On 11 January 2023, on the occasion of the visit of the leaders of the Communities to the archaeological site in Holy Sepulchre complex in Jerusalem, we presented the excavations in progress. Archaeological investigations are conducted by the Department of Antiquities of the University of Rome Sapienza.
Archaeological investigations are connected with the restoration project of the floor of the religious complex and fellow it in different and progressive areas, to allow the religious performance of the liturgies by the various confessions and the visit to the complex by pilgrims. Excavations began in May 2022 and were focused part of the north nave, the northern half of the Rotunda and the intermediate zone.
The work is currently concentrated the southern part of the Rotunda. The work is carried out in a continuous cycle, day and night. The archaeologists that are working in Jerusalem are supported by the rest of the team in Rome, where all the data are processing in real time.
In the southern part of the Rotunda the quarry, as in the other areas, degrades from north-west to south-east, with very different heights; its depth in this area goes from a few cm to over 2 m. The traces of the wedges and the cuts to detach the stones, often very large, are clearly visible. Directly on the quarry are based the foundations and substructures of the Roman age. These can be attributed to the works promoted by the Emperor Hadrian (117-138): in this area written sources recall a temple. These structures are defunctionalised and kept for a few rows; part of them is set on fire.
Most of the Roman buildings were discovered by Ch. Couasnon in 1974 and documented by V. Corbo, too. Now this area has been investigated again, removing the old cover, for a new documentation and a correct connection with the new archaeological data.
The heavy destruction of the Roman buildings is also due to the lowering of the whole area of the Rotunda, in the first decades of 4th century, to discover and monumentalize the venerated tomb, identified as the tomb of Christ. Most of the Roman structure was destroyed, and the rock was cut to the base of the tomb, excavated in the hill, to create a flat area. The remains of the early monumentalization of the tomb were found under the present nineteenth-century aedicule. It is a circular floor in reused marble, carefully worked, whose circumference includes the whole area of the tomb. Even the most ancient representations of the tomb show a circular monument.
The remains of two floors, both in opus sectile, were also found. The oldest uses slabs of white and grey marble; Couasnon already found a part of it. This floor is place directly on the rock or, if the level is lower, on layers of earth. A second, higher floor, is by reused marble, with porphyry and abundant cipolin. Sporadic fragments of it were also found in the northern area of the Rotunda.
The complexity of stratigraphy requires that we continue the archaeological investigations and the study of the artefacts, to determine specify sequences and chronologies and to propose philologically correct reconstructions.
Clarifications by Professor Francesca Romana Stasolla