Conclusions based on DNA testing underpin an explosive book claiming to identify the mortal remains of Jesus of Nazareth.
Simcha Jacobovici, director, producer and writer of the documentary “The Lost Tomb of Jesus,” obtained bone and tissue samples from ossuaries held by the Israeli Antiquities Authority bearing the names Jesus and Mary. The bone boxes were pulled from a family tomb cut into bedrock in Talpiot, Jerusalem. The odds those names and others associated with the Jesus story would turn up in one tomb are 600 to 1, according to the book.
Carney Matheson, a scientist at the Paleo-DNA Laboratory at Lakehead University in Ontario, analyzed the remains for mitochondrial DNA. According to Jacobovici’s book “The Jesus Family Tomb,” Matheson determined the individuals in the Jesus and Mary ossuaries were not related maternally.
“If you’re not blood relatives and you’re in a family tomb, you’re most likely married,” Jacobovici told The Examiner. “I think it’s very compelling.” Not so fast, other experts said.
Mitochondrial DNA is handed down exclusively from the mother, according to Terry Melton, president and lab director of Mitotyping Technologies in State College, Pa., which contracts with the Baltimore City Public Defender and the Smithsonian Institution. The remains from the tomb could be related by blood through the father’s lineage, she said — cousins, aunts or uncles, grandparents or even father and daughter.
“Two people who are different [DNA] type could have any relationship other than maternal,” said Melton, who added that mitochondria DNA can exclude relationships, not prove them, and “can never be a unique identifier.”
Leaving aside the results, Melton said, it’s almost impossible to accept Matheson’s findings because of inadequate samples.
“To get adequate results, you have to prove by doing a sufficient number of tests,” Melton said.
Jacobovici did not have that luxury. Grabbing samples from an antiquities warehouse after the archaeologist left the room, his book describes bone fragments “no wider than the crowns of human teeth.”
To do one test adequately, Melton said, you would need a half-gram of bone tissue. To be sure of those results, you would have to repeat the testing, not to mention submit your findings to scientific peer review before announcing them to the world.
“It’s frustrating, because people who really do true, accurate DNA research and historical investigation are doing things at such a high standard in order to be published,” she said. “This is publishing by press release.”
... wow, Jacobovici grabbed his samples "after the archaeologist left the room" ... again I can't help but wonder how this guy gets permission to visit sites ...