'Santa's Bone' Remains Dated to Same Era as St. Nicholas

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In some countries, such as Germany, children receive candies and small gifts not on December 25, but on Saint Nicholas' day, the anniversary of the saint's death, believed to have happened December 6, 343 A.D.in the town of Myra in modern day Turkey.

Earlier this year a special section containing a grave site was discovered beneath the St Nicholas Church, located in Antalya's Demre district in Turkey, known as the birth place of Santa Claus.

While this may still not prove that the bone, a pelvis fragment, is that of St Nicholas, it is the first test performed on the relic and takes researchers from the University of Oxford a step closer in positively identifying the remains.

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St Nicholas is believed to have been a generous, wealthy man famed for giving gifts, a trait believed to have inspired the story of Father Christmas.

Professor Tom Higham and Dr Georges Kazan, the directors of the Oxford Relics Cluster at Keble College's Advanced Studies Centre, tested the bones, the university said in a press release.

The bone analyzed by the Oxford researchers is owned by Father Dennis O'Neill of St. Martha of Bethany Church, Shrine of All Saints, in Morton Grove, Illinois. "This bone fragment, in contrast, suggests that we could possibly be looking at remains from St. Nicholas himself". Some historians believe that the saint's bones were removed from the Demre site in the 11th century and transported to Bari, Italy, where the Basilica di San Nicola was built so that his remains could be preserved there. The absence of the saint's full pelvis from the relics in Bari, which only features the left ilium, suggests the bone may belong to the same individual. This fact attracted Dr. Kazan's attention, prompting the study.

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The relics in Venice consist of as many as 500 bone fragments, which an anatomical study has concluded were complementary to the Bari collection. "We can do this using ancient palaeogenomics, or DNA testing. 'It is exciting to think that these relics, which date from such an ancient time, could in fact be genuine". Now that one bone has been dated, researchers are curious about those that have been venerated for over a millennium.

Until recently, holders of the relics have resisted testing. But as centuries passed, other organizations began to claim they, too, had bones from St Nicholas, and even the most devoted believers have been forced to question how any of this can actually be true. On the eve of the feast, children leave out clogs and shoes to be filled with presents.

Though these findings sure are exciting, science can not definitely prove that these relics belong to St. Nicholas, Higham warns.

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