Oxford scientists who tested pieces of bone found in an ancient altar, say they belong to a Middle Eastern man who lived in the 1st Century AD - fuelling claims that they are relics of John the Baptist.
Creative commons (c) JHF
Carbon dating techniques have been used on bits of bone which were found embedded in an altar in the ruins of the ancient Bulgarian monastery.
The dating discovery adds some weight to the claim, previously thought unlikely, that they belonged to St John the Baptist.
But scholars are still unwilling to commit to the claim, pointing out that the theory is practically impossible to prove or disprove.
It was made when archeologists, who first discovered the altar, found a small box which bore an inscription referring to the saint.
DNA tests went on to show that the bones were from one individual, probably male, who came from what we now call the Middle East.
Other researchers showed that the monastery which owned the altar may indeed have been sent a portion of the Baptist’s relics during the middle ages.
Oxford scholars who studied the bones said they were expecting them to date back only as far as 300 or 400 AD, which would have disproved the theory altogether. But they were surprised to find that the dating couldn’t rule out the link as a possibility.
St John, who was the cousin of Jesus, is greatly revered by Christians and by Muslims. He foretold the coming of Christ, he baptised Jesus in the river Jordan, and he was killed when Herod had him beheaded at the request of his step daughter Salome, who asked for the Baptist’s head on a plate.
The UK and Ireland may not claim to be home to the bones of John the Baptist, but we do have some unusual artefacts and legends, read more here.
July 19th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Simon Cross