When the tools of modern science are applied to religious relics, the results are almost always the same: Science says the relics aren’t what their supporters claim.
The most famous of them all, the Turin Shroud, is widely regarded as a Middle Ages forgery, and even the Catholic Church does not insist the shroud was actually used to wrap the body of Jesus himself.
So when Bulgarian archeologists announced in 2010 that they had found the bones of John the Baptist, Tom Higham was skeptical.
He got a surprise.
Higham, an Oxford University scientist and an atheist who doesn’t believe in “any kind of religion or God or anything like that,” was asked to test six small bone fragments found on an island named Sveti Ivan – St. John.
The bones turned out to be from a man who lived in the Middle East at the same time as Jesus, Higham said.
“We got a date that was exactly where it should be, right in the middle of the first century,” said Higham, a radiocarbon dating expert.
It’s not proof that they belonged to John the Baptist, since there’s no DNA database of early Christian saints, the archeologist who found the bones said.
But the mere fact that the testing didn’t prove the bones are fakes is unusual.
Archeologist Kazimir Popkonstantinov led the team that found them under the altar of a fifth century basilica on Sveti Ivan, a Black Sea island off Sozopol on the south coast of Bulgaria.
The bones were in a reliquary, a container for holy relics, with a tiny sandstone box.
Written on the box in Greek were the words, “God, save your servant Thomas. To St. John. June 24.”
Scientists take samples of the bones for radiocarbon and genetic analysis.
The date is the Christian feast day of John the Baptist, believed to be his birthday.
SOURCE: Richard Greene