SINOP, Turkey, July 31 (UPI) -- Archaeologists digging at an old church site in Turkey say they found a stone chest containing a relic that may be a part of the wood cross on which Jesus died.
The items were discovered during excavations at the Balatlar Church in the northern province of Sinop near the Black Sea, built in A.D. 660, Today's Zaman reported Wednesday. The researchers also found a stone with crosses carved in it, the newspaper said.
"We have found a holy thing in a chest. It is a piece of a cross, and we think it was" part of the cross on which Jesus was crucified, the Anadolu Agency quoted Professor Gulgun Koroglu as saying. "This stone chest is very important to us. It has a history and is the most important artifact we have unearthed so far."
Koroglu said the archaeology team has found "many things that we didn't know about before" during four years of digging, including the skeletons of more than 1,000 people, the Turkish news service said. A Roman bath also was found at the site, NBC News reported.
Koroglu, an art historian and archaeologist at Turkey's Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts, said the team suspects the chest served as a symbolic coffin for the relics of a holy person and that the fragments it contained were associated with Jesus' crucifixion, NBC said.
NBC said the chest had been taken to a laboratory for further examination.
"We have learned many things during the excavation that we did not previously know," Today's Zaman quoted Koroglu as saying.