New Clues Emerge on John the Baptist's Bones

Dating strengthens case that saint's bones have been found in Bulgaria
By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser User
Posted Jun 15, 2012 12:31 AM CDT
Russian President Vladimir Putin visits the place where Jesus Christ was supposedly baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River in Amman.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – Scientists may have cracked the hunt for John the Baptist's bones. New radiocarbon dating is strengthening the case that the saint's bones were discovered at the site of an ancient Bulgarian church dedicated to him. Dating places the bones in the same First-Century period when John the Baptist was preaching and baptized Jesus. They were found next to a sarcophagus bearing the name of St. John and the day celebrated as his birthday. "We got some dates that are very interesting indeed," Oxford scientist Thomas Higham tells MSNBC. "They suggest that the human bone is all from the same person, it's from a male, and it has a very high likelihood of an origin in the Near East," or Middle East where John the Baptist would have lived.

The bones were first discovered two years ago by archeologists excavating the church site on the island of Sveti Ivan, which means St. John. Inscriptions on one of two sarcophagi indicate a man named Thomas was charged with bringing relics or bones of John the Baptist to the island in order to consecrate a church in his name at the site. DNA tests link the bones—an ulna, a tooth, part of a cranium, a rib, and a knuckle—to the same man, but no St. John DNA exists for comparison. Not everyone is convinced it's the saint who lost his head, and there will likely never be any certainty. "Definitely proving it, I think, is going to remain ever elusive," said Higham. (Read more John the Baptist stories.)

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