(A Bulgarian East-Orthodox priest holds up a box containing bones, believed to be the relics of John the Baptist, in front golden-domed "Alexander Nevski" cathedral in Sofia, November 12, 2010. REUTERS/Oleg Popov)

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.