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If the mineral grains are not exposed to light the energy builds up and represents the amount of time since their burial.Scientists can then measure the stored energy in the laboratory and pinpoint when the layers of mortar last saw sunlight.
This image shows worshippers at the church The tomb is surrounded by a marble covering, thought to have been installed at a much later date, potentially as late as 1555 AD.
Mortar found between the burial bed and its marble slab covering being aged to the 4th Century matches up with this timeframe.
Removing the cover from the burial bed could theoretically provide more clues as to its occupant, but this would be seen as sacrilegious by many Christians.
The tomb itself features a long shelf, or burial bed, which Christian tradition says is where Jesus was laid to rest, following his crucifixion.
This is surrounded by a marble covering, thought to have been installed at a much later date, potentially as late as 1555 AD.