Santa's season has arrived, and on December 25 many young children will tear open gifts that they believe have been brought by an incredibly efficient delivery man who rushed on their fireplaces and gave them presents. Santa, as children today think of him, of course it is not real (sorry), but the mythical figure is based on what some believe was a real-life saint, and now archaeologists believe they have their bones.
Researchers at New Oxford University have been studying human remains that, according to legend, are those of San Nicolás. Coming from the 4th century, the St Nicholas stories paint a portrait of an incredibly generous (and fabulously rich) man who became famous for his gift-giving nature, but the real evidence that man was real has remained elusive. Now, bone samples have suggested that man may have been more than a myth.
For countless generations, the alleged remains of St. Nicholas were held in a church in southern Italy, the Basilica of San Nicola, which was named after the man himself. But as the centuries passed, other organizations began to claim that they also had the bones of St. Nicholas, and even the most devout believers have been forced to question how some of this may be true.
Hoping to discredit the myths o To help confirm its authenticity, the scientists attempted to date the bones using a method that required only a small sample of the bone. Against all odds, the fragment of bone dates precisely from the time when St. Nicholas is believed to have died.
"Many of the relics that we study are so far in a period somewhat later than the historical confirmation would suggest," Professor Tom Higham, co-director of the research, explains. "This bony fragment, on the other hand, suggests that we could possibly be looking at remains of San Nicolás himself."
The details of where all the saint's bones ended are nebulous, but the general consensus is that most were in fact located in the church that bears his name. It is possible that other examples of his bones have been claimed or distributed to other churches in the region, which would explain why several groups claim ownership of his remains.