Update : Thanks to all who helped us reach our initial funding goal. However, more expenses remain and more rewards are available. So, if you would like to contribute, please feel free. See the FAQ's for expenses breakdown.
Although the year that the Earthquake of the Crucifixion struck is not explicitly specified in the biblical accounts, the time of year is. This earthquake is alleged to have occurred on the 14th or 15th of Nisan on a day known as Good Friday. This day falls in late March/Early April during the flowering season.
The goal of the research project is determine the seasonality or time of year that the Jerusalem Quake struck. The Jerusalem Quake is an earthquake that struck the Dead Sea area between 26 and 36 AD. This earthquake left a deformed layer of mud throughout the Dead Sea and would have caused shaking in Jerusalem (hence the name). By determining the time of year this earthquake struck, we can get closer to determining if the Jerusalem Quake is synonymous with the Earthquake of the Crucifixion and sleuth the Passion narrative - perhaps the most influential story in the history of civilization.
Did the Jerusalem Quake strike in the spring or during some other time of year (e.g. the Fall) ?
The seasonality of the Jerusalem Quake will be determined by examining pollen in a thin layer of dust and pollen that is draped over the top of the Jerusalem Quake layer at two different locations - En Gedi and Nahal Ze 'elim. Results of the study will be published in an open source peer reviewed journal free for all to see and read.
If more funds are raised than anticipated (more than ~$5000 USD), extra funds will go towards creating a documentary on the research effort and examining the outcrop for dust storm deposits. A dust storm is a possible explanation for the 3 hours of midday darkness also reported on the day of the crucifixion.
Jefferson Williams is donating his labor, lab, and lab supplies for free. His primary collaborator Dr. Suzanne Leroy is also donating her time.
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Risks and challenges
The first challenge is to identify the Jerusalem Quake in the outcrop based on field work performed by Jefferson Williams in Decemeber of 2015. This is known with certainty at the well studied site of En Gedi but less so at Nahal Ze 'elim. Radiocarbon samples have been sent out from the Nahal Ze 'elim location to independently determine which layer is from the Jerusalem Quake (26-36 AD) as well as other seismically deformed layers. If radiocarbon results prove inconclusive, more samples will be sent and, if necessary, more field work will be undertaken until a positive identification is made.
The next challenge is in identifying the top of the Jerusalem Quake seismite (a seismite is a layer deformed by earthquake shaking) as well as the the dust layer that is draped on top. Since the deformation imprints are sometimes complex, we will be looking at the pollen contents at dozens of locations at two different outcrops until we get a clear picture of what types of pollen assemblages lie atop the Jerusalem Quake Seismite. Approximately 200 pounds (91 kg.) of mud samples were retrieved during field work in 2015. More will be taken if required.
The next challenge is to make sense of the pollen assemblages. Palynology, the study of pollen, is a statistical enterprise and lots of samples are required to come to a firm conclusion. This is another reason why so many locations will be sampled and this is why several other seismites will be examined. Two seismites in particular will be examined since the historical records tell us that they were spring time earthquakes. The causative earthquakes occurred on May 18 and May 19 in 363 AD (as recounted in a letter by Cyril the Bishop of Jerusalem) and the early spring of 31 BC according to the ancient historian Josephus.
My collaborator Dr. Suzanne Leroy published the technique to identify springtime vs. non spring time pollen at Nahal Ze 'elim in 2016. A link to that article is below :Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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