How did we get the first 3D pictures of perhaps the oldest Christian church in Russia

    We already wrote on Habré about "secret of the buried temple". Today we can continue the discussion on this topic, fortunately, scientists of NUST “MISiS” in collaboration with representatives of other educational and academic structures published the first results of a “scan” of the underground premises in the Derbent fortress of Naryn-Kala in Dagestan.

    The preliminary conclusion of scientists - the hypothesis of archaeologists about the use of the building as a Christian temple is most likely. If this opinion is confirmed in the final conclusion, then this building will be recognized as the oldest in Russia and one of the oldest Christian churches in the world, which Arabs fell asleep after the capture of Derbent in about 700 AD.

    The 12-meter room is almost completely hidden underground, only a fragment of a dilapidated dome is visible above the surface. This building in the northwestern part of the Naryn-Kala fortress in Derbent dates back to about 300 A.D.

    General view of the Naryn-Kala fortress

    Until now, the question of the purpose of the building has not been resolved: a reservoir, a Christian temple or a Zoroastrian temple of fire. Archeologists do not agree on the fact that excavations of the temple, which has been used as a reservoir for two centuries, can destroy the UNESCO cultural heritage site. Therefore, to study the premises, scientists used the method of muon radiography, placing several innovative detectors with a nuclear emulsion inside the buried room at a depth of 10 meters from the surface of the earth. Studies continued from May to September 2018, the first data obtained confirmed the effectiveness of the method for the study of this specific object.

    View from above

    The purpose of the experiment was to find out the possibility of studying the selected archaeological site using muon radiography, to determine the optimal exposure, number, size and location of the detectors, to obtain the first images of the object using nuclear emulsions. The results obtained from the muon detector made it possible to confirm the reality of the study of the building using muon radiography (which was not obvious, given the close density of soil around the building and shell walls) and to propose a plan for a full-scale experiment to identify the contours of the building as a whole.

    3D model of the underground room, obtained by the results of muon detection

    In addition, already in the first test experiment, physicists “saw” an unusual distribution of muon fluxes in the western wing of the building, which may be related to the architectural features of the structure, indistinguishable by fragments of walls located on the surface of the earth. The structure, built from local limestone shell rock, has a height of about 11 meters and extends 15 meters from south to north and 13.4 meters from west to east. The cross-shaped segments (shoulders) are about 5 meters wide, three shoulders are about 4.2 meters long, and the fourth (northern) is more than 6 meters. The brackets are covered with arches, and above the central part there is a wire frame of the dome with a diameter of 5 meters.

    The sensors were removed with the help of the Ministry of Emergencies

    In a number of historical and reference sources, this structure is referred to as an underground water tank, as it was in the XVII - XVIII centuries. However, the first experiment gave reason to doubt this hypothesis. The main reasons for the interpretation of this building as the original religious structure were unusual for the reservoirs, but characteristic of the early churches and temples of fire, the cruciform shape of the building, as well as its orientation to the cardinal points.

    "It seems very strange to me to interpret this building as a water tank. In the same Naryn-Kala fortress there is the same underground structure of 10-meter depth, and it really is a cistern. It is just a rectangular building. The unusual building in which we placed our detectors has the shape of a cross oriented strictly to the cardinal points, one of the sides is 2 meters larger than the others. According to archaeologists who began the excavation, this building during construction was entirely on the surface and it stands on the highest point of Naryn-kala. Put the tank on the surface, and even on the highest mountain? This is strange. There are more questions than answers so far , ”says the head of the scientific group, doctor phys.-mat. Sci., Leading Expert, NUST “MISiS” Natalya Polukhina .


    As the authors of the study emphasize, the features of the probe radiation at this object require subsequent irradiation of muon detectors in the studied zone, and, therefore, further experiments. According to scientists, the installation of detectors on the western slope of the fortress on the outside of the walls of the building will be especially effective in order to obtain its full-size underground image. The main result of the next stage of the experiments will be the final three-dimensional tomogram of the underground structure, which will help determine the purpose of this unusual structure.

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