Excavations at the Harran archaeological site in Şanlıurfa, southeastern Türkiye, one of the world’s oldest settlements listed on UNESCO’s Temporary World Heritage List, have uncovered remnants of a church dating back to the fifth century.

Professor Mehmet Önal, head of the Archaeology Department at Harran University and director of Harran Archaeological Site Excavations, told Anadolu Agency (AA) that they are conducting excavations at the site with funding from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, in coordination with the Şanlıurfa Governorship and the Şanlıurfa Museum Directorate and support from the Turkish Historical Society Presidency, Şanlıurfa Metropolitan Municipality, Harran University and Harran District Governorship.

Önal stated that they are unveiling the ancient beauty of Harran through archaeological excavations, focusing extensively on the church structure discovered in the area during this period.

He mentioned: “We have excavated a section of the church, which is quite large and located 200 meters (approximately 656 feet) north of Harran Grand Mosque. We are currently working in the northern aisle (main corridor), and a significant portion of the aisle has been uncovered. This is a basilica-style church with decorations. The column capitals feature acanthus leaves, embossed with relief decorations. During our excavations, we discovered not only a large portion of the northern aisle but also a colonnade to the north where the column capitals have fallen. Currently, structures with columns in Harran are waiting to be excavated underground. As we continue to dig, the entire church will be revealed, including its apse (the area where prayers are offered) and other aisles.”

Önal dated the large church to the fifth century, describing it as one of the largest cathedral-level churches in southeastern Anatolia, exceeding 70 meters in length and built from cut stone blocks. He noted findings of glass mosaic tesserae in the excavations, predominantly used on walls and arches. According to Önal, these mosaics indicate that the church dates back to the Eastern Roman period, when mosaic floors were typical in churches in the region.

Regarding the history of Harran, Önal mentioned that the church was plundered and destroyed during the Mongol invasion and subsequently affected by natural disasters. He explained, “During our work in the church, we observed clear evidence of earthquakes, with the northern aisle wall completely fallen into blocks due to it being laid sideways.”

Önal also highlighted ongoing excavation efforts at the nearby madrassa in the region, adding that restoration and excavation work at the Ulu Mosque, completed earlier, is now open for visits.

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