A small handful of bones found in an ancient church in Bulgaria may belong to John the Baptist, the biblical figure said to have baptized Jesus. There’s no way to be sure, of course, as there are no confirmed pieces of John the Baptist to compare to the fragments of bone. But the sarcophagus holding the bones was found near a second box bearing the name of St. John and his feast date (also called a holy day) of June 24. Now, new radiocarbon dating of the collagen in one of the bones pegs its age to the early first century, consistent with the New Testament and Jewish histories of John the Baptist’s life.
“We got some dates that are very interesting indeed,” study researcher Thomas Higham of the University of Oxford told LiveScience. “They suggest that the human bone is all from the same person, it’s from a male, and it has a very high likelihood of an origin in the Near East,” or Middle East where John the Baptist would have lived.
The bones were found in 2010 by Romanian archaeologists Kazimir Popkonstantinov and Rossina Kostova while excavating an old church site on the island of Sveti Ivan, which translates to St. John. The church was constructed in two periods in the fifth and sixth centuries.
Beneath the altar, the archaeologists found a small marble sarcophagus, about 6 inches long. Inside were six human bones and three animal bones. The next day, the researchers found a second box just 20 inches away. This one was made of volcanic rock called tuff. On it, an inscription read, “Dear Lord, please help your servant Thomas” along with St. John the Baptist’s name and official church feast day.
The findings paint a story of a man named Thomas charged with bringing relics, or body parts, of St. John to the island to consecrate a new church there. It was common in the fourth and fifth centuries for wealthy patrons to pay for new churches and to give saintly relics to the monks who staffed them, Higham told LiveScience.
Read more at MSNBC.com HERE.