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(Filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici at a news conference in New York, February 26, 2007/Mike Segar)

Could two of the nails used to crucify Jesus have been discovered in a 2,000-year-old tomb in Jerusalem? And could they have mysteriously disappeared for 20 years, only to turn up by chance in a Tel Aviv laboratory?

That is the premise of the new documentary film”The Nails of the Cross” by veteran investigator Simcha Jacobovici, which even before its release has prompted debate in the Holy Land. The film follows three years of research during which Jacobovici presents his assertions — some based on empirical data, others requiring much imagination and a leap of faith.

He hails the find as historic, but most experts and scholars contacted by Reuters dismissed his case as far-fetched, some calling it a publicity stunt. Many ancient relics, including other nails supposedly traced back to the crucifixion, have been presented over the centuries as having a connection to Jesus. Many were deemed phony, while others were embraced as holy.

Jacobovici, who sparked debate with a previous film that claimed to reveal the lost tomb of Jesus, says this find differs from others because of its historical and archaeological context.