A silver cross regarded as one of the most important early Christian artifacts found in Britain is a modern fake, scientists confirmed Thursday.

The Chi-Rho Amulet, which bears an early Christian symbol incorporating the first two letters of Christ's name in Greek, was found in a 4th-century Roman grave near the Somerset town of Shepton Mallet in 1990.

Tests carried out by Dr. Matthew Ponting from the University of Liverpool revealed that the silver used to make the cross is of 19th-century origin.

The test, using inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectrometry (ICP-AES), examined impurities in the metal.

It also established that silver used to make the cross and the pierced disc that bears the Chi-Rho inscription comes from two sources.

Suspicion is focusing on protesters who opposed construction of a vast liquor warehouse on the site beside the Fosse Way, an ancient Roman road.

The discovery of the amulet 18 years ago caused a sensation in Shepton Mallet. An entertainment complex and a street were named after it and a replica was presented to George Carey (now Lord Carey of Clifton), who wore it at his enthronement as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1991.

Jeanette Marsh, deputy leader of the town council, said: "It's like the magic has been removed from Shepton Mallet. I'm not sure there'll be any need to change any names in the town but it's a shame the myth of the amulet has now burst."

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