Scientists at Oxford University dated a knucklebone from the right hand to the first century, a date which fits with the widely held view of when John the Baptist, described in the Bible as a leading prophet and relative of Jesus Christ, lived.
Archaeologists discovered six human bones in 2010 in a small marble sarcophagus under the floor of an ancient church on an island in Bulgaria known as Sveti Ivan, which translates into English as St. John.
Radiocarbon dating on one of the bones was yielded a date earlier than researchers had expected.
"We were surprised when the radiocarbon dating produced this very early age," researcher Thomas Higham said in an Oxford release.
"We had suspected that the bones may have been more recent than this, perhaps from the third or fourth centuries. However, the result from the metacarpal hand bone is clearly consistent with someone who lived in the early first century A.D."
However, dating evidence alone cannot prove the bones to be those of John the Baptist, researchers said.
"Whether that person is John the Baptist is a question that we cannot yet definitely answer and probably never will," Higham said.