Archaeologists unearth 500-year-old church

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Archaeologists Unearth 500-Year-Old Church
The oldest-known European Christian church in the tropics was recently excavated.

Located on the island of Santiago in Cabo Verde, off the coast of West Africa, the church was originally built by Portuguese colonizers around 1470.

Christopher Evans, Director of the Cambridge Archaeological Unit, said, "We've managed to recover the entire footprint-plan of the church, including its vestry, side-chapel and porch, and it now presents a really striking monument."

Along with the buildings, archaeologists uncovered multiple tombstones of local nobles.

There's also a very crowded cemetery underneath the floor of the church. It contains over 1,000 bodies, about half of the bodies are African with the other half hailing from all across Europe.

Researchers hope that by studying the human remains they'll be able to get a more complete view of Cabo Verde's unique social hierarchy during and immediately after colonization.

Discovered among the ruins of the multiple-island nation's former capital, Cidade Velha, the church is also believed to be the oldest "formal European colonial building" in sub-Saharan Africa.

Cidade Velha was once distinguished as one of the wealthiest cities in all of the Portuguese empire due to its prominence in the transatlantic slave trade.

Related: An ancient church in Mexico emerges after being submerged for over 45 years:
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NTP: Colonial church emerges from falling Mexican reservoir
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Archaeologists unearth 500-year-old church
The remains of a mid-16th century church known as the Temple of Santiago, as well as the Temple of Quechula, is visible from the surface of the Grijalva River, which feeds the Nezahualcoyotl reservoir, due to the lack of rain near the town of Nueva Quechula, in Chiapas state, Mexico, Friday, Oct. 16, 2015. "The church was abandoned due the big plagues of 1773-1776," said architect Carlos Navarette, who worked with Mexican authorities on a report about the structure that would be flooded in 1966 when the dam was completed. (AP Photo/David von Blohn)
The remains of a mid-16th century church known as the Temple of Santiago, as well as the Temple of Quechula, is visible from the surface of the Grijalva River, which feeds the Nezahualcoyotl reservoir, due to the lack of rain near the town of Nueva Quechula, in Chiapas state, Mexico, Friday, Oct. 16, 2015. The temple, built by Dominican friars in the region inhabited by the Zoque people, was submerged in 1966 when the Nezahualcoyotl dam was built. (AP Photo/David von Blohn)
The remains of a mid-16th century church known as the Temple of Santiago, as well as the Temple of Quechula, is visible from the surface of the Grijalva River, which feeds the Nezahualcoyotl reservoir, due to the lack of rain near the town of Nueva Quechula, in Chiapas state, Mexico, Friday, Oct. 16, 2015. âThe church was abandoned due the big plagues of 1773-1776,â said architect Carlos Navarette, who worked with Mexican authorities on a report about the structure that would be flooded in 1966 when the dam was completed. (AP Photo/David von Blohn)
The remains of a mid-16th century church known as the Temple of Santiago, as well as the Temple of Quechula, is visible from the surface of the Grijalva River, which feeds the Nezahualcoyotl reservoir, due to the lack of rain near the town of Nueva Quechula, in Chiapas state, Mexico, Friday, Oct. 16, 2015. The temple, built by Dominican friars in the region inhabited by the Zoque people, was submerged in 1966 when the Nezahualcoyotl dam was built. (AP Photo/David von Blohn)
The remains of a mid-16th century church known as the Temple of Santiago, as well as the Temple of Quechula, is visible from the surface of the Grijalva River, which feeds the Nezahualcoyotl reservoir, due to the lack of rain near the town of Nueva Quechula, in Chiapas state, Mexico, Friday, Oct. 16, 2015. "The church was abandoned due the big plagues of 1773-1776," said architect Carlos Navarette, who worked with Mexican authorities on a report about the structure that would be flooded in 1966 when the dam was completed. (AP Photo/David von Blohn)
The remains of a mid-16th century church known as the Temple of Santiago, as well as the Temple of Quechula, is visible from the surface of the Grijalva River, which feeds the Nezahualcoyotl reservoir, due to the lack of rain near the town of Nueva Quechula, in Chiapas state, Mexico, Friday, Oct. 16, 2015. It's the second time this has happened. In 2002, the water was so low visitors could walk inside the church. (AP Photo/David von Blohn)
The remains of a mid-16th century church, known as the Temple of Santiago, as well as the Temple of Quechula, is visible from the surface of the Grijalva River, which feeds the Nezahualcoyotl reservoir, due to the lack of rain near the town of Nueva Quechula, in Chiapas state, Mexico, Friday, Oct. 16, 2015. âIt was a church built thinking that this could be a great population center, but it never achieved that,â said architect Carlos Navarete who worked with Mexican authorities on a report about the structure that would be flooded in 1966 when the dam was completed. âIt probably never even had a dedicated priest, only receiving visits from those from Tecpatan,â a nearby monastery. (AP Photo/David von Blohn)
The remains of a mid-16th century church known as the Temple of Santiago, as well as the Temple of Quechula, is visible from the surface of the Grijalva River, which feeds the Nezahualcoyotl reservoir, due to the lack of rain near the town of Nueva Quechula, in Chiapas state, Mexico, Friday, Oct. 16, 2015. The temple, built by Dominican friars in the region inhabited by the Zoque people, was submerged in 1966 when the Nezahualcoyotl dam was built. (AP Photo/David von Blohn)
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