John The Baptist's Cave - And Head? - Believed Found
12-28-00 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 told AFP. 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 Baptist". "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 was baptised.
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 Baptist. 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.