Archaeologists declare nail a ‘fantasy’ crucifixion-relic

by
11 March 2010

by Bill Bowder

AN ARCHAEOLOGIST who identi­fied a first-century Roman nail, which has been claimed as a possible holy relic kept by the Knights Templar in Madeira, said last week that it could not possibly have been used in a crucifixion.

Bryn Walters, the director and secretary of the Association for Roman Archaeology, dated the nail as early Roman, after he was visited by two men from Worthing, Sussex. They showed him a highly polished nail, which was kept in a carved box.

Mr Walters said on Thursday of last week that he had been subject to criticism from colleagues, after a story had appeared in the national press, quoting a member of the Knights Templar of Britannia, who described the nail as a “relic from crucifixion”.

Mr Walters said that about seven weeks ago he had been asked to inspect the nail. “It was a Roman nail. There are millions of Roman nails, perhaps billions. It could not possibly be from a crucifixion be­cause if it had been hammered in, it would have been bent — and this is dead straight.

“They did not tell me where it came from. I would not accept it as a nail coming from any crucifixion. It was perfectly preserved. It was four inches long, which I would say was a bit short for a crucifixion. A cruci­fixion pin could be longer than that.

“Most people were strapped to the crucifixion pole, and the nails were hammered in as added torture, but they did not hang by the nails. If the nail was hammered in, it would have had to be pulled out with something like a claw hammer before the body was removed, and that would have left it bent.

“I know of only one nail from a crucifixion, and that is kept secretly in Jerusalem. That was a nail ham­mered through a heel: it was dam­aged and rusty.”

Mr Walters described the two men who brought the nail to him as “not religious people, and nothing to do with the Christian Church”. They were “impassioned”. He said that the wooden box could not possibly have survived for hundreds of years in the damp atmosphere.

Press reports said that the nail had been discovered, with three skeletons and three swords, in an antique wooden box by the Knights Templar “on the tiny island of Ilheu de Potinha, off Madeira”.

Further investigation revealed that the “island” was a small, ruined 18th-century fort, which was part of a jetty beside the port of Funchal. The fort had been renamed as an island and registered with the Micronational Professional Registry. The self-proclaimed Prince D. Renato Barros had sought secession for the 2000-square-foot “principality” in 2007.

Press reports said that the nail had been discovered, with three skeletons and three swords, in an antique wooden box by the Knights Templar “on the tiny island of Ilheu de Potinha, off Madeira”.

Further investigation revealed that the “island” was a small, ruined 18th-century fort, which was part of a jetty beside the port of Funchal. The fort had been renamed as an island and registered with the Micronational Professional Registry. The self-proclaimed Prince D. Renato Barros had sought secession for the 2000-square-foot “principality” in 2007.

The Centre for the Study of Modern and Contemporary Archae­ology in Madeira, which excavated the fort between 2004 and 2006, said that the nail, if discovered inside the fort, would be “just an object used in residential construc­tions” during the 17th and 18th centuries.

“The news of the findings of Roman relics is ‘fantasy’,” a press release from the Centre said. The refer­ences to skeletons were “a creation”, and the claims were “man­ifestly false”.

“The news of the findings of Roman relics is ‘fantasy’,” a press release from the Centre said. The refer­ences to skeletons were “a creation”, and the claims were “man­ifestly false”.

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