Hungarian researchers may have finally found the lost tomb of Suleiman the Magnificent, the longest reigning sultan of the Ottoman Empire.
Believed to contain Suleiman's heart and intestines, the tomb is a rectangular building which was unearthed last month near Szigetvár, in southern Hungary.
Suleiman died in 1566 at age 71 in his tent outside the besieged fortress of Szigetvár, just two days before the fall of the town, which heroically resisted the Ottoman army for an entire month.
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In his 46-year-long reign Suleiman conquered much of the Middle East, large parts of north Africa and most of Hungary. Undoubtedly one of the greatest rulers of 16th-century Europe, he presided over the golden age of the Ottoman empire, funding the construction of Istanbul's most impressive architecture.
According to historical records, the sultan's death was kept secret for 48 days, until his son Selim II could take the throne.
Suleiman's body was taken back to Istanbul, where is now housed at the Süleymaniye Mosque. On the spot of the sultan's death, the Ottomans placed a memorial tomb where they interred his heart and internal organs.
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Norbert Pap, head of the department of Political Geography, Regional and Development Studies at the University of Pecs in Hungary, said his team is almost certain to have found the long-sought tomb.
After searching archives for hints of the tomb around the fortress, Pap and colleagues focused on the top of a vineyard near the village of Turbékpuszta.
"According to the local population, Turkish ruins used be located here, and they have reported Ottoman era archaeological artifacts on numerous occasions," the researchers wrote in a statement.
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Geophysical and remote sensing revealed the traces of several buildings, all oriented toward the southeast.
"One of them is almost exactly oriented toward Mecca," the researchers said.
The site fits with descriptions of an Ottoman settlement called Turbék, a name derived from the Turkish word "turbeh," meaning "tomb."
Turbék started out as a shrine over Suleiman's burial in the 1570s and thrived as a holy town until its destruction by the Habsburg army in the 1680s.
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During a dig carried out in October and November, Pap and colleagues unearthed a rectangular building with wide walls built from bricks and stones.
Covered with stone tiles, the building had a large central room, about 26 by 26 feet. A robber pit in the middle of the structure suggests it was plundered in the late 17th century.
Some decorative elements remained intact and match in style the decorations in Suleiman's mausoleum in Istanbul.
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"Currently everything suggests that this building could have been Suleiman's tomb," the researchers wrote.
"However, in order to be able to assert this with 100 percent certainty, further examinations and the excavations of the other surrounding buildings are necessary," they added.
Pap said that excavation work at the site will continue next spring.