Keeping Byzantium from the Hungry Black Sea

Penny Young details the archaeological work being carried out to save an early Christian church on the Black Sea coast.

Archaeologists are racing against time and the elements to save an early Christian church on the Turkish Black Sea coast near the town of Sinop from literally falling into the sea.

The church is causing a stir because of its unusually large size and the intricacy and detail of the magnificent Byzantine mosaics in the aisles and nave which have survived the plundering centuries largely undamaged.

Dr Stephen Hill from the University of Warwick, who is leading the team, says the church was probably part of a large Roman estate which grew rich on sea trade. It bears similarities to other churches found in Bulgaria and in the Balkans.

'This is the first early building complex to be excavated on the Turkish coast,' said Dr Hill. 'It looks as if the cultural links of the area were with the Black Sea region rather than with the land mass of the rest of what is now Turkey. This project is helping us to fill a gap in our knowledge.'

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