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.
The archaeologists from Oxford University were surprised that the bones dated from the first century AD, the time of Johnís life, and the DNA was consistent with a person of Near East heritage.
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 Johnís remains.
"Whether that person is John the Baptist is a question that we cannot yet definitely answer and probably never will," he said.
Researchers believe Thomas may have been the person assigned to transport the relic to the island. They believe the box came from Cappadocia, a region of modern day Turkey. Bulgarian scientists believe the bones themselves may have come from the ancient city of Antioch, where a relic of Johnís right hand is believed to have been kept until the tenth century.
There is some historical evidence, researchers say, to support a theory that Johnís bones were removed from Jerusalem and brought to Constantinople, called Istanbul today, then the capital of the Roman Empire in a box resembling the sarcophagus found on Sveti Ivan.
A National Geographic Channel program about the discover premieres on June 17.
People will believe any story if one mentions "Constantinople".