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Aerial view of the Cape Chiroza fortified Hellenistic center recently found on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria.   Source: Burgas Municipality

Fortified Hellenistic Center And Underwater Site Found In Bulgaria

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In Bulgaria, a fortified Hellenistic center has been found on the country’s Black Sea coast . A fortress has been discovered on the shore and, what’s more, a large underwater site has been located in the waters nearby the coastal fortress site. The experts believe they may have located an important fortified Hellenistic center that could provide new insights on this important historical period.

Experts from the National History Museum in Sofia and the local Regional History Museum in Burgas carried out investigations on Cape Chiroza. They concentrated their work on the area between the village of Chengene Skele, on Burgas Bay, and the Kraimorie district. Unusually, the archaeological investigations involved both land-based and marine archaeology.

The Clues Found At This New Ancient Hellenistic Stronghold

On a headland that overlooks a bay, a team of archaeologists found a massive structure. It was theorized, based on the scale, that it was a stronghold, especially given that there was an outline of some walls and a ditch, which was probably a moat. Archaeology News Network quotes a statement  from the team that “The fortification had an area of 800 square meters and was protected by a stone wall and a large moat.” The moat was 4 feet (1.3 meters) deep and was 12 feet (4 meters) wide.

A few of the ancient decorated ceramic fragments found at the Cape Chiroza site. (Burgas Municipality)

A few of the ancient decorated ceramic fragments found at the Cape Chiroza site. ( Burgas Municipality )

An enormous range of ceramic artifacts were uncovered on the headland. According to a statement “An indicator of the dating of the site is the ceramic material,” reports The Sofia Globe . Some 260 fragments of ceramics have been excavated and “40 per cent are made of Thracian ceramics – vessels made by hand, with plastic decoration and a polished surface.” The Thracians were a people who dominated much of the Eastern Balkans for centuries. They were a martial people, with probably the most famous individual from this ethnicity being Spartacus.

How The Ceramic Artifacts Were Dated

Among the ceramics found were pieces of amphorae, which were used to store products such as wine. Also found were pieces of imported and locally made cups and some lacquered ceramics with ornate decorations including embossed work. Some of the amphorae came from the Aegean island of Kos and some of the other pieces came from wares that originated in Pergamum, a Hellenistic center in what is now Turkey.

There was no organic material found at the site and this meant that carbon dating was not possible. However, given the large number of ceramic artifacts found, experts were able to date the center. Sofia News Network reports that “A reliable marker for dating the site are the handles, the bottoms of bone amphorae (from the island of Kos) and the ceramic fragments of presumed origin from the area of ancient Pergamum.” Based on this it was established that the fortress was built and occupied in the 1 st or 2 nd century BC.

Fortified Hellenistic Centers: A Linked Defensive Network

The discovery of the remains of the fortified Hellenistic center demonstrates that there were a series of Greek fortresses on the cape, possibly part of a defensive network. This find roughly dates from the same time as the already known Hellenistic fortified locations found at “ Primorsko, Sinemorets, Brodilovo and Izvor,” according to the Archaeology News Network article. There is the possibility that the remains on the cape are those of an enclosure from a religious sanctuary , which were common in the classical world.

Elated researchers posing with a perfect amphorae and a worked stone found underwater, just off the coast of Cape Chiroza. (Burgas Municipality)

Elated researchers posing with a perfect amphorae and a worked stone found underwater, just off the coast of Cape Chiroza. ( Burgas Municipality )

An underwater archaeological survey was carried out over the summer. The archaeologists found a structure that covered an area of .25 acres (0.1 hectares) under the sea water. The Sofia Globe reports that “Several scatterings of stones were found on an underwater terrace east of Cape Chiroza at a depth of four meters.” Many stones that clearly show that they had been processed, because of their shape, were photographed.

One of the amphorae, in perfect condition, found just off the coast from the fortified Hellenistic center recently found at Cape Chiroza. (Burgas Municipality)

One of the amphorae, in perfect condition, found just off the coast from the fortified Hellenistic center recently found at Cape Chiroza. ( Burgas Municipality )

Underwater Finds: Ancient Tiles, A Stone Anchor, Amphorae

Interestingly, many ceramics from buildings, specifically tiles, were found at the underwater site. Some were Greek in origin and some were “Roman tegulas and imbrexes (overlapping roof tiles used in ancient Greek and Roman architecture as a waterproof and durable roof covering),” reports Archaeology News Network . Some tiles from late antiquity period (4 th to 6 th century AD) were also identified and this may indicate that the center was occupied for many years.

In total, 100 ceramic pieces were found, a stone anchor, almost intact amphorae, and a cannonball. The Sofia Globe , quoting a statement from the authorities, stated that “At this stage of the underwater research, it is assumed that the site at the foot of Cape Chiroza covered an area of 2000 square meters.” Further investigations are planned for both the land and underwater sites. This may reveal more about the history of the fortress and the settlement, their role in the region, and why they were abandoned.

Top image: Aerial view of the Cape Chiroza fortified Hellenistic center recently found on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria.   Source: Burgas Municipality

By Ed Whelan

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