What is crucifixion?
Crucifixion was a Roman method of punishment and literally means ‘fixed to a cross’.
A victim would eventually die from asphyxiation or exhaustion and it was long, drawn-out, and painful.
The act was used to publicly humiliate slaves and criminals, as well as an execution method usually reserved for individuals of very low status or those whose crime was against the state.
This is the reason given in the Gospels for Jesus’ crucifixion
As King of the Jews, Jesus challenged Roman imperial supremacy (Matt 27:37; Mark 15:26; Luke 23:38; John 19:19–22).
Crucifixion could be carried out in a number of ways.
In Christian tradition, nailing the limbs to the wood of the cross is assumed, with debate centring on whether nails would pierce hands or the more structurally sound wrists.
But Romans did not always nail crucifixion victims to their crosses, and instead sometimes tied them in place with rope.
In fact, until recently the only archaeological evidence for the practice of nailing crucifixion victims is an ankle bone from the tomb of Jehohanan, a man executed in the first century CE.
Why is there so little evidence of it?
The victims were normally criminals and their bodies were often thrown into rubbish dumps meaning archaeologists never see their bones.
Identification is made even more difficult by scratch marks from scavenging animals.
The nails were widely believe to have magical properties.
This meant they were rarely left in the victim’s heel and the holes they left might be mistaken for puncture marks.
Most of the damage was largely on soft-tissue so damage to the bone may have not been that significant.
Finally, wooden crosses often don’t survive as they degrade or end up being re-used.