bodies hung down. All the more to humiliate them by making them appear “shameless.”