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ANMED Issue: 2009-7
Excavations at the Church of St. Nicholas in Myra-Demre and the Conservation-Restoration and Documentation of the Wall Paintings in 2008
Semiha Yıldız Ötüken – Ebru Fatma Fındık
As was planned for the 2008 campaign, work was carried out in the following places: the filled area to the west of the Episcopal Residence; outside the middle room of Structure D to the northwest of the church and outside its north room and east of the middle room; inside Structure E in the west courtyard; outside the western unit of the north arcade, as well as cleaning work in K4, on the podium in the east, and in the room in the south aisle of the church*.

Work in the Filled Area to the West of the Episcopal Residence

Excavations of seven trenches in the area to the west of the Episcopal residence were completed; their levels were lowered from +1.55 m. down to +0.30 m. in layers of 10 cm. thickness. A thick layer of mortar at 1.30- 1.20 m. and underneath at 0.50-0.30 m. contained numerous small finds from the first building phase. Small finds include red slip or red painted wares, unglazed daily use wares, glass, metal, bone and stone objects. Extension of the north-south wall uncovered the year before was further uncovered in the northwest of the excavation area. Pithoi in situ uncovered the year before, various kitchen wares and a coin of Emperor Nikephoros Phokas show that these rooms were in use during the first building phase.

Work outside Structure D

Four trenches were dug in order to clarify the architectural details and flooring of the western section of the three-sectioned Structure D located to the northwest of the church. The alluvial soil and rubble at 2.95 m. were removed and as of 1.70-1.30 m., medieval finds started to come out. A green glazed bowl, derived from Zeuxippus wares produced in Cyprus, found in soil mixed with alluvium is dated to the mid-13th century. Extensive finds on the stone flooring at 0.35 m. level included glazed and unglazed pottery, glass objects and metal objects.

The work to the north of structure D involving extension of the wall in the east-west direction, that had been previously uncovered, was exposed. At 0.66 m., there is in the wall a threshold block of 1.57x0.40 m. in second use placed between two monolithic blocks. Two limestone blocks at 0.30 m. to the north of the wall are possibly threshold blocks. An iron pickaxe thought to have been used in the course of construction and an iron chisel thought to be a stoneworker’s tool were found next to the wall; their parallels were formerly found in Structure E. In the trench, alluvial earth was removed at 1.70- 1.40 m., earth with brick and tile fragments was identified at 1.30-1.25 m., and a layer of lime and a layer of fire further beneath it were identified. Most of the finds belong to the first constructional phase and came mainly from 0.70-0.60 m. and 0.40-0.30 m. levels.

In the trench in the east of the middle section of Structure D, the level was lowered from 1.30 m. down to 0.90 m. and a masonry jar with a mouth diameter of 76.5 cm. was uncovered in its north. The jar was closed with a roughly chiseled flat stone at 1.05 m. level. The jar is probably plastered with the same pink colored mortar on the interior as that on its rim. Similar mortar is also observed on the walls of the myrtle crushing pool in the south of the trench and on the oval shaped storage pool adjoining the crushing pool on its south. Two similar masonry jars were uncovered in the previous campaigns – one at 1.55 m. level in the west section of structure B, and the other in the southern trenches of Structure C. The jar uncovered in 2008 was later concealed for the purpose of examining it during the exploration in 2009. The substance stored in this jar was probably processed in the crushing pool and then collected in the storage pool. At 1.10 m. there are two walls one in the northsouth direction and one in the east-west direction.

Work in the South Hall

Cleaning work in the hall in the south of the church brought to light flooring with geometric decoration (Dwg. 1). Alluvium and mixed earth was removed from 1.40-1.00 m. level; a burnt layer was attested at 1.30- 1.20 m.; plaques were encountered at various levels such as 1.25 (southeast), 1.20 and 1.13 m. (southwest). Earth on walls was removed; the north wall was uncovered at 1.08, 2.13, 2.40 m.; the west wall at 2.50 m.; and the east wall at 1.03 and 0.89 m. levels. Work was done at the north end of the area west of the trench, along the west wall, and along the east wall to the east of the trench; the layer of 1.40-1.00 m. contained Late Roman and medieval finds together with 19th-20th century pottery, pipe bowls, glass and porcelain. It is understood that late period objects fell down during the construction of the 5.75 m. high extant wall.

Work to the south of and outside Unit K6 of North Annex

A trench of 1.80x2.60 m. was dug to the south in order to identify the foundation level of the south wall of K6 situated west of North Annex. Earth was removed from 2.70-1.40 m.; between 1.40-0.40 m. there were pottery, glass, pipe bowls and porcelain finds of Late Roman, medieval and 19th-20th centuries. The 5-meter-tall retaining wall bordering this room on the west and built in the 19th century in order to gain the monument for tourism is considered the reason for such an assemblage of small finds.

Work in Unit K4 of North Annex

An annex of five units was built to the north of the church in the third constructional period. Its patron is thought to be Emperor Constantine IX Monomachos and Empress Zoe according to an inscription now under protection in the church. The second unit on the west side of this building is named K4. Cleaning work inside this unit in 2008 brought to light a flooring of opus tessellatum of colored stones with geometric decoration (Dwg. 2). The same type of mosaic with respect to technique and motif was attested previously in units K5 and K6 of the same building as well as in trenches K6/b1-b2 outside K6 to the west. The decorative composition comprises interlacing squares, flowers with four pointed petals and shuttle motifs. As was done with the former examples, this mosaic pavement was covered over as a protective measure. Data regarding opus tessellatum uncovered in situ or elsewhere in the church point to the first basilica built in the 4th-5th centuries A.D.

Work inside Structure E

Structure E comprises six units in a row, vaulted, in the east-west direction, and separated from each other with supporting arches. This two-story building borders the west courtyard of the church on the south and work continued in its lower floor. Work in units 5 and 6 continued in 2008 and ground level was lowered from 0.75-0.85 m. down to 0.40 m.

Work on the Podium

The alluvium at 5.25 m. in the northeast corner of the podium located to the northeast of the church was removed; the wall built with large blocks behind the alluvium was thus seen to extend northward (Dwg. 3). The exposed part of the wall is 6.75 m. long and 0.82 m. wide. The wall rises maximum 1.20 m. and minimum 0.55 m. from the floor of the podium. The top level of the wall is 3.15 m. while its bottom level is 2.60 m. There are other walls to the southeast of this wall, extending eastward. Between 2.93 and 2.00 m. levels there were unglazed pottery, painted pottery, glass mosaic, metal objects and opus sectile pieces.

Small Finds

Architectural sculptures uncovered in this campaign include openwork plaque, plaque, window screen, column, small column, templon pier, inscription, lintel, frieze, threshold, console, flooring, inlay, broken blocks, opus tessellatum and opus sectile pieces. A templon architrave decorated with flowers within knotted motifs is worth noting (Fig. 1). A templon pier decorated with loose knots of three stripes, and the front side of a templon architrave decorated with rosette-like flower motifs with pointed leaves in between knots, found on the podium, were uncovered intact. A unique capital of Ionic-impost type uncovered in the north corridor of the building, a Corinthian capital with a cross motif in relief, an Attic base, two flat columns with rounded sides are registered in the inventory. Pottery finds include daily use wares from the Late Roman – Early Christian periods, red slip wares and painted wares of the 6th-7th centuries as well as Anatolian type oil lamps of the 5th-6th centuries and unglazed kitchen wares and glazed table wares of the Middle Ages. Glazed pottery finds include an Aegean ware type bowl in painted slip technique (Fig. 2), bowls of Cyprus production known as Zeuxippus derivatives, and Islamic pottery in underglaze technique. The glazed potteries are dated to the second half of the 11th century to mid-13th century. Two cruciform necklaces of soapstone were found on a skeleton in Tomb M-11 (Fig. 3). Underglaze painted and splash wares placed in the same tomb provide important evidence for dating of the tomb. Small finds further include window glass, pilgrim’s bottles, stemmed lamps (Fig. 4), accessories like glass bracelets, metal lamp wick, an iron pickaxe, a chisel thought to have been used by a stoneworker, lamp hanger, bronze vessel fragments, plaques, necklace pendants, four arms of a bronze cross understood to have been used by nailing on its ends, and nails of various sizes. Ottoman period Çanakkale potter, pipe bowls, glass objects and European porcelains of the 19th-20th centuries are among other finds.

Documentation and Conservation-Repair Work of the Wall Paintings

Reinforcement, cleaning and retouching work on the wall paintings on the dome and arches of the inner narthex continued from August 18th to December 14th. The council scenes on the east and west halves of the dome and the prophet figures on the inner sides of the arches in the inner narthex were revealed.

* Excavations conducted on behalf of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and Hacettepe University lasted from August 15 to September 13, 2008. Architectural documentation work was carried out by architect C. Kabaoğlu’s team and restoration and repair of wall paintings was carried out by archaeologist- restorer R. İşler with the support of Vehbi Koç Foundation and A. S. Onassis Foundation.
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