St Ivan island, off Bulgaria's Black Sea town of Sozopol
The new archaeological excavations on the island of Saint Ivan close to the seaside town of Sozopol are successful, Tsonya Drazheva, deputy head of the excavations, said.
Quoted by local news agency Focus, she said that the team’s priority this year was to unearth the remaining part of the earliest Christian church where the relics said to be those of John the Baptist were discovered in 2010.
"We have started examining the narthex of the church. As you might know, in early Christianity churches were very big and there were no closed areas," Drazheva was quoted as saying.
This narthex, or anteroom, was designed for those who were not familiar with Christianity, she said.
Drazheva said that important elements had been unearthed that were related to liturgical practices of the beginning of the fifth century CE.
In the building of a church named after John the Baptist, walls a metre and a half thick had been found below the foundations of the church of an ancient building dating back to the third century BCE.
"Perhaps it was not a church, but a commercial building possibly related with the busy local port," she said.
The archaeologists have studied 25m of an ancient wall, which surrounded the highest area on the island.
"Surprises are yet to emerge," Drazheva was quoted as saying.
While carrying out excavations, the archaeologists discovered many interesting finds, such as ceramics, glass and many other items related with a rich monastery.
Excavation work on the island this year started at end of July and finish on September 3.
There was great interest in the purported John the Baptist relics, Sozopol mayor Panayot Reizi said on August 27.
Holidaymakers from the whole region came to see them, he said. Overall, the relics had boosted tourist numbers in Sozopol.
Sozopol had become the first Bulgarian town to develop pilgrimage tourism, he said.