The Baptist's Cave -
And Head? - Believed Found
- AMMAN (AFP) - A cave
unearthed last year under the remains of a fourth century Byzantine
church on the east bank of the Jordan River was the winter home of the
Christian New Testament prophet John the Baptist, project director
Mohammad Waheeb said Wednesday.
- But experts are still investigating the identity of
a human skull found near the cave to determine if it could also belong
to John, who the Bible says was the cousin of Jesus Christ, Waheeb
- He was commenting on a report published Wednesday by
Al-Dustour newspaper, which said the skull found near the cave in
Jordan's Wadi Kharrar "could be that of St. John the
- "The cave and the skull were unearthed last
year," Waheeb said. "Reseach has determined that the cave
belonged to St. John the Baptist, but experts led by Dr. Abdullah al-Nabulsi
are still examining the skull," Waheeb told AFP.
- "Until now, testing on the skull has not been
completed, so we can only say it belonged to a hermit, because the
region of Wadi Kharrar was inhabited by many hermit," he said.
- The cave carved into the rock was dated to the 1st
century A.D., Waheeb said.
- The skull was found "directly next to the cave,
buried on its own," he said.
- Remains of three other ancient churches were found
around the cave, demonstrating the "sacredness" of the site,
where Waheeb and the Jordanian ministry of tourism say Jesus Christ
- Over the past few years, Jordanian archeologists led
by Waheeb have uneartherd ancient churches and huge baptismal pools in
Wadi Kharrar, known in antiquity as Bethany Beyond the Jordan.
- It is located just east of the Jordan River and
opposite Jericho. The gospel of Saint John the Evangelist says Jesus
crossed to the east bank of the river to be baptised by John the
- Further east is located the biblical site known as
Machaerus, where John the Baptist is said to have been beheaded on the
orders of Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee.
- Fearful of John's great influence over the people,
Herod had him arrested and imprisoned at Machaerus on the Dead Sea
when John denounced his adultrous and incestuous marriage with
Herodias, wife of Herod's half brother, Philip.
- John was beheaded at the request of Salome, daughter
of Herodias, who asked for his head on a plate at the instigation of
her mother after dancing for the king and being promised a reward.
- Israel and the Palestinians claim that Jesus was
baptised in a spot on the western bank of the river known as Qasr el-Yahud.