Sobessos is the only late-Roman/early-Byzantine settlement in Cappadocia, located in the southeastern part near Şahinefendi village. Originally a Roman settlement from the 4th century to 5th century A.D., it was discovered by chance.

One day in 1963, a farmer in the village of Şahinefendi noticed something that obviously was not part of the natural landscape and started clearing away the dirt. He uncovered a panel of mosaics, a finding he knew to be significant. He reported his discovery to the local museum, but was ignored. Only in 2002, after decades of attempts to engage the authorities, the local museum finally took action and started excavations which are still going on.

A corrugated-iron roof protects the 400-square-metre meeting hall, the main attraction of which is the beautiful mosaic flooring. Later a chapel had been built on top of some of the finer mosaics inside the meeting hall with materials that were supplied from the main hall. According to the coin that was found during the excavation, the chapel dates back to the middle of the 6th century.

A grave was found in the north part of the main room, placed in the East-West position, with a raising cross on its lid. Right underneath the grave's lid, there is another lid that prevents bad odor from spreading around. Both the lids were made of lime mud. When both lids were opened, a skeleton of a male adult in a shroud with hands on his belly was discovered. The skeleton belongs to the same period with the chapel that was added afterwards.

After discovering the meeting hall, it was said that in the clover field of Pehlivan family, another building with columns and mosaics existed. Further excavation uncovered the bath complex of the ancient city at 2.30 meters’ depth. An apoditorium (dressing room) with mosaics, a caldorium (steam room) with the preserved sitting places and a large section of the cistern, supported by a semi-circle wall, were discovered. The bath was built with hypocaust system (hot air heating system) and the caldorium consisted of two sections.

Finding Roman ruins of this sophistication provides evidence that there is still a lot we do not know about the history of Cappadocia. It is known that Christians were for the most part hiding from Roman soldiers, but there has never been any evidence of a full-scale Roman settlement here. Ongoing excavations are expected to disclose a great deal more of what must once have been a sizeable settlement.

Sobessos excavation site can be visited on the Underground City Tour and private Highlights of Cappadocia Tour.

Sobessos Sobessos
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