DNA bolsters Bulgaria’s claim to have John the Baptist bone relics
Bulgaria’s claim to have unearthed six bones belonging to John the Baptist has received a boost from scientists who have concluded after dating them and analyzing their genetic code that they could indeed be relics of the man who baptized Jesus.
The remains, which include a molar and a piece of cranium, were found in July 2010 in a marble sarcophagus in the ruins of a medieval church on the island of Sveti Ivan, or Saint John, off Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast near the resort of Sozopol.
They are on display in a church in Sozopol where thousands of worshippers have flocked to view them, untroubled by questions about their authenticity.
“When I first heard this story in 2010 I thought it was a bit of a joke, to be honest,” said Tom Higham of the University of Oxford’s Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, one of the world’s top laboratories for carbon dating of archaeological material.
Higham’s team dated a knuckle-bone to the first century AD, when John the Baptist would have lived, while geneticist colleagues from the University of Copenhagen established the full DNA code of three of the bones.
The genetic analysis showed that the bones were from the same person, a man who most probably came from the Middle East.
Higham, who is an atheist, said that it was obviously impossible to say with any certainty that the remains belonged to John the Baptist. But it could not be ruled out.
“I’m much less skeptical than I was at the beginning. I think there’s possibly more to it. But I’d like to find out more,” he told Reuters on Friday.
Read the full story by Estelle Shirbon here.
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