Scientists dated the relic, a pelvis bone fragment, with a radio carbon test, and proved that it comes from the 4th Century during the time of St. Nicholas, a saint known for his generosity who served as the basis for the legend of Santa Claus, Independent reported.
As many as 500 of St Nicholas's bone fragments are believed to be held in Venice.
The test has found that the relic does date from the time of St Nicholas, who is believed to have died about 343AD. The lack of a full pelvis bone in the Bari collection inspired the Oxford team to try to analyze the authenticity of this relic.
One of the researchers, Prof Tom Higham, said: 'Many relics that we study turn out to date to a period somewhat later than the historic attestation would suggest. "This bone fragment, in contrast, suggests that we could possibly be looking at remains from St Nicholas himself".
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. Following his death, stories around him were morphed into the myth of Santa Claus, the bringer of gifts on the Christmas Day we know today. Some believe he was persecuted by Emperor Diocletian.
Most of his remains are in the Basilica di San Nicola in Bari, Italy, and though they have been there since 1087, several churches around the world have acquired some of the fragments. The proof of the bone's age, however, is enough to merit revisiting other alleged fragments of St. Nicholas's remains to use DNA testing to see whether they belong to the same individual, according to Dr. Georges Kazan, a director of the Oxford Relics Cluster.
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But there may never be any way of knowing whether the bones really were from the real 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. Santa Claus is real, according to new research.
Work has revealed that the bone has been venerated for nearly 1700 years, making it one of the oldest relics that the Oxford team has ever analysed.
As radiocarbon dating technology has become more sophisticated in recent years, ancient relics have become more accessible in ways that previously would have been considered too invasive to study.
"Science is not able to definitely prove that it is, it can only prove that it is not, however", Kazan said.
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