Middle Byzantine Phase


Throughout the early years of the excavations, the "Byzantine period" finds seemed significant and were considered as the messengers of the existence of a pre-Islamic level. The excavators had started revealing west-east oriented graves in which skeletons had either arms crossed over their chests or one arm over the chest and the other over the stomach indicating that these were Byzantine burials. The arbitrary finds of copper alloy crosses in the chest cavity of some skeletons strengthened this preposition. Indeed, in 2013, in the northern section of HTP01 a large mortared wall began to be revealed in conjunction with many pieces of frescoes. That year, large part of an originally single naved church was unearthed (Church A). The next year a second church just 4,82 m to the north of the first one was discovered (Church B).

The continuing excavations in and around the churches revealed that the two churches were built together in a single program. The excavations provided sufficient information to suggest that these were cross-in-square planned churches with a single space entered through the west. There is a semi-circular apsis at the eastern end, and the walls make a recess towards the apsis. A similar recess is present on the eastern end of Church B. Both churches were built with a single nave and were rather small. The exterior dimensions of Church A are 8 m by 5,70 m, the overall interior dimensions excluding the apsis are 6,07 m by 3,7 m. The length of the apsis in Church A is 1,80 m, the opening to the nave is 2,40 m. The exterior dimensions of Church B are 7,80 m by 5,62 m, and the overall interior dimensions excluding the apsis are 4,23 m by 3,70 m. The apsis is 1,80 m and the opening to the nave is 1,84 m. The interior surface area of both churches are about 17,50 m2.

The walls were built of large stones, consisting of some spolia. The use of a red stone which must have been locally acquired seems significant and separates the church architecture from the following periods. This stone which is also present in the fortifications is a very soft, chalky and fragile red stone.

The entire HTP01 area with the exception of the southeastern section has graves. So far 118 graves were excavated. Some of these were single inhumations, others were used for multiple burials. The majority of the graves were simple inhumations where the deceased was laid on ground in a shallow pit. A great variety of methods to support the body was used. In some cases, there was absolutely nothing except soil. Some had a tile or a stone behind the head. Others were lined with tiles or stones all around. There were examples where pre-existing walls were used as part of the construction of the graves. Graves also had a variety of covers. Some were covered by soil but a majority was covered by large pieces of gray schists which must have been locally available. Tiles were also used to cover the graves. Four graves were built entirely of tiles and mortar.

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