Archaeology: Fifth-century tomb found on St Ivan island near Bulgaria’s Sozopol

Bulgarian archaeologists have discovered a tomb, estimated to date from the fifth century CE, on St Ivan island off the coast of Bulgaria’s Black Sea town of Sozopol, it was announced on July 31 2015.

The discovery was made five years after the discovery of human remains that have been claimed to be relics of John the Baptist, a claim that has been made a centrepiece of a campaign to attract religious tourists to Sozopol, a town whose origins date back to the Bronze Age and whose Christian ecclesiastical history dates back to at least the fifth century.

The tomb was found by a team of archaeologists led by Professor Kazimir Popkonstontinov who believe that it is the burial site of the first two abbots of the monastery that was named for John the Baptist.

The tomb is of a size unusually large size and shape for the fifth century. The date is the same estimated for the basilica where the purported fragments of the remains of John the Baptist – part of his hand bones – were found.

According to archaeologists, the tomb was used for two people, perhaps one the founder of the monastery and the other someone who had contributed greatly to the monastery.

Also discovered was the skeleton of a sacrifical animal.

After the discovery of the tomb, Popkonstantinov has begun looking for a connection to the purported relics of John the Baptist, which were found just metres from the tomb discovered now.

The remains claimed as those of John were found in small sandstone box five years ago, with an inscription on the box, “God, save your servant Thomas. To St John. June 24”.

The sandstone box containing what are purported to be fragments of bones from John the Baptist, Sozopol, Bulgaria.
The sandstone box containing what are purported to be fragments of bones from John the Baptist, Sozopol, Bulgaria.

Popkonstantinov, speaking after the July 2015 discovery of the tomb, said, “is one of those buried there Thomas? Because Thomas was not some monk among many, who were just used as couriers, but an important personality, on whom the Constantinople patriarch relied, to bring these relics, precious to every Christian, to be placed here”.

A few days ago, the Archaeological Museum in Sozopol opened an exhibition dedicated to the fifth anniversary of the finding of the John the Baptist relics.



The Sofia Globe staff

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