Late Roman-era chambers and clay offering vessels were unearthed by archaeologists during excavations in southern Turkey’s ancient city of Antioch (now Antakya, the capitol of the Hatay Province). This is the first time archaeological work has ever been conducted within the city’s residential areas.
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“During the excavations, we found rooms and many offering vessels belonging to the settlement from the late Roman era,” said the head of the Hatay Archeology Museum Ayse Ersoy.
“We think that at that time, people who visited the church on pilgrimage bought offering vessels from here, and filled it with holy water in the Church of St. Pierre,” Ersoy told the Turkish news outlet Anadolu Agency.
The Church of St. Pierre, or St. Peter, is dedicated to the founder of the Antakya Church, the archpriest of the first Christian community in the city, and the world’s first Pope. Dating back to the 4th century C.E., the cave—believed to have been owned by the Gospel writer and evangelist St. Luke—in which the church was constructed, is where St. Peter supposedly first preached. The church became a major pilgrimage site and played an important role in the development of early Christian faith.
Antioch was founded by Seleucus, an heir to Alexander the Great’s empire around 300 B.C.E. The city flourished and, under Roman rule, amassed great wealth and influence. During this time, Christianity took root in the city, where the term “Christian” was first coined to refer to followers of Jesus Christ. Antioch also was home to a number of early influential Christian figures including St. Ignatius, who was martyred in Rome in 110 C.E.
While this is only the first excavation of the city’s residential area, further study is needed to understand the scope of its ancient past, archaelogists said.