The monastery of St John the Forerunner (Prodromos) is situated on the southern side of the island of Sveti Ivan approximately one mile northwest of Sozopol (ancient Apollonia and medieval Sozopolis). Its history as an imperial and patriarchal monastery is well documented in Byzantine and Greek sources for the period from the mid-13th to the 17th century. It also demonstrates a remarkable example of how written evidence matches an actual archaeological site. The main elements of the monastery excavated until now include two churches (an Early Byzantine basilica and a medieval triconch church), surrounding wall, dwellings and domestic buildings, refectory, kitchen, a large baking oven, and a deep cistern (hagiasma).
The present chapter summarizes the results of the recent archaeological campaign started in 2008. The authors pay special attention to a discovery made in 2010. A small marble reliquary containing human bones and an inscribed tuff ossuary were excavated beneath the tile pillars of the mensa sacra from the first and second phases of the Early Byzantine basilica. The legible sections of the Greek inscription on the ossuary reveal the name of St John in Genitive and the date of 24 June thus strongly suggesting the notion that the bone remains in the marble reliquary may be attributed to John the Baptist. Scientific analysis (AMS radiocarbon dating, DNA testing) of the relics demonstrates a surprising correspondence to the Biblical story and personage of John the Baptist: The bones were all from the same male individual who lived in the early first century AD.