Mortar from a structure surrounding the tomb - said to have been the resting place of Jesus Christ between His crucifixion and resurrection - has been dated to around 345 AD, close to the date when historical accounts said Romans discovered the tomb and built a shrine over it, according to scientific evidence presented to National Geographic.

The scientific news organisation said this week that while, until now, the earliest architectural evidence found in and around the tomb complex could only be dated to the Crusader period - a time when the shrine covering the time, known as the Edicule, was rebuilt after an earlier version had been destroyed, the new data shows that the original shrine over the tomb was built in Roman times.

The findings give credence to historical accounts which say the Romans discovered the tomb in 326 AD after first razing a Roman temple which had been built over the top about 200 years before. The top of the cave was removed and the first version of the Edicule built over it.

The latest findings were based on samples of mortar taken from the Edicule - which sits within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jersualem - during a restoration in October last year. During the restoration work - conducted by a team from the National Technical University in Athens - the tomb was opened for the first time in centuries, revealing the burial bed where Christ lay. It had been clad in marble during the medieval period.

The findings are the subject of an upcoming National Geographic documentary The Secrets of Christ’s Tomb: Explorer Special which will premiere in the US this Sunday.