Volunteer works for church he discovered in his garden
Retired Mehmet Keleş, who has been working voluntarily in the excavations of the Holy Apostles Church that he found in his garden in the eastern province of Hatay’s Arsuz district, is happy to contribute his bit for bringing the cultural heritage to light.
Keleş, the father of three living in the Arpaçiftlik district, wanted to plant orange saplings in a 10-acre garden that he bought in 2002.
To his surprise, while digging pits for planting the orange saplings, he discovered some mosaics in 2006 and informed the Hatay Museum Directorate officials for the same. The excavations that started in 2007 after various preparations in the region, which was launched as a first-degree site, were soon suspended until it resumed back in 2015.
So far, a sixth-century Holy Apostles Church, some mosaics, animal figures, stone tombs and bone remains have been unearthed.
Working voluntarily in the excavations in his garden, Keleş is happy for his contribution to bringing history to light.
Speaking to the state-run Anadolu Agency about the mosaics he found in the area he dug for to plant a tree, Keleş said: “I was surprised when I found it [mosaics], and I am very happy. I have found a treasure for future generations and for tourists to visit.”
Expressing that touching centuries-old mosaics is exciting, he said: “I am working as a volunteer in the excavation works, and even my wife and children help the staff. We are trying to help the museum director as much as we can.”
“Sometimes I undertake the work of brushing soil off the fields, and sometimes I dig out the soil. I am not sorry that my garden is gone because this place is considered a cultural heritage. It will expand even more, and I am happy for it,” Keleş added.
Stating that the excavations have been continuing in the region, Hatay Museum Director Ayşe Ersoy said the structure found was the Holy Apostles Church from the sixth century.
Stating that documentation and 3-D drawing studies have been carried out on the remains, Ersoy said, “This work, which will shed light on the sixth century of the ancient city of Rhosus, will be turned into an open-air museum after the completion of excavations.”