Excavations at the Church of St. Nicholas in Myra-Demre and the conservation-restoration and documentation of the wall paintings were carried out on behalf of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and Hacettepe University from August the 20th to September the 20th, 2007.
Archi tectural documentation and repair works was conducted by architect C. Kabaoğlu and his team, while the conservation-restoration work on the wall paintings was carried out by archaeologist-restorer R. İşler and his team. As in previous years this work was financially supported by the Alexander Onassis and the Vehbi Koç Foundations. The 2007 campaign covered works in the filled area lying to the west of the Episcopal Residence, inside and outside Structure D, Structure F, on the podium and inside Structure E that is located to the south of the west courtyard.
Work in the filled area to the west of the Episcopal Residence The area to the northwest of the church was in-filled in the 11th century to level the area and it contained items dating from the 4th to the 11th centuries. The filling rises to 0.95 m.-1.10 m. Above the 1.10 m. level are finds dating from the 12th-13th centuries. During the course of excavations in this area during the last two years a layer of mortar has been observed between 1.25 and 1.10 m. indicating this area was employed to mix mortar during the extensive building activities of the 11th-12th centuries. The layers of small rubble and brick shards observed in this same area during preceding years also support this understanding of the use of this area at this time. The grey, sandy and limy mortar that is found here is quite similar to the mortar in the annex buildings of the church.
This layer with mortar in the west area is of importance for the dating of structures because it points to building activities conducted during the reign of Constantine IX and Zoe about 1042 or later. In this area, two pithoi were found in situ placed in a pit plastered with mud. Their lugs rest at 0.27-0.29 m (Fig. 1). The sockets for the pithoi at the 0.52-0.55 m. level are surrounded by an irregular floor of mortar and bricks. The fragments of these damaged pithoi are found extensively from the 0.60 m. level. The burnt residue in their bottoms may have belonged to a substance like oil or grains stored in them. Just next to them is a mortaria with a 50 cm. rim diameter, 15 cm. base diameter and 13.5 cm. in height in connection with these pithoi and it is thought that either their contents were processed here before storing them in the pithoi or the stored contents were processed here before they were used. Red slip plates found at the same place are dated to the 6th-7th centuries and thus, they belong to the first building period of construction here. A coin of Nikephoras Phokas (602-610) found at the 1.00-0.90 m. level further supports this indication.
Work inside and outside Structure D
Two cist-type graves uncovered in the arcosolium excavated in 2004 have proven that Structure D1 was an important family tomb related to the monastery. As in theprevious year, in 2007 too, we continued to uncover tombs found in the so-called locus ed sanctum surrounding this building. The trench in the southwest corner had a floor of broken plaques at the 0.40 m. level. Graves M-4 and M-8 outside D1 were exposed by anthropologist D. Erdal. Outside the middle part of Structure D (D2), the work in the west exposed flooring at the 0.40 m. level. The work outside the north section (D3) of Structure D exposed a regular flagstone pavement at the 0.30 m. level. Here, on the floor a lead seal of the 11th century and a bronze coin of Anonymous C group of Constantine IX - Zoe (1042-50) were found. Outside the north section D3, the work to the east brought to light at 0.30 m. level in the same area architectural sculpture, potshards, glass, animal bones and a bronze coin of Constantine IX - Zoe (1042-50) (Fig. 2). In the two trenches dug in the west of the middle section, the flooring was again found at the 0.30 m. level. In 2008, work will continue in new trenches parallel to this area.
Work at the Structure F
Structure F is an oblong rectangular building to the west of the south section of D. Work was initiated here in 2004 and this year alluvial silt was removed from the 3.20 m. level down to 2.10 m.; alluvial silt mixed with regular earth was removed from the 2.10-1.65 m. level; and regular earth was removed from 0.90 m. onwards. In the southeast and northeast parts of the building we found floorings at the 0.60 m., 0.45 m., and 0.37 m. levels. The top two floors were constructed from mortar while the lower floor was paved with plaques. Thus, the interior floor level was raised a few times during the life-time of the building. A human skull was found at the 0.90 m. level in the northwest corner but the other bones are missing. Inside this building were found numerous pieces of unglazed pottery, animal bones, metal items and glazed pottery. Iron items, thought to be furniture parts, as well as examples of glazed potshards belonging to the Aegean and Zeuxippos wares indicate that the building was used in the late 12th-13th centuries.
Work at the Podium to the northeast of the Church
Work was resumed on the stepped podium extending to the east of the Northeast Annex, which was halted in 1995. Earth and alluvium that accumulated here were removed and excavations were initiated at the 1.85 m. level. Mainly from the 1.85-1.70 m. level, 24 octagonal pieces of limestone opus sectile were found (Fig. 3). In the trench measuring 1.40x1.70 m. dug in the northeast corner of the podium adjoining the wall unglazed pottery, glass, geometric shaped opus sectile pieces and pieces of architectural sculpture were found. Among these finds a granite mould for casting jewellery is noteworthy. Two bronze coins were also found at the 1.90-1.70 m. level: one belonging to Nikephoras Phokas (602-10), the other to Constantine IX - Zoe (1042-50) of the Anonymous C group.
Work inside Structure E in the west courtyard of the Church
The work in the ground floor of the two-story building bordering the western courtyard on its south was initiated in 2003. The alluvium filling the ground floor up to its vault was removed and earth was reached at ca. 0.85 m. The building was accessed from a round-arched doorway on the east. The vaulted rectangular building extends in an east-west direction and comprises six sections separated from one another by arches. The structure has three sections on the east and west each of which are connected via a low-arched doorway in the middle. In order to remove the level differences inside, the level of the third section was lowered from 0.75 m. to the 0.40 m. level; in addition, in front of the western wall, the level was lowered from 0.60 m. to 0.10 m. in order to determine the level on which the wall stands. Here, two bronze coins of Tiberius II Constantine (578-82) were found at the 0.40-0.30 m. and 0.30-0.10 m. levels. Finds from Structure E included in particular pottery, glass and metal items. Two lamps found at the 0.30-0.10 m. level have paste and forms different from the Anatolian type lamps found extensively at Myra. One was made from a red clay employed for making vessels for cooking and containing cooked food, the other is lighter in colour and has black paint on it. Both have simple rims, small flat handles and flat bottoms (Fig. 4). They are blackened on their wick spouts from use. These examples are dated to the 5th-6th centuries from the similar examples found at Xanthos. Some of the items related to the cult of St. Nicholas, such as unguentaria, ampullae and lamps, found in Structure E were also manufactured from the same clay. These finds are related to the first phase of the church known to have been an important site for pilgrimage in the 6th century.
Fragments of opus tessellatum with a mortar base again found in Structure E are also related to this same period. Amongst the metal finds are a bronze furniture leg mounted on wooden furniture and an iron blade, thought to have been employed to chop a variety of things and a pit containing waste, indicated the smelting of bronze here. Examples of Aegean, Cypriot sgraffito and Zeuxippos wares found inside this building indicate it was used in the late 12th-13th centuries.
Conservation-restoration and documentation of the wall paintings
This year’s documentation part of the project concerned the measuring and drawing of the wall paintings and floor paving in the southern burial chamber, whose conservation-restoration work had already been completed. The conservation-restoration work undertaken by R. İşler covered the strengthening, cleaning and retouching of the paintings on the west walls of the south and north cross-arms of the third south chapel, as well as the preparation of the wall painting in the arcosolium for display.