Category Archives: BULGARIA

Over 40 Ancient Ships Discovered on the Bottom of the Black Sea

Over 40 Ancient Ships Discovered on the Bottom of the Black Sea

A group of maritime archeologists studying sea levels in the Black Sea have uncovered over 40 shipwrecks as a “complete bonus.”

The shipwrecks provide new data on the maritime interconnectivity of the Black Sea.

Scientists have discovered a rare collection of over 40 shipwrecks in the Black Sea, including those from the Ottoman and Byzantine Empires, which provide insight into the ways of life and seafaring that stretch back into prehistory.

Researchers from the University of Southampton in the UK were surveying the Bulgarian waters of the Black Sea, where areas of land were inundated as the water level rose following the last Ice Age.

Members of the expedition mapping submerged ancient landscapes, the first of its kind in the Black Sea, discovered and inspected the shipwrecks, many of which provide the first views of ship types known from historical sources, but never seen before.

The wrecks, which include those from the Ottoman and Byzantine Empires, provide new data on the maritime interconnectivity of the Black Sea coastal communities and manifest ways of life and seafaring that stretch back into prehistory.

“We’re endeavoring to answer some hotly-debated questions about when the water level rose, how rapidly it did so and what effects it had on human populations living along this stretch of the Bulgarian coast of the Black Sea,” said Jon Adams, Principle Investigator on the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project (Black Sea MAP).

“As such, the primary focus of this project is to carry out geophysical surveys to detect former land surfaces buried below the current sea bed, take core samples and characterize and date them, and create a palaeoenvironmental reconstruction of Black Sea prehistory,” said Adams, Founding Director of the University of Southampton’s Centre for Maritime Archaeology.

Based on board the Stril Explorer, an off-shore vessel equipped with some of the most advanced underwater survey systems in the world, researchers are surveying the sea bed using two Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs).

“The wrecks are a complete bonus, but a fascinating discovery, found during the course of our extensive geophysical surveys,” said Adams.

“They are astonishingly preserved due to the anoxic conditions (absence of oxygen) of the Black Sea below 150 meters,” he said.

Photogrammetric model of a Byzantine period wreck.

“Using the latest 3D recording technique for underwater structures, we’ve been able to capture some astonishing images without disturbing the sea bed,” Adams said.

Medieval Church Discovered in Bulgaria

14th Century Murals With ‘Warrior Saints’ Found In Church Of Ancient City Cherven In Bulgaria

RUSE, BULGARIA—Archaeologist reports that a fourteenth-century Christian church decorated with murals has been discovered in northeastern Bulgaria’s medieval city of Cherven.

The church is the sixteenth to be uncovered in the Cherven Archaeological Preserve. Fragments of the frescoes include images of painted drapery and a scene depicting “warrior saints.”

Some of the murals have been transferred to a conservation laboratory, where they will be restored and placed on a reinforced surface for display at the Ruse Regional Museum of History. 

The surviving newly found murals in the Cherven Archaeological Preserve include a partially preerved scene with “warrior saints.”

The glorious medieval city of Cherven, in today’s Ruse District in Northeast Bulgaria, was one of the major urban, religious, and economic centers of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396/1422 AD). While Cherven was one of the largest urban centers in the Second Bulgarian Tsardom (Empire), it has a much longer history, as its area also features remains from an Ancient Thracian settlement, an early Byzantine fortress, as well as several settlements from the time of the First Bulgarian Empire (680-1018 AD).

During the period of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD), and especially in the 14th century, Cherven became one of Bulgaria’s most important cities. It has been excavated since 1910, with early 20th century excavations being led by Vasil Zlatarski, one of the most renowned Bulgarian historians and archaeologists from the early years of the Third Bulgarian Tsardom formed after Bulgaria’s Liberation from the Ottoman Turkish Empire in 1878.

An image reconstructing the cityscape of medieval Cherven. 

Up until recently, Cherven was known to have had a total of 15 churches, until the 16th one was exposed recently in the western part of the medieval city, the Regional Museum of History in the Danube city of Ruse has revealed. The Ruse Museum has announced that it has drafted a project for seeking funding from the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture for the conservation and restoration of the 14th-century murals.

“The full-fledged exposure of the church building led to the discovery of a preserved layer of murals on the temple’s walls,” the Museum says.

The most valuable of the surviving frescoes have been extracted for restoration and display
An aerial photo of the newly discovered Church No. 16 in Cherven.

“The preserved fresco fragments are parts of a painted drapery as well as a partly preserved scene with figures of warrior saints,” it adds. The archaeologists and restorers have already put in place a cover over the surviving frescoes in the newly discovered Church No. 16 in Cherven, a major economic and spiritual center in the late Second Bulgarian Empire. The area of the surviving murals is about 12 square meters on the ruins of the walls of the church, which is dated, more specifically, to the first decades of the 14th century.

The late medieval church is described as one of the temples that are representative of the life of the medieval fortress of Cherven. The church has one apse pointed to the east, and is 13 meters long and 7 meters wide. Part of the discovered frescoes have been transferred to a restoration atelier, and the conservation and restoration project developed by archaeologist Svetlana Velikova is supposed to guarantee the reinforcing and restoring of the murals on a new surface.

The restoration work is being carried out by Assoc. Prof. Miglena Prashkova from Veliko Tarnovo University “St. Cyril and St. Methodius”.

“The successful realization of the project would lead to including the picturesque decorations from the newly found church [in Cherven] in the permanent exhibition of the Museum,” the Ruse Museum of History says. Parallel to the excavations of the church, the Ruse archaeologists have also been exposing a nearby necropolis as well as parts of a medieval street and adjacent buildings.

“Future research in this area would help clarify important questions about the urban planning [of the city of Cherven], and about the events around the conquest of the fortress [by the Ottoman Turks] and the ensuing Early Ottoman period,” the Ruse Museum states.

The surviving and partly restored fortress in the medieval city of Cherven in Northeast Bulgaria. 
A visual reconstruction of the castle of the Cherven fortress
A visual reconstruction of the castle of the Cherven fortress.
A visual reconstruction of Church No. 2 of in the city of Cherven

An interesting fact about Cherven is that so far the archaeologists have found a total of 80 medieval inscriptions about church donors there, more than in the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire, Veliko Tarnovo, where a total of 60 such inscriptions have been found. This is seen as a testimony to Cherven’s importance during the Middle Ages.

The Cherven Archaeological Preserve is located within the Rusenski Lom Natural Park, along the canyon of the Cherni Lom River, in a truly magical and picturesque landscape. The ruins of the medieval Bulgarian city of Cherven are found on a high rock while today’s town of Cherven, which was set up by survivors after the Ottoman conquest, is located down in the river gorge.

The medieval Bulgarian city of Cherven was one of the most important urban centers in the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD). It is located in today’s Ivanovo Municipality, 35 km south of the Danube city of Ruse, on a rock overlooking the picturesque canyon of the Cherni Lom River, within the Rusenski Lom Natural Park. It experienced dynamic urban growth after Bulgaria’s liberation from the Byzantine Empire in 1185 AD, and rose to great importance during the 14th century.

A total of 80 medieval inscriptions about church donors have been there, more than in the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire, Veliko Tarnovo, where a total of 60 such inscriptions have been found, a testimony to Cherven’s importance during the Middle Ages. It was a center of Christianity as the seat of the Cherven Metropolitan and a center of craftsmanship. Cherven was conquered and ransacked by the Ottoman Turks in 1388 AD.

After the Ottoman Turkish conquest, it briefly preserved some administrative functions but waned and essentially disappeared as an urban center. Some of its survivors settled nearby into the newly founded village of Cherven. Cherven was first excavated in 1910 by renowned Bulgarian historian and archaeologist Vasil Zlatarski. It has been regularly excavated since 1961. In the recent decades, it has been excavated by Stoyan Yordanov from the Ruse Regional Museum of History.

Archaeologists have discovered there a large feudal palace, fortified walls reaching up to 3 m in width, two well-preserved underground water supply passages, a total of 13 churches, administrative and residential buildings, workshops and streets.

A famous 12 m-high three-storey tower, known as the Cherven Tower, from the 14th century has also been fully preserved and was even used as a model for the reconstruction of Baldwin’s Tower in the Tsarevets Hill in Veliko Tarnovo in 1930.

Cherven’s site also features remains from an Ancient Thracian settlement, a 6th century early Byzantine fortress, and several settlements from the period of the First Bulgarian Empire (680-1018 AD).

Skeleton of Ancient Sports Fan Found Buried with Head-Shaped Jar

Skeleton of Ancient Sports Fan Found Buried with Head-Shaped Jar

A 3rd-century A.D. man’s grave in Bulgaria contained a strigil and curiously crafted balsamarium- a vessel from skin- cleansing oils- in the shape of a man’s head fitted with a feline-skin cap, which may be a reference to the Nemean lion slain by Hercules.

In a Roman-era grave in Bulgaria, a unique brass vessel in the form of a man’s head was discovered. The tomb was found in the Kral Mezar tumulus in southeastern Bulgaria, near the village of Boyanovo.

Over the centuries the tumulus had been repeatedly plundered and agricultural activities changed their shape and size,  so a salvage archaeology mission was undertaken in 2015 to excavate it thoroughly.

Inside the tumulus, archaeologists discovered three burials — a sarcophagus, a brick grave, and a tomb. The limestone sarcophagus with a pitched roof lid (found broken on the side) dates to around 150-200 A.D. Sarcophagi are rare finds in Roman Thrace and are believed to have contained the remains of non-Thracians.

The tomb was built of stone and brick with plastered and painted interior walls. It was heavily looted, but the extant funerary goods include bone spindles, needles, glass beads, glass, and ceramic fragments and clay lamp fragments.

A silver denarius from the reign of Caracalla minted in 202 A.D. was found on the tomb floor. Because of the textile-making grave goods, archaeologists believe this was a woman’s tomb.

But it was the third burial, the brick grave, that contained a truly striking artifact. The rectangular pit was lined with bricks coated with a thick layer of white plaster.

Marks on top of the brick walls indicate there had once been wooden beams across the top forming a flat roof. This type of grave was popular in Roman Thrace, particularly in the 2nd and 3rd centuries.

The body had been placed in a wooden coffin of which only a few iron nails survive. The skeletal remains are still articulated and just shy of six feet long (1.82 meters). The osteological analysis found the deceased was an adult male about 35-40 years old at the time of death.

Inside the grave was a bronze coin of Caracalla minted in Hadrianopolis 198-217 A.D., fragments from a glass flask, the remains of two pairs of hobnailed shoes, a balsamarium, and a strigil.

“In our opinion, the grave belongs to a Thracian aristocrat, who has practiced sport in his everyday life, rather than to a professional athlete,” Daniela Agre, an archaeologist at the National Archaeological Institute with Museum at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, who led archaeological work at the site, told Live Science. 

“We think that the tumulus was used as a family necropolis and the deceased was a part of this family,” Agre said.

The strigil is brass, of a type found in other Bulgarian graves from the 2nd and 3rd centuries. The balsamarium is also brass, but it is far from a type seen in other Bulgarian graves of the period. In fact, it is unique in the archaeological record of Roman Thrace.

This type of container is believed to have been used to hold scented oils or perfumes for use in the baths, which is why they’re often found coupled with strigils that would have scraped the oil off the skin to clean and exfoliate.

It is 4.7 inches high, 4.2 inches wide and is shaped like the head of a man wearing an animal-skin skullcap. The visible features of the animal’s head — nostrils, eyes, canine teeth in the lower jaw — suggest it was a feline.

A neck draped with robes forms the foot of the vessel with a flat bottom made from a single metal sheet. There’s a hole in the top of the head for a hinged lid that is now lost. On either side of the opening are loops where a swing handle was attached. There’s still a handle attached through one of the loops; the other side of the handle is broken.

The man’s face is broad with shaved cheeks and a neatly shaped goatee. His nose viewed from profile has a proud aquiline bump. Seen from the front, it is bent to the left and widened at the base, suggesting that it has seen the business end of more than a few clenched fists. Five vessels with comparable features are found in museums in Los Angeles, France, and Germany.

Scholars believe these features — the bent aquiline nose, the goatee, the skullcaps, the lock of hair on the back of the head — represent the heads of boxers or wrestlers.

The Boyanovo piece is distinct from these comparables because it does not have the lock of hair and because of its feline skin cap. The former is likely necessitated by the latter; the sculptor couldn’t include both the lock of hair and the incredibly detailed feline skin covering the back of the hair.

Medieval Christian Artifacts Unearthed in Bulgaria

10th Century with Jesus Christ image, peacock ring seal found in Tudia fortress in Bulgaria’s sliven

Archaeological excavations of the Late Roman, Early Byzantine and medieval Bulgarian fortress of Tuida in the city of Sliven. Found one of the most notable objects found during 2019 is the cross with an Image of Jesus Christ of the tenth century, during Bulgaria’s First Empire (632/680 – 1018), and a medieval ring seal with a peacock image.

This 10th century bronze cross depicting Jesus Christ has been discovered in the latest digs in the Tuida Fortress in Bulgaria’s Sliven

Tuida, now increasingly gaining popularity as a cultural tourism venue, was originally an Ancient Thracian settlement that grew into a Late Roman, Early Byzantine, and medieval Bulgarian fortress.

The Roman fortress itself was built after the capital of the Roman Empire was moved from Rome to Constantinople in 325 AD.

Among other things, the Tuida Fortress in the city of Sliven in Southeast Bulgaria is remarkable for having a well-preserved secret passage leading outside the stronghold to a nearby river, which was erected in the 6th century AD.

The 2019 archaeological excavations of the Tuida Fortress were conducted for a period of 20 days in the middle of the fall, and led to the discovery of a total of 103 archaeological artifacts, Nikolay Sirakov, Director of the Dr. Simeon Tabakov Regional Museum of History in Sliven has announced at a news conference.

A total of 103 archaeological artifacts have been found in the 2019 excavations in Tuida in Bulgaria’s Sliven.

The archaeological team of the Sliven Regional Museum of History has excavated a spot in the northern part of the Tuida Fortress, unearthing and researching part of a well-preserved home from the 9th – 10th century, a medieval water pipeline, and a total of nine medieval pits, which were part of the said home, Sirakov reveals, as cited by BTA.

The small 10th century cross with a depiction of Jesus Christ discovered in the latest digs in the Tuida Fortress in Sliven is made of bronze.

The partly restored ruins of the Tuida Fortress overlooking the city of Sliven in Southeast Bulgaria
The 10th-century bronze cross is one of the most intriguing archaeological artifacts found in relatively small-scale digs inside the Tuida Fortress in fall 2019.

In addition to the Christian artifacts, the Bulgarian archaeologists have also found a large number of medieval coins and bone artifacts in the latest digs in the Tuida Fortress in Sliven.

The latter finds are seen as a demonstration that bone processing and crafting were among the medieval crafts that were well-developed in the Tuida Fortress.

In addition to the excavations in Tuida, whose partly restored ruins overlook the modern-day city of Sliven, in 2019, the archaeologists from the city’s Regional Museum of History participated in two other exploration projects.

One has been performing rescue archaeological excavations in the town of Zornitsa, Haskovo District, along the route of the natural gas pipeline connecting Bulgaria and Greece (the “Stara Zagora – Komotini” natural gas pipeline, also known as Interconnector Bulgaria – Greece (IBG).

There the archaeologists found a number of artifacts from various time periods dating back as early as the prehistory, including loom weights, fishing tackles, a mold for ceramic lamps, iron arrow tips, and various types of bronze and silver coins.

The most notable artifact found in the digs near Zornitsa led by archaeologist Veselin Ignatov, however, is said to be the bronze umbo (shield boss) of a parade shield.

1,700-Year-Old Bronze Document Found in Roman Fortress

1,700-Year-Old Bronze Document Found in Roman Fortress

For more than half a century, Warsaw archeologists have carried out excavations in Novae (near Svishtov).

The document granting Roman citizenship.

Every year their research presents more information about the life of the members of two armies of historic significance: the Eighth Legion of Augustus and the First Italian Legion. In Novae the relics of the camps were maintained two thousand years ago.

In this summer, archeologists came across significant artifacts during excavations in the ruins of a luxurious centurion’s house (a Roman officer).

“It was a fragment part of a document certifying that the emperor granted Roman citizenship to a legionary after he completed his service”, says the head of research at Novae Prof.

Polish excavations at Novae.

Piotr Dyczek from the Antiquity of Southeastern Europe Research Centre of the University of Warsaw. The partially preserved certificate was engraved on a bronze plate. Archaeologists have not yet deciphered the entire text.

In total, approx. 1,000 similar documents are known from the entire area of the Roman Empire, but very few are from the Danube region. This one dates back to over 1,700 years ago when Emperor Gordian III ruled (238-244 AD).

The full document usually consisted of two “pages”. They had small holes at the long edges, through which the chain was threaded to connect attach the two parts.

“Interestingly, not everyone could look inside the document, not even its owner, because each time after checking its content, officials would seal the chains”, says Prof. Dyczek. The goal of this procedure was to prevent copying and forging these important certificates.

In the early years of the Roman Empire, only Roman citizens, people from the Apennine Peninsula, could serve in the Roman army. This changed in the 3rd century AD.

Rome needed more soldiers to defend its borders, which is why barbarians who were allies of the Empire, people from outside the original borders of the Empire, were also allowed to enlist.

Over time, the Empire expanded its borders and troops were recruited in the new lands, even though they were not Roman citizens.

“After a minimum of 25 years of service, legionaries who became veterans were rewarded in various ways. For example, those who were not Roman citizens could obtain citizenship”, says Prof. Dyczek. Why was this so highly valued?

The archaeologist explains that citizenship opened the way to social advancement: a veteran, whose document Polish researchers found, could successfully run for important public offices and, for example, be elected mayor.

Novae.

Professor Dyczek suspects that the owner of the document was 40-45 years old at the time of receipt (because legionnaires enlisted about the age of 20). “This means that he still had some 20-30 years ahead of him and could get rich thanks to his citizenship”, he adds.

A copy of citizenship certificate was archived in Rome in the form of papyrus. But the key was the original document held by the owner. “Its loss could even be treated as a loss of identity”, Prof. Dyczek emphasizes.

The head of research hopes that in half a year when cleaning and conservation of the document are completed, we will learn the name of the awarded veteran and details of his life.

The “Oldest Gold Of Mankind” was found in the Varna Necropolis

The “Oldest Gold Of Mankind” was found in the Varna Necropolis, on The Bulgarian Black Sea Coast

In 1972, an excavator operator working in the industrial zone of the city Varna will stumble upon something that will turn out to be a very significant historical site. The Varna Necropolis has discovered approximately half a kilometer from Lake Varna and 4 km from the city center. It is estimated that it was made sometime between 4,600 BC to 4,200 BC.

Around 300 graves have been found at this burial site, but the most significant is grave 43. It contained the remains of a high-status person and it was covered with treasures. This single grave contained more gold than all of the other archeological sites from that period put together.

We constantly speak about early, ancient, civilizations like the ones that thrived in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Indus Valley, that shaped humanity as we know today. But not a lot of people know about the mysterious people that lived on the shores of the Back Sea in modern-day Bulgaria 7,000 years ago. Archeologists call this civilization the Varna Culture.

The Varna Culture was considered small and insignificant for a long time until it was proven that this was a highly developed culture that preexisted Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations. The discoveries made in the Varna Necropolis also showed that it was that first known culture that produced artifacts made of gold. This site is the largest prehistoric necropolis in south-eastern Europe.

According to the evidence, gold processing in the Varna region started between 4600 and 4200 BC. The ore processing technology was constantly developing here, and soon, the craftsmen became very skilled in manufacturing copper and gold items. They had the perfect products for trade.

Varna people were perfectly situated between the east and the western world. One one side they had the Black Sea and the opportunity to trade with their neighbors that lived around it and beyond, and on the other side, the road was opened for trade with the whole Mediterranean region. Because of this Varna became an important trading center.

They were able to accumulate great wealth (especially the craftsmen that worked with gold and copper) and develop a nice society mostly consisted of Metallurgists, merchants, and farmers, kind of a class system. This was the basis upon which a powerful and influential culture emerged, one that would spread across Europe for thousands of years.

Before 1972, the only artifacts found from the time of the Varna Culture were tools, vessels, utensils, and figurines made from stone, flint, bone, and claystone made. But, after archeologists Mihail Lazarov and Ivan Ivanov revealed the Varna Necropolis to the world, this amazing civilization was viewed from a different perspective.

These are probably the oldest gold artifacts in the world.

Inside the 300 graves of the necropolis, archeologists unearthed more than 22,000 unique artifacts. This huge list of items contains more than 3,000 golden artifacts, that is 6 kilograms of pure gold. Besides this, there were also plenty of high-quality copper, flint and stone tools, jewelry, shells of Mediterranean mollusks, pottery, obsidian blades, and beads.

The Varna man 

Among the many elite burials in the necropolis, there was one that was different from the others. Different in the sense of “more spectacular.” After uncovering grave 43, archeologists concluded that it was the final resting place of a high-status male, probably a ruler, or some kind of leader in the society.

This was the richest grave of all that have been found, not only in Varna Necropolis but in the whole world at that time. The person was buried with a beautiful golden scepter in his hand. The scepter is a symbol of high rank or spiritual power.

His whole body and its surroundings were covered with golden items. Necklaces, bracelets, earrings, round shaped golden items placed on specific parts of the body, and he even had a golden plate around the genitals. Together with the golden artifacts, the weapons that probably belonged to this person were also placed around his body.

Besides the material richness that Varna necropolis provided archeologists with, it also gave an insight into the hierarchy in this ancient society, their religious beliefs and intricate burial practices. Males and females were buried differently. Males were laid out on their backs while females were placed in the fetal position. There was also another type of graves found.

Some of the graves didn’t contain skeletons, they were only filled with items. These symbolic graves, known as cenotaphs, were one of the richest with gold and treasures. They contained masks made of clay and gold amulets made in the shape of women, placed below the mask, where the neck of a buried person was supposed to be.

Some of the items found inside the “symbolic graves”

The amulets are symbolizing pregnancy and fertility which indicates that they are meant for women. The empty graves also contained a copper pin, a flint knife, and a spindle whorl.

This further indicates that the symbolic graves were made for women, or as a gift for some kind of deity that symbolizes the feminine principle. It is still a mystery why these graves were left without human remains.

The Varna civilization is without direct descendants, they were probably assimilated in other surrounding European and Asian cultures during all those centuries of turmoil in this region.

However, they left a huge legacy and with their accomplishments they made the appearance of the following European civilizations possible. We may never know how the Varna people really lived, but Varna necropolis with all the magical artifacts opens our imaginations.