From The Times of India
Mystery over Georgian queen's relics at Old Goa continues
8 Apr 2009, 0635 hrs IST,
Paul Fernandes, TNN OLD GOA:
Scientists have conducted a DNA analysis on bones believed to have been relics of Georgian queen Ketevan preserved in St Augustine's complex at Old Goa, but the mystery continues as a matching analysis of her other relics in Georgia needs to be done to confirm the findings.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Goa, received the DNA report recently from the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad.
"We were able to isolate the ancient DNA but the amplification and sequencing needs to be done following a different protocol, which is still not commercially available in the laboratory, and we require an advanced kit to carry out a phase 2 analysis," N Taher, deputy superintending archaeologist, Goa said.
A matching DNA report of the queen's remains in Georgia will also help carry the research to its logical conclusion. "We are not very sure if the bone relics belong to the queen and we will request a Georgian delegation coming to Goa later this month to do a sequencing of their specimen for verification," Taher added.
Augustinian Friars, who also had their mission in Iran, came in contact with the Georgian Queen (1565-1624) in Shiraz, Iran, and held her in high esteem. She was put to death by Shah Abbas I of Iran in 1624 after several years of imprisonment for her refusal to give up Christianity. The Augustinian Friars exhumed her body after four months and took the relics to Georgia and interred them at the Alaverdi Cathedral, and also brought a hand and palm to Goa.
After the ASI started excavations to conserve the site at St Augustine's complex two decades back, in 2004-05, archaeologists found three bones in the chapter chapel in the convent of St Augustine. Bone relics of other dignitaries were also being preseved in six chamber boxes in the chapel.
"The remains of five chamber boxes can be seen at the site, except for the one with Queen Ketevan's remains," Abhijit Ambekar, an archaeologist said. A long bone was found below the second window within the chapel and two more fragments behind the second window close to the coping stone of the chamber box. Research will continue to find out whether the remains were also taken anywhere out of the complex, sources said.
St Augustine's complex crumbled after materials were sourced for construction elsewhere. It was also neglected after the Portuguese asked the Augustinian Friars to leave in 1835. The search for the queen's remains may take longer as relics in other tombstones may have to be examined, Taher said. "As scientific analysis is available, we may have to take up other specimens of bone relics for analysis."
The Georgian team comprises Fr R Georgi, dean of St Kethevan church in Tibilisi, capital of Georgia, and a team of archaeologists and media persons. Concluded Taher, "The Georgians are coming to Goa as they have an emotional tie with the events related to their patron saint and St Augustine's complex is significant to them."
****************************************So the question remains - are these relics of Queen Ketevan? There are conflicting accounts of what happened to Ketevan's body after she was killed, in addition to the account given in the article above.
- According to this account: Some French Roman Catholic missionaries were present at the place of St. Ketevans's execution. They placed her body in linen cloth saturated with incense and spices, took it with them to Rome, where the holy relics rest to this day in St. Peter's Cathedral. Later they sent her head and an arm of the martyr to her son, King Teimuraz, who buried the holy relics in the Alaverdi Temple of St. George.
- This account from Wikipedia provides the interesting information that Ketevan exercised power as Queen Regent, evidently for a number of years, on behalf of her young son, before surrendering herself as a hostage to the Shah to ensure her son's good behavior. Upon her death: Portions of her relics were clandestinely taken by the St. Augustine Portuguese Catholic missioners, eyewitnesses of her martyrdom, to Georgia where they were interred at the Alaverdi Cathedral. The rest of her remains are reported to have been buried at the St. Augustine Church in Goa, India. Several expeditions from Georgia have arrived in Goa, and searched in vain for the exact location of her grave.