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Did Santa really exist? Ancient relic offers new clue

06 December 2017

Using radio-carbon dating, the bone was found to have dated from the 4th century AD. St Nicholas is believed to have died in 343 AD, meaning the relics could in principle be authentic.

A FRAGMENT OF bone thought to belong to the fourth-century saint who inspired the story of Santa Claus could, in fact, be from the legend himself, researchers have found.

"Many relics that we study turn out to date to a period somewhat later than the historic attestation would suggest", Hingham explained.

Scientists from the University of Oxford used a radiocarbon test to date the relic, long believed to be the bone of St Nicolas, and found that it dates back to the correct period of time in history.

Because of the popularity of the saint, many fragments of bones have been taken to other locations around the world.

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"This bone fragment, in contrast, suggests that we could possibly be looking at remains from St Nicholas himself", says the Oxford archaeologist.

Neill, of St. Martha of Bethany Church, Shrine of All Saints, in Morton Grove, Illinois, procured a relic fragment - a bone, identified as a part of the human pelvis - thought to belong to St. Nicholas. 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 the town of Myra in modern day Turkey.

Keble CollegeA fragment of pelvis believed to have belonged to St Nicholas.

A previous anatomical study concluded that the relics held in Venice were complementary to the Bari collection, and could have originated from the same individual.

The Bari collection doesn't include the saint's full pelvis, only the left ilium. However, analysis of the Father O'Neill bone fragment showed that it was part of the left pubis, acting as further evidence that both bones could be from the same person - perhaps the one and only Santa Claus.

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"It is exciting to think that these relics, which date from such an ancient time, could in fact be genuine", Georges Kazan, co-director of the center at Keble College, said.

Stories about St. Nicholas became popular in the 16th century, leading to the legend of Father Christmas or Santa Claus.

"If we get a date in tandem with the historical date, that tells us that we haven't been able to disprove that it could have been from that individual".

Using a micro-sample of bone fragment, Professor Tom Higham and Georges Kazan, from Oxford University in the United Kingdom, have for the first time tested one of these bones.

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Did Santa really exist? Ancient relic offers new clue