A team of researchers believe a knuckle bone found buried beneath a Bulgarian church may belong to John the Baptist, the New Testament prophet who heralded the ministry of Jesus.
Scientists cautioned that although the bones discovered in a marble sarcophagus on the remote Black Sea island Sveti Ivan, Bulgarian for John the Baptist, bare intriguing similarities to those belonging to the biblical martyr it is impossible to conclusively prove they are John’s remains.
"We were surprised when the radiocarbon dating produced this very early age. We had suspected that the bones may have been more recent than this, perhaps from the third or fourth centuries. However, the result from the metacarpal hand bone is clearly consistent with someone who lived in the early first century AD," said Oxford archaeologist Thomas Higham in a statement.
"Whether that person is John the Baptist is a question that we cannot yet definitely answer and probably never will," he said.
When first excavating the site two years ago, Bulgarian researchers discovered alongside the sarcophagus another small box made from volcanic ash and bearing an ancient Greek inscription referencing John and his feast day as well as a personal prayer asking God to "help your servant Thomas."