Scientists say bones could be biblical
IT'S a tantalising find in a Biblical mystery -- Oxford University researchers have concluded that a set of skeletal remains which many Bulgarians attribute to John the Baptist probably belonged to a first-century male from the Middle East.
While that doesn't prove that the bones belonged to the man revered by Christians as the forerunner to Jesus, it does mean that those who believe the relics are the remains of the first-century saint have a scientific case.
The discovery of a sarcophagus containing a knuckle bone, a tooth, a skull fragment and other remains under an ancient church on an island off Bulgaria's coast -- paired with a small urn bearing a Greek-language reference to John the Baptist -- drew enormous interest when it was announced two years ago.
Officials didn't wait for scientific evaluation before displaying the relics.
Thousands queued to see the bones in Sofia, Bulgaria's capital.
Oxford professor Thomas Higham, whose lab subjected the bones to radiocarbon dating and DNA sequencing, said he was sceptical at first.
"We didn't expect results that would be consistent with the expected results of our Bulgarian colleagues," he said. But he promised that the find, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, would stand up to scrutiny.
"We're very confident about the genetics," he said.