Children around the world may be in for a disappointment today. Archaeologists in Turkey believe the tomb of Santa Claus, or Saint Nicholas, has been found.
Using geo-radar surveys at St. Nicholas church in Demre, the scientists detected a complete and unbroken tomb likely belonging to the saint. Located in the Turkish province of Antalya, Demre is the possible birthplace of the original Santa Claus.
Archaeologists remain optimistic about finding evidence that is more conclusive about the burial spot of Santa Claus. Cemil Karabayram, the director of surveying and monuments in Antalya, and his team will continue to work the site.
“We have obtained very good results but the real work starts now,” said Karabayram, per a report from the Guardian. “We will reach the ground and maybe we will find the untouched body of Saint Nicholas.”
According to history scholars, Saint Nicholas was likely born and lived in the city of Myra, now known as Demre, in southern Turkey. The fourth-century saint became well known for his exceptional generosity to the poor, especially children. Secretly, he would often give presents to children or leave coins in shoes for anyone who left them outside. Born in the year 270 A.D., Saint Nicholas died in 343 and was entombed underneath the church in Demre.
In the 1500s, the story of Saint Nicholas was still being told throughout Europe, and Dutch settlers, who called him “Sinterklaas,” brought tales of his remarkable gift giving to the United States. Today’s image of Santa Claus as the jolly old man with the white beard was popularized after the poem “The Visit of St. Nicholas” was published in 1822 by Clement C. Moore.
The archaeologists were somewhat surprised to find the untouched burial tomb for Santa Claus in Turkey. Most experts believe sailors stole the body of Saint Nicholas in the year 1087 and moved it to what is now St. Nicholas Basilica in Bari, Italy.
While Christians still flock to St. Nicholas Basilica believing this is the final resting place of the renowned saint, Turkish experts say the remains are not his. After examining some historical documents, they contend the bones taken and moved to Italy actually belonged to another priest, not Saint Nicholas.
Now that the Turkish team has potentially discovered the tomb of Santa Claus, they must begin the delicate task of digging below the church. They must excavate very carefully not to destroy or damage the fragile stone reliefs and mosaics built into the church floor.
In charge of the excavation work, Professor Sema Dogan hopes the discovery of Santa Claus’s tomb will boost tourism for the area. While historians have long known that Saint Nick was a real person, children around the world will be disheartened to know he has been dead for hundreds of years.
[Featured Image by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images]