Archaeologists may have found proof that Santa Claus died hundreds of years ago and is not the one delivering gifts to children on Christmas.

At St. Nicholas church in the Turkish province Antalya, scientists have reportedly discovered a temple and burial area below the current church. The Guardian said the experts surveyed the area with ground-penetrating radar and found the subsurface temple. While largely intact, delicate and historic artwork like mosaics and stone reliefs are blocking off access to the old structure. However, careful excavation will reveal the temple and possible the body of St. Nicholas.

The church is in the town Demre, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in southwestern Turkey. Demre is located at the ruins of the ancient Hellenic city Myra, the place where St. Nicholas is said to have lived.

He was a bishop in Myra during the 4th century, and the person upon whom the Santa Claus character is based. The real St. Nicholas was born to wealthy parents around the year 300 in a nearby location in Antalya province, the village Patara, and was known for his generosity in assisting the poor and for his love of children.

st-nicholas-myra The character Santa Claus is based upon St. Nicholas, a bishop in the Hellenic 4th-century city Myra, now located in Turkey. Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

“We have obtained very good results but the real work starts now,” Cemil Karabayram, the director of surveying and monuments in Antalya, told The Guardian. “We will reach the ground and maybe we will find the untouched body of Saint Nicholas.”

According to that publication, it was believed that St. Nicholas’ body was stolen from Demre after the church burned down and was being rebuilt and that it was brought to the Italian city Bari, where the St. Nicholas Basilica was built in the late 12th century. But Turkish experts now suggest that the stolen body belonged to a local priest instead of St. Nicholas, and the man himself could be still within the Christian temple at Demre.

The thieves who allegedly brought the stolen body to Bari were sailors, which is ironic because St. Nicholas was also known for his work with sailors and ships, and for being a patron saint of sailors.

One story on the Demre church’s website tells of St. Nicholas being on a ship returning from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land that was caught in a storm. “Nicholas calmly prayed,” the church explains. “The terrified sailors were amazed when the wind and waves suddenly calmed, sparing them all. And so St. Nicholas is the patron of sailors and voyagers.”

myra-1922602_1920 The Turkish town Demre is built on the ruins of the ancient Hellenic city Myra, where St. Nicholas was a bishop before becoming the basis for the character Santa Claus. Photo: Pixabay/public domain

According to the church, many chapels built in honor of St. Nicholas are located in seaports.

If archaeologists were to find the tomb of St. Nicholas, it would not be the first time in recent months that experts have dug into ruins with a Biblical connection. A team reported some weeks ago that they had found ruins from the fishing village Bethsaida, a lost Roman city where three apostles of Jesus were said to have lived.