East Orthodox Christian believers wait to see a relic of St John the Baptist before a religious parade in Brachigovo (Photo : REUTERS/NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV)
In a find that may very well bring the whole catholic community to its knees, bones believed to be the vestiges of John the Baptist have been carbon-dated and analyzed by scientists: only to suggest that they may very well belong to the man who baptized Jesus.
According to a report Reuters news, the remains were found the summer of 2010 in "a medieval church on the island of Sveti Ivan, or Saint John, off Bulgaria's Black Sea coast near the resort of Sozopol," the report claims.
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John the Baptist was an itinerant preacher and a major religious figure mentioned both in the Canonical gospels and the Qur'an.
Thousands of worshippers would flock to the marble sarcophagus that cradles a molar, hunk of cranium belonging, and knuckle bone said to belong to the long-dead priest, prompting scientists to question the validity of the find.
"When I first heard this story in 2010, I thought it was a bit of a joke, to be honest," Tom Higham of the University of Oxford's Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, one of the world's top laboratories for carbon dating of archaeological material tells Reuters press.
After extensive screening, Higham and his team dated the bones to the first century AD when John the Baptist would have been alive.
University of Copenhagen research colleagues reaffirmed this assessment when the full DNA code of three of the bones showed that they "were from the same person, a man who most probably came from the Middle East."
While many academics, including Higham, are skeptical to conclude that the venerable relics do in fact belong to the ancient preacher, the find does excite some modicum of belief (or disbelief, as the case may be) "I'm much less skeptical than I was at the beginning. I think there's possibly more to it," Higham tells Reuters.