Lakehead University

Lakehead University

March 02, 2007 12:01 ET

Lakehead University Scientist Analyzes DNA From Lost Tomb of Jesus

Attention: Assignment Editor, City Editor, Education Editor, Lifestyle Editor, News Editor THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO, MEDIA RELEASE--(CCNMatthews - March 2, 2007) - If a team of investigators wanted to prove or disprove family relationships using degraded samples from thousands of years ago, the first thing they would do is analyze either mitochondrial or nuclear DNA.This was exactly what Dr. Carney Matheson of Lakehead University was asked to do by a team of archaeologists who had excavated a tomb in Jerusalem, suspected to be that of Jesus and his family.

Dr. Carney Matheson, Forensic Examiner and Scientific Officer at Lakehead University's Paleo-DNA Laboratory and Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology, analyzed the 2000-year-old bone samples used in the documentary "The Lost Tomb of Jesus" to determine if the two samples were from the same family. His mitochondrial analysis showed conclusively that the two samples were not maternally related.

"For this project, my role was to examine the residue including bone fragments from two ossuaries that were provided to the Laboratory, and determine if they were related," Dr. Matheson says. "My focus was to ensure that the process was undertaken under the strictest forensic and ancient DNA procedures, which are a standard part of Lakehead University's Paleo-DNA protocols. I expected that the results of the mitochondrial DNA analysis of the "tomb of Jesus" would spark widespread discussion and debate among theologians and historians, among others, and intellectual discourse is always good. As a scientist, I am mainly concerned with ensuring that the analysis used as a basis for discussion is beyond reproach. And the science behind the DNA analysis is solid.

"I have done similar work on numerous samples from many parts of the world to determine relation, disease, and other epidemiological issues. Our team at Lakehead's Paleo-DNA Laboratory has done work on bog bodies, unidentified soldiers from WWI, and remains from the Titanic."

Dr. Carney Matheson
Dr. Matheson studies biomolecules and the processes of their degradation. His primary research interest is in method development for recovery of macromolecules from biological material. His research emphasis has been on biological remains that have proved challenging from which to recover biomolecules using conventional methods. Design and development of methods to retrieve macromolecules of interest from degraded remains has applications in numerous fields, principally archaeology, forensic, and medical science. Dr. Matheson's expertise has been used in numerous documentaries and books, such as author Kathy Reichs' bestselling novel Cross Bones.

Lakehead University Paleo-DNA Laboratory
From criminal forensic investigations to paternity testing, from mummies to tombs in Jerusalem - the Lakehead University Paleo-DNA Laboratory is a world-renowned research laboratory in the application of modern molecular genetic techniques and technologies to the study of archaeological, degraded, and ancient DNA. Established in 1996, the Lakehead University Paleo-DNA Laboratory has gained recognition for work done in its state-of-the-art facility on a wide array of subjects, such as the remains from Titanic victims, and most recently the DNA samples used in the documentary "The Last Tomb of Jesus."

The Lakehead University Paleo-DNA Laboratory is accredited in forensic human identification. This state-of-the-art facility is located in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, and is affiliated with the Lakehead University Centre for Analytical Services (LUCAS). The Laboratory has been a pioneer in the application of modern molecular genetic techniques and technologies to the study of archaeological, degraded, and Paleo-DNA. The Laboratory serves three areas - research, services, and teaching.

For further information on this release, please contact Eleanor Abaya, Director of Communications, Lakehead University at, or 807.343-8372.


MEDIA: For more information on the Laboratory and its services, to request a tour of the Laboratory, or to set up an interview with Dr. Matheson, please call Marla Tomlinson at 807-343-8177 or mobile 807-472-9113
Lakehead University's main campus is located in Thunder Bay, Ontario, on the shores of Lake Superior. With a campus in Orillia, Ontario, Lakehead is a comprehensive university with a worldwide reputation for innovative programs and research. Lakehead has over 7,600 students and 1,600 faculty and staff, and is home to the west campus of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. In 2006, Lakehead University was named Canada's Research University of the Year in the undergraduate category. For more information on Lakehead University, visit

/For further information: IN: EDUCATION

Contact Information

  • Marla Tomlinson, Communications Officer, Lakehead University
    Primary Phone: 807-343-8177
    Secondary Phone: 807-472-9113