Turkey’s Ancient Ayasuluk Hill Reveals 6 More Human Skeletons

The excavations at Ayasuluk Hill in the Selçuk district of the western province of Izmir revealed six more human skeletons in the old Saint-Jean Church.

The number of skeletons excavated has risen to 12, excavation director Sinan Mimaroğlu said: “The skeletons found at the northern entrance of the church belong to the late Byzantine period. Burial around the church is a very natural practice in Christianity. considered a privilege to be buried around the church. Here we came across a large number of skeletons buried on top of each other.”

The age and sex of the skeletons are determined after the team conducts genetic research.

Mimaroğlu provided information on the structure of the region where archaeological excavations are underway, adding: “We are talking about an area that has been inhabited from the Bronze Age to the Ottoman period. The main surviving structure today is the church where the tomb of Saint John is located. This place is considered a place of pilgrimage for Christians.”

Ayasuluk Castle was built during the Byzantine period. Thanks to the restoration efforts of Beylik of Aydınoğulları, the structure has regained some of its former glory. The early schemes of settlement correspond to Apasa, the capital of the Arzawa – a kingdom allied to the Hittites. With the spread of Christianity from the late Roman period, the region has become a very important center. The investigations are expected to reveal even more information about the site.

The excavation director also states that the church embodies spiritual importance when the Virgin Mary and Saint John came to Ephasus and lived here. It is also believed that Saint John wrote the Bible here before he died.

“It is known that there was a basilica tomb here during the Theodosius period. In the sixth century AD, a monumental building was built. It represents an imperial structure in terms of its period. The materials used in its construction show us how this place was important. It is also where the graves of a very important saints are located,” Mimaroğlu added.


Excavation director Sinan Mimaroğlu speaks about the six new skeletons discovered at Saint-Jean Church on Ayasuluk Hill, located in the Selçuk district of western Izmir province, Turkey, August 3, 2022. (DHA photo)
Excavation director Sinan Mimaroğlu speaks about the six new skeletons discovered at Saint-Jean Church on Ayasuluk Hill, located in the Selçuk district of western Izmir province, Turkey, August 3, 2022. (DHA photo)

Mimaroğlu stated that the excavations started in 1922 and said: “These excavations have been carried out for 100 years. We wanted to find answers to certain questions. The first one focused on the places to the north of the church. He conducted a georadar study in this area and we discovered that there is a two story building below ground, I believe the sites will reveal the rituals performed here.”

Mimaroğlu stated that excavations were also taking place inside the church and said: “A study is underway on the first construction of the church. We have done important work here. No investigation has been done on the ground on which the church stands. The data that we have obtained are being evaluated. Based on this data, we believe that important results will be achieved with regard to the first construction of the church, which has remained undiscovered until now.”

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