Bulgarian Authorities to Grant ‘Monument of Culture’ Status to Late Antiquity Fortress, Ancient Bulgar Wall on Black Sea Coast

A view of the earthwork of the Ancient Bulgar rampart wall near the Bulgarian Black Sea town of Shkorpilovtsi from the early period of the First Bulgarian Empire (632/680-1018 AD). Photo: Dolni Chiflik Municipality

A view of the earthwork of the Ancient Bulgar rampart wall near the Bulgarian Black Sea town of Shkorpilovtsi from the early period of the First Bulgarian Empire (632/680-1018 AD). Photo: Dolni Chiflik Municipality

A special commission from Bulgaria’s Ministry of Culture has decided to propose a “monument of culture” status for an archaeological complex near the town of Shkorpilovtsi on the Black Sea coast consisting of a Late Antiquity Early Byzantine fortress, an Early Christian basilica, an Early Christian tomb, and part of an Ancient Bulgar wall (rampart).

The commission appointed by Bulgaria’s Culture Minister Vezhdi Rashidov has spent three days inspecting the different components of the archaeological site near the town of Skorpilovtsi on the Black Sea coast. The town is actually named after Czech-Bulgarian brothers Karel and Hermann Skorpil who founded modern-day Bulgarian archaeology at the end of the 19th century.

The commission is chaired by archaeologist Viktor Popov included a total of 12 experts – archaeologists, historians, architects, and representatives of the Ministry of Environment and Waters, Dolni Chiflik Municipality has announced.

“The archaeological property “Late Antiquity Fortress (Quadriburg), Early Christian Basilica, Early Christian Tomb, and Part of Ancient Bulgar Wall” has been explored partly. The excavated elements of the fortification, buildings, and facilities attest to a very important archaeological monument of culture of Early Christian art and architecture, and define its high scientific, cultural, and historic value. Its location suggests an exhibition potential for turning it into a site for cultural tourism, explains Yordanka Petrova, chief tourism expert at Dolni Chiflik Municipality where the archaeological monuments are located.

The commission is expected to file a report to the Special Expert Council for the Protection of Cultural Properties recommending that the site near Shkorpilovtsi be granted the status of a “monument of culture of national significance”.

The Ancient Bulgar wall (rampart) found near Shkorpilovtsi is located 1.25 km east of the town on both banks of the Fandakliyska River all the way to its mouth where it flows into the Black Sea. The preserved section of the earthwork is long 2.125 km, it is up to 3 meters tall, and 10-15 metes wide, and has no moat.

It is from the period of the First Bulgarian Empire (632/680-1018 AD) was constructed after the Ancient Bulgars moved the center of their state from the so called Old Great Bulgaria founded in 632 AD in the today’s Ukraine and Southwest Russia to the region of the Lower Danube around 680 AD. The rampart was built on top of the ruins of of Late Antiquity structures from the 4th-5th century AD.

Explorations of such earthwork ramparts shows that all of them are built on low terraces on the sea coast, on both banks of a certain river, or between two rivers. Everywhere they follow the local terrain using natural defenses such as rocks, hills, and swamps, and sometimes a moat was added, explains the statement of Dolni Chiflik Municipality.

The Ancient Bulgar wall section near Shkorpilovtsi is the second monument of its kind explored near Bulgaria’s Northern Black Sea coast after the Wall of Khan Asparukh (r. 680-700 AD) near the city of Varna.

The rampart section near Shkorpilovtsi was built using clay, sand, and stones mixed with fragmented bricks and mortar on the southern (right) bank of the Fandakliyska River. On the northern bank of the river its construction is more similar to Khan Asparukh’s wall where clay sand was mixed with mortar to create an increadibly strong structure. Where the rampart follows a terrace edge it has a wide stone wall in its middle to prevent the earthwork from sliding down the steep slopes.

The Late Antiquity Roman and Early Byzantine fortress, which is part of the archaeological complex near Shkorpilovtsi, is lcoated 1.4 km southeast of the town, and has the shape of a rectangle with sides 100 m (north-south) to 70 m (east-west).

The small but robust fortress was built in the second half of the 4th century AD; it featured strong round fortress towers. A large Early Christian basilica was built in its easten section.

The region of today’s town of Shkorpilovtsi was of great importance for the Roman Empire in the 1st-4th century AD, and later for the Eastern Roman Empire, Byzantium, because it was part of the route of a strategic road going from Constantinople to the mouth of the Danube River along the Black Sea coast. The fortress was destroyed at the end of the 6th century AD by a barbarian invasion.

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