The Rev. Antonio Ferrua, a Jesuit archaeologist who headed the excavation that uncovered what the Vatican declared to be the tomb and bones of St. Peter, the first pope, has died. He was 102.
Ferrua died Sunday in Rome, the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano said Tuesday.
Excavation in the grottoes under St. Peter's Basilica, ordered by Pope Pius XII, started in 1940 and went on for about a decade.
The work uncovered an ancient necropolis, and a tomb found at the site was declared to be that of St. Peter.
Years later, Pope Paul VI, whose papacy spanned 1963 to 1978, declared that bones of an elderly man found at the site were those of Peter.
The Vatican announcement at the time was met with some skepticism. The Italian Catholic newspaper L'Avvenire, in an article written when Ferrua turned 100, said the Jesuit himself repeatedly said he was "not convinced" that they were the saint's bones.
Ferrua was considered a leading scholar in epigraphy, the study of ancient Christian inscriptions.