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DNA Evidence: Skeleton Found in Japan Is Martyred Missionary


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Bones unearthed in Japan appear to be those of a Christian missionary from the 1700s who was killed for his faith.   

Construction workers building a parking lot for a condominium complex found the skeletal remains of what anthropologists say is Italian missionary Giovanni Battista Sidotti, who was martyred.  The condos sit on the site of a prison earmarked for Christians 300 years ago.  Today, its only reminder is a stone marker commemorating the location. 

Sidotti, who snuck into the island nation disguised as a samurai, was on a mission to spread the gospel of Christ to the Japanese people, who at the time were hostile to Christianity.

Sidotti was said to have had tremendous influence on the Japanese culture at that time.  His general knowledge about Western things such as geography, language and global affairs were prized by Japanese scholars he encountered, who were fairly isolated from the rest of the world and who craved information from abroad.

However, it was Sidotti's refusal to renounce his Christian faith that turned those same leaders against him.  He was thrown into a notorious prison for Christians where torture was routine. While the brutal conditions prompted many other Christian inmates to publicly forsake their beliefs, Sidotti held fast to his faith.  He was even said to have converted and baptized the Japanese couple caring for him while he was in prison. 

Historical accounts say Sidotti was afforded elevated respect compared to the other prisoners.  That is backed up by the configuration of his skeletal remains.  

"His body was laid flat in a casket, a luxurious one as far as I can tell by the brackets," Akio Tanigawa, professor of archaeology at Tokyo's Waseda University and lead researcher on the remains, told AFP, referring to coffin pieces discovered with the bones.

"People did not bury human bodies like this," Tanigawa stressed, suggesting Sidotti was likely given a burial "in the Christian way."

Two sets of bones found next to Sidotti's are said to belong to the Japanese couple.

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