Disputing a claim by Pope Benedict that the bones of St Paul seem to have been found in Rome, a Dutch expert, Rengert Elburg, says this can never be proven.
Elburg, an expert on archaeological study of old bones and organic remains for the government of the German state of Saxony, told the German Press Agency dpa in an interview, "It's impossible to establish that it's him," according to a Monsters and Critics report.
Even a genetic analysis of the bones in a sarcophagus marked as Paul's would reveal nothing, because there were no proven descendants whose DNA could be compared.
"But the bones could tell you the sex and age of death of the person," he said. A face could be reconstructed if a skull were in the grave.
"But we don't know how Paul looked, so that doesn't help identify the body," he said.
Elburg said scientists were likely to check for links to the historical account of the beheading of St Paul, the author of copious letters and first interpreter of Christianity.
"Traces of beheading can be identified with absolute certainty," he said.
The cut was usually found between the third and fourth vertebrae.
Elburg counselled maximum precision in opening the sarcophagus, saying, "It will be comparable to opening the tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh." Fabric in a coffin could fall apart at a touch.
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No proof that Vatican bones are St Paul's, says Dutch expert (Monsters and Critics)
Papal claim on St Paul's remains