Bulgarian Archaeologists Uncover Ancient Hand Mill, Odessos Fortress Wall in Varna

A partially compromised earthen jar and an ancient millstone (next to the jar) found in downtown Varna. Photo by Darik Varna

A partially compromised earthen jar and an ancient millstone (next to the jar) found in downtown Varna. Photo by Darik Varna

Bulgarian archaeologists have discovered new ancient artifacts as well as parts of the fortress wall of the Ancient Greek and Roman city of Odessos during rescue digs in the downtown of the Black Sea city of Varna.

An ancient hand mill and an almost fully preserved earthen jar are the most exciting finds the archaeologists from the Varna Museum of Archaeology (also called Varna Regional Museum of History) have come across during the rescue excavations restarted on Friday, March 13, 2015.

They have been found during excavations of the so called Varna Largo, the central Knyaz Boris I Boulevard in Varna, near the spot where a 5th century earthen jar was discovered in January 2015, archaeologist Alexander Minchev has announced, as cited by Darik Radio Varna.

The rescue digs in downtown Varna are being carried out along the so called Varna Largo. The St. Nikolay Church is visible in the background. Photo by Cherno More news agency

The rescue digs in downtown Varna are being carried out along the so called Varna Largo. The St. Nikolay Church is visible in the background. Photo by Cherno More news agency

A new and previously unknown part of the fortress wall of the ancient Black Sea port city of Odessos has also been uncovered, and near the St. Nikolay Church, also in the downtown, the archaeologists have come across ruins from a massive ancient building.

“Right now a team from the museum is clearing the area in front of the St. Nikolay Church so that we can continue with the excavations. We are proceeding extremely carefully because this area is going to reveal Varna’s most ancient history,” explains Valentin Pletnyov, director of the Varna Museum of Archaeology,  as cited by Dnevnik.

The ancient stonemill was used for grinding grain in the late Antiquity. Photo by Darik Varna

The ancient stonemill was used for grinding grain in the late Antiquity. Photo by Darik Varna

The ancient hand mill, a stonemill for grinding grain, and the partially compromised earthen jar were discovered by the Varna archaeologists early in the morning.

The newly revealed section of the fortress wall of the ancient city of Odessos has given the archaeologists new important information about the Odessos fortifications. It is now leading them to reconsider the architecture of the fortress as the wall appears to have been located in a different way than previously thought.

The new part of the Odessos fortress wall has been uncovered at a depth of just 40 cm below the asphalt of the Knyaz Boris I Boulevard in Varna. It is believed to have been 4 meters tall, and was very robust, according to archaeologist Alexander Minchev.

The newly uncovered section of the fortress of the ancient Black Sea city of Odessos in Varna, Bulgaria. Photo by Darik Radio

The newly uncovered section of the fortress of the ancient Black Sea city of Odessos in Varna, Bulgaria. Photo by Darik Radio

The rescue digs in downtown Varna have just been restarted after rehabilitation works in the downtown of Bulgaria’s largest Black Sea city recently revealed impressive ancient finds such as the already mentioned 1500-year-old earthen jar.

Also in January 2015, construction workers in Varna “rediscovered” for the archaeologists and the public a previously excavated but long-forgotten Roman tomb located in the very downtown.

The rescue excavations in downtown Varna are planned to continue for a month, and the local archaeologists have declared their readiness to work on weekends as well. They say they will not disturb the rehabilitation and construction works along the Knyaz Boris I Boulevard as they plan to excavate the different sections of the boulevard gradually, moving from one section to the next.

Once the excavations are over, a commission from Bulgaria’s Culture Ministry is to issue directions how and where the newly found artifacts should be kept and exhibited.

A partially compromised earthen jar and an ancient millstone found in downtown Varna. Photo by Darik Varna

A partially compromised earthen jar and an ancient millstone found in downtown Varna. Photo by Darik Varna

Background Infonotes:

The dawn of Varnas history dates back to the dawn of human civilization, the Eneolithic Varna Necropolis being especially well known with the discovery of the world’s oldest find of gold artifacts dating back to the 5th millenium BC.

Ancient Odessos is considered the precursor of the Bulgarian Black Sea city of Varna. It was founded by Miletian Greek colonists at the end of 7th century BC, the earliest Greek archaeological material dating back to 600-575 BC. However, the Greek colony was established within an earlier Ancient Thracian settlement, and the name Odessos had existed before the arrival of the Miletian Greeks and might have been of Carian origin. Odessos as the Roman city of Odessus became part of the Roman Empire in 15 AD when it was incorporated in the Roman province Moesia. Roman Odessos is especially known today for its well preserved public baths, or thermae, the largest Roman single structure remains in Bulgaria, and the fourth largest Roman public baths known in Europe.

The First Bulgarian Empire (680-1018 AD) conquered Odessos (Varna) from Romes successor, the Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantium, in the late 7th century. It is even believed that the peace treaty in which the Byzantine Empire recognized the ceding of its northern territories along the Danube to Bulgaria was signed in Odessos. The v(val) that the first ruler of Danube Bulgaria, Khan (or kanas) Asparuh built at the time as a defense against future Byzantine incursions is still standing. Numerous Ancient Bulgar settlements around Varna have been excavated, and the First Bulgarian Empire had its first two capitals Pliska (681-893 AD) and Veliki (Great) Preslav (893-970 AD) just 70-80 km to the west of Varna. It is suggested that the name of Varna itself is of Bulgar origin. In the Middle Ages, as a coastal city, Varna changed hands between Bulgaria and Byzantium several times. It was reconquered for the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD) by Tsar Kaloyan (r. 1197-1207 AD) in 1201 AD.

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