Monday, June 25, 2012

John the Baptist

Carlo Dolci, "Salomé con la cabeza del Bautista," 1655-1670
Almost 2,000 years after his death at the hands of Herod and the presentation of his head to Salome (image above), John the Baptist is in the news for 2 reasons. First, as the patron saint of Aliaga, Nueva Ecija, Philippines, he was honored over the weekend by villagers and pilgrims at the annual “Taong Putik” [Mud People] festival (slideshow here). Second, a team of Bulgarian archaeologists led by Professor Kazimir Popkonstantinov have presented evidence to support the claim made in August 2010 to have found the remains of the saint. Several relics of John the Baptist are already enshrined around the world (Egypt, Syria, Italy, Greece, Germany, France, and Turkey), but additional fragments of his skull, jaw, and arm were found on a Bulgarian island embedded in an altar in the ruins of an ancient monastery. The remains, which include a tooth,were inside a stone urn that references the saint's birth date of June 24th. At the time of the discovery, they were uncertain how the relics ended up in Bulgaria and how old they are. Oxford University archaeologists led by Professor Tom Higham carried out the carbon dating tests and now concludes, "The result from the metacarpal hand bone is clearly consistent with someone who lived in the early first century A.D." Dr. Hannes Schroeder of the University of Copenhagen analyzed the DNA of the relics and found that they came from a single individual - probably male - from what is now the Middle East, and comments, “Of course, this does not prove that these were the remains of John the Baptist but nor does it refute that theory.” Another Oxford researcher Christopher Ramsey has found documents that suggest that the island monastery may have received the relics in the 5th or early 6th c. Higham cautions, "Whether that person is John the Baptist is a question that we cannot yet definitely answer and probably never will."
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