National Geographic
Tomb of Christ


Members of the conservation team remove steel girders supporting the Edicule during restoration work, at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. (Photo by/Oded Balilty)

Photograph by Oded Balilty

Investigating, Protecting, and Refurbishing

One of the oldest cities in the world, Jerusalem is home to many historic landmarks that make up our human story. Jerusalem is a bustling modern marketplace, a big tourist and pilgrimage destination in the Middle East, and a city that has been rebuilt many times. It is a perfect example of the past and present interwoven in time.  

Many archaeological sites around the world are threatened by neglect, climate change, looting, or political unrest. Scientists are scrambling to preserve them before they are lost forever. One such site is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Centuries of wear and tear from millions of visitors and water erosion of the building’s foundation were beginning to threaten the Edicule, a space inside the church, said to contain the tomb in which Jesus was laid to rest after his crucifixion. A team of restorers from the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) were tasked with investigating, protecting, and refurbishing the ancient structure.

Scientists used ground-penetrating radar, robotic cameras, and other tools to carefully investigate the structure and add vital infrastructure repairs necessary to stabilize the building and make it safe for visitors and pilgrims. Additionally, the team used specialized lasers to scan the Edicule and document the details down to the millimeter so the building could be studied in more detail. The NTUA team used 30–40 laser scans and approximately 17,000 high-resolution photographs to create a digital model of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

During Your Visit

You can experience the results of their work as part of Tomb of Christ: The Church of the Holy Sepulchre Experience. 

Photograph by Oded Balilty

During your visit, families, students, campers, and children can:

  • Walk through a 3-D digital rendering of the Edicule and rotunda in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
  • Test out the ground penetrating radar and see the laser scanners that were used to record and preserve this archaeological site.
  • Reflect on how this technology could be used worldwide to preserve key sites and artifacts of human history for research before they succumb to time or disaster.

Beyond Your Visit

National Geographic’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre experience immerses students and families in the quest to investigate, document, and preserve the observed Tomb of Christ. Use these resources to locate related activities, case studies, and articles to prepare your students for their visit or to extend the lesson afterward.  

Views of the Old City of Jerusalem, taken from the Mount of Olives, with the Dome of the Rock inside the compound of Al-Aqsa (Al-Haram ash-Sharif).

Teach Archaeology, Conservation, and Preservation at Home  

Help your child explore environmental impacts on archaeological sites, document a significant object or building locally, or learn about the technology that allows scientists to study sites underwater or from space.

Scaffolding surrounds the Edicule during restoration work, at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City.

Teach Archaeology, Conservation, and Preservation In the Classroom  

Looting, political unrest, erosion, and natural disasters threaten many historical sites across the world. Learn more about archaeology, conservation, and preservation using these standards-based ideas presented in this exhibit.

Unsealing of Christ's Reputed Tomb Turns Up New Revelations

Unsealing of Christ's Reputed Tomb Turns Up New Revelations  

For just 60 hours, researchers had the opportunity to examine the holiest site in Christianity. Here's what they found.


Mapping Jerusalem's Old City

Mapping Jerusalem's Old City  

Students learn about and create their own map of Jerusalem’s Old City after watching excerpts from the film Jerusalem.

Explore Jerusalem

Explore Jerusalem  

Discover the physical and cultural geography of Jerusalem, dive into the religions that call Jerusalem

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