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    The Bones Of John The Baptist Found?
    By Hank Campbell | June 17th 2012 01:12 PM | 16 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0® and co-author of "Science Left Behind".

    A wise man once said Darwin had the greatest idea anyone...

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    The coolest stuff regarding ancient religious history is not found in the Vatican or western Europe at all, it's in the East where a lot less modern growth took place.  There is more stuff that will be buried under the Ilisu dam in Turkey than in all of most countries farther west.  Almost every town in Turkey is a major archaeological site.

    So it also goes with places like Bulgaria. I found a really wonderful Byzantine cross on a trip there, from the 18th century (unless you are doing it one time, to experience the paperwork and process of buying and bringing in an antique, I discourage you from doing so) and the place is littered with ancient monasteries and churches.

    On the Black Sea island called Sveti Ivan, which is Bulgarian for St. John (the Baptist), researchers from the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit at Oxford University have dated a knuckle bone found by archaeologist Kazimir Popkonstantinov buried beneath a church. It originates from the first century AD, the time of John The Baptist’s life, and the DNA was consistent with a person of Near East heritage.

    They did a mitochondrial DNA genome sequence from three of the human bones to establish they were all from the same individual, and they identified a mtDNA haplotype as being a group most commonly found in the Near East, the Middle East today. They established that the bones were probably of a male individual after an analysis of the nuclear DNA from samples.


    Credit: Oxford

    Obviously this is just a 'cool' speculation if you like history, there can never be a way to determine if the bone belonged at anyone important at all, much less a prominent religious figure. It's the kind of stuff National Geographic lives for, and they have a show on it airing tonight. Bulgarian archeologists found the small box made next to the sarcophagus and it was made from volcanic ash and bore an ancient Greek inscription referencing John and his feast day as well as a personal prayer asking God to “help your servant Thomas.” They speculate Thomas may have been the person assigned to transport the relic to the island and that it came came from Cappadocia which, like I said above, is stuffed full of good history, and nice hiking if that is your thing.  They further believe the bones may have come from Antioch, where a relic of John’s right hand is supposed to have been kept until the tenth century.

    Possible?  Sure, anything is possible.  Constantinople was the capital of the Roman Empire so they may have removed the bones from Jerusalem and they could have gone on from there. It's unlikely a random first century AD hobo was important enough to be buried there.


    “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.

    Comments

    Whats this? European scientists doing something right? What about that vast european anti-science agenda Hank? (see http://www.science20.com/science_20/european_testing_racial_purity_conce...).

    Should we generalize from Bulgarian archeologists and Oxford scientists to all of Europe and conclude that they are a forward thinking, progressive, historically sensitive people. Or do you think that testing for Near Eastern heritage might smack of racial purity?

    ps. I love the part where you find an 18th century Byzantine cross :S

    The Byzantine empire was over by 1500 (yes, even in Bulgaria). Maybe you meant a patriarchal cross? Or maybe you discovered an unknown Byzantine outpost that lasted an extra 300 years!

    Hank
    The cross with the footbar and the crossbar still exists today, it is on top of every Orthodox church over there.  The one I bought was from the 1700s. The earliest cross ever found is not the Roman Catholic one, it is that eastern one.
    Oh I see. So you did mean a patriarchal cross, not a Byzantine cross. A byzantine cross coming from the Byzantine empire, not any Eastern Orthodox two-barred cross.

    And actually the cross predates Christanity - regardless of its compass orientation. For example the Egyptian Ankh is a well known example of an early cross. There are actually examples from all over the world that predate the Eastern cross that you claim is the earliest (e.g., in India). Did you mean the earliest Christian cross? You got a source for that?

    rholley
    I feel that this comparing of symbols is somewhat Dan Brownish.
     
    The presence of the cross in Christian symbolism comes directly from its use as a method of execution by the Romans (also practised by the Persians, Carthaginians, and Macedonians).  Any resemblance to previous religious / cultic symbols is thus due to convergent evolution.
     

     
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Hank
    Right, not sure what the dilemma is.  Fish existed before they were symbolic in religion too but if an early religious symbol fish is found, so be it.  Arguing that the fish existed seems sort of pedantic on his part.
    ---- Any resemblance to previous religious / cultic symbols is thus due to convergent evolution.

    How do you figure that? Convergent evolution being when two populations are under the same selection pressures they favour the same morphology. So by extension....religions (populations) face the same selection pressure (which is? The need for symbols?) and develop the same morphology (a religious symbol that is a cross). If that is the case, why does the cross appear in Egypt, India, and Japan? They did not practice cruxificion to my knowledge, but please correct me if I am wrong.

    Incidentally, how do you explain the Egyptian cross? They did not practice cruxificion. Perhaps you are thinking it came from Carthage. How would this be the case when Carthage started becoming an empire in 700BC and Egypt started in 3000BC? So, Egyptians had crosses as holy symbols, they did not practice cruxificion, and you think it is due to convergent evolution?

    Gerhard Adam
    ...religions (populations) face the same selection pressure (which is? The need for symbols?) and develop the same morphology (a religious symbol that is a cross).
    In a manner of speaking yes.  It is not uncommon for many religions to take over symbols for other religions that they have replaced, so it is a form of convergent evolution; the desire to retain something of the old with the new religion [simply examine many of the religious holidays].
    Incidentally, how do you explain the Egyptian cross? They did not practice cruxificion.
    Irrelevant, since there is no evidence to suggest that the cross is specifically related to crucifixion.  Obviously if the cross has a longer history, then that already suggests that it had other meanings.  More importantly, the Bible isn't that specific about the structure of the cross.  It's entirely possible that the actual crucifixion took place on a tree or a pole.

    However, that doesn't mean that Christians didn't utilize the symbol to represent an event of significance to them, regardless of the meaning it may have held in other cultures.
    Mundus vult decipi
    How is co-opting a symbol from another religion co-evolution? Where is the 'co' in that evolution? Co-opted yes. Co-ordinated, maybe. Bu co-evolved? No. Perhaps you mean the cross is atavistic (a trait retained from an earlier ancestral form)?

    ------Irrelevant, since there is no evidence to suggest that the cross is related to crucifixion.

    Not really irrelavant, since the comment I was commenting on claimed that "The presence of the cross in Christian symbolism comes directly from its use as a method of execution by the Romans". So one guy says 'you are wrong, because the cross comes from the cruxificion', then the next guys says 'you are wrong, because the cross is not related to the cruxificion' :S Which is it guys?

    And my point was actually how the co-evolution account clearly cannot account for the use of the cross as a religious symbol, which it is nice to see that you agree with Gerhard. Thanks.

    Gerhard Adam
    Which is it guys?
    Well, you need to be more specific in your question then.  Robert is correct in stating that the cross is used in Christian symbolism because of the method of execution practiced by the Romans.  There is nothing wrong in that particular claim, because he confines it specifically to Christian symbolism.  Similarly, I am not wrong in arguing that the general concept of the cross is not specifically related to crucifixion, because it was obviously used in many other cultures with different meanings.  Both are correct, depending on the specific question being asked/answered.
    How is co-opting a symbol from another religion co-evolution?
    It's not.  Robert indicated that it was convergent evolution.  In biology it describes the acquisition of the same trait in unrelated lineages.  Therefore it's an apt description of where religious or important beliefs may converge on the use of the same or similar images.  Selection pressures between species don't have anything specifically to do with it [as in the case of co-evolution].
    Mundus vult decipi
    Oh, i see Roberts and your point now. The religions are the organisms that have evolved the same morphology (a cross) via different routes (cruxificion v. whatever) to give an illusion of relatedness where none exists (convergent evolution). Yeah, that seems fair enough and likely correct.

    Additionally, Early christians could have capitalized on a widely used symbol when choosing their religious sign (rather than say, the chirstian fish or crown of thorns).

    Gerhard Adam
    Additionally, Early christians could have capitalized on a widely used symbol when choosing their religious sign (rather than say, the chirstian fish or crown of thorns).
    That seems likely.  In the first place, I don't think religious symbols are deliberately chosen in that sense, so it seems likely that people would have jewelry, and ornamentation that they like, and suddenly they assign a different meaning or significance to it. 

    Similarly, we don't know what other symbols may have meant at that time that may have prevented them from being used.  After all, part of the objective in having symbols is to clearly identify the group with whom it is associated.  Anything that might've given rise to confusion would've been rejected, regardless of how appropriate it might seem now in hindsight.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
    Convergent evolution being when two populations are under the same selection pressures they favour the same morphology.
    Ahhh ... no.  There is absolutely no requirement that the same selection pressures must exist for the populations.  The whole point of convergent evolution is that completely unrelated species can independently evolve the same useful traits.   It would be difficult to argue that flying insects, birds, and bats were all subject to the same selection pressures that gave rise to the development of flight.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Sorry, arguing for historical accuracy in an article about historical accuracy is pedantic? Mea Culpa. You (rightly) expect the scientists do get the facts right and would be (rightly) critical of them if they didn't. Sort of a double standard to play fast and loose in your own writing then, only to turn around and say that facts are pedantic.

    I am still curious about the source for that claim that the oldest cross in the world is the two-barred one. If you want to get Dan Brownish (I guess, having never read any of his books), non-Christan records (i.e., Roman) debate whether it was a crus immisia (+) or a crux commissia (T). Oddly, none seem to suggest the cross shape that you claim is the oldest cross. So come on, give us the source?

    the ancient world was way more interconnected then we think (well, I've seen this Thracian golden plate so, I know that - http://alturl.com/t4v57 - I wish there was a better photo of it on the Internet so you can marvel too.)

    Tony Fleming
    You're right about Turkey.  It's the 'crux' of civilization, where the ancient trade roads between East and West crossed over, including the Silk Road. Anyone know how old the Silk Road is?

    Tony Fleming Biophotonics Research Institute tfleming@unifiedphysics.com