A new analysis of a bone fragment by archaeologists at the University of Oxford suggests it might have belonged to Santa Claus. The bone fragment, originally obtained in Lyon, France, by Father Dennis O’Neill, is claimed to have belonged to Saint Nicholas, a fourth century C.E. saint from Myra, in modern day Turkey, who is believed to have inspired the popular traditions of Santa Claus.
Although, church tradition claims that the bulk of the remains of Saint Nicholas is housed in the Basilica di San Nicola in southern Italy, and most of the rest at a small church in Venice, there are literally hundreds of churches in Europe and around the world which claim to be in the possession of small bone fragments that belonged to Saint Nicholas. The profusion of claims has led to widespread skepticism.
However, a research project by archaeologists at the University of Oxford which set out to verify the more credible claims from around the world conducted radiocarbon dating of Father Dennis O’Neill’s Lyon fragment and found that it dates back to around the fourth century C.E.
According to church tradition, Saint Nicholas lived in the fourth-century C.E, and died in 343 C.E. Thus, researchers concluded that the claim the pubic bone belonged to Saint Nicholas is credible compared with similar claims which yielded radiocarbon dating inconsistent with the known facts about the time that the real Saint Nicholas lived.
“Many relics that we study turn out to date to a period somewhat later than the historic attestation would suggest,” said Tom Higham, director of the Oxford Relics Cluster at Keble College’s Advanced Studies Centre, according to IFLScience. “This bone fragment, in contrast, suggests that we could possibly be looking at remains from St Nicholas himself.”
“It is exciting to think that these relics, which date from such an ancient time, could, in fact, be genuine.”
— Live Science (@LiveScience) December 9, 2017
“These results encourage us to now turn to the Bari and Venice relics to attempt to show that the bone remains are from the same individual,” said Dr. Georges Kazan, a member of the team that conducted the study. “We can do this using ancient palaeogenomics, or DNA testing.”
Additional evidence that the bone really could have belonged to Saint Nicholas comes from the fact that the bones allegedly of Saint Nicholas preserved in the Italian churches do not have pubic bones. Analysis of the Lyon bone fragment showed that it was derived from the left pubis of a human being who lived in the fourth century C.E. This seems to suggest that it was originally part of the bone collections in Italy believed to belong to Saint Nicholas, aka Santa Claus.
According to church tradition, Santa Claus, or Saint Nicholas, was a wealthy philanthropist who lived in Myra in modern-day Turkey during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian (284-305 C.E.). The white-haired man was persecuted by the Roman authorities, and when he died, his bones were preserved and sold to merchants who took them to Italy. Most of the bones ended up in the Basilica di San Nicola in southern Italy, according to tradition.