Archaeologists Start Excavating Previously Unexplored Late Antiquity Fortress near Bulgaria’s Banya

The so called Kaleto Fortress near Bulgaria's Banya has never been excavated before. Photo: Panagyurishte Municipality

The so called Kaleto Fortress near Bulgaria’s Banya has never been excavated before. Photo: Panagyurishte Municipality

For the first time Bulgarian archaeologists have started excavating a previously unexplored Late Antiquity fortress known as Kaleto near the central Bulgarian town of Banya, Panagyurishte Municipality.

The excavations of the Kaleto Fortress near Banya (“kale” is a Turkish word meaning “fortress” left over from the Ottoman period commonly used for the numerous ruins of ancient and medieval fortresses all over Bulgaria, whose proper names are sometimes unknown) started on April 2, 2015, Panagyurishte Municipality announced on its website.

The initial partial excavation of the Kaleto Fortress near Banya is funded with BGN 15,000 (app. EUR 7,600) of EU funding under Operational ProgramRural Development”.

The project has been initiated by a Local Initiative Group, a NGO, active in the towns of Panagyurishte, Strelcha, and Lisichovo.

The fortress near Banya is believed to be from the Late Antiquity period, i.e. a Late Roman or Early Byzantine fortress; however, it is possible that the archaeologists might discover that it had originally been a Thracian fortress that was later built upon, explains Banya Mayor Stoyan Nozhdelov, as cited by the Bulgarian information agency Focus.

He says that different archaeological artifacts such as tools, arrows, and spears have been found by locals on the site of the Kaleto Fortress.

Its first excavations are being led by Assoc. Prof. Valeri Grigorov from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, with Lyubka Todorova, archaeologist from the Pazardzhik Regional Museum of History, Georgi Abdulov, former Director of the Panagyurishte Museum of History, and Vasil Katsarov, curator at the same museum, also participating.

Background Infonotes:

The Late Antiquity and Early Byzantine fortress known as Kaleto is located near the central Bulgarian town of Banya, Panagyurishte Municipality, Plovdiv District. The archaeological excavations of the Kaleto Fortress near Banya (“kale” is a Turkish word meaning “fortress” left over from the Ottoman period commonly used for the numerous ruins of ancient and medieval fortresses all over Bulgaria, whose proper names are sometimes unknown) were held for the first time in April-May 2015.

Historians and archaeologists think that the fortress Kaleto near Banya was originally an Ancient Thracian settlement. The first stone masonry on the site and the construction of the fortress wall date to the 5th century AD, and there are indications that it was destroyed during the barbarian invasion of Attila’s Huns. After that, the fortress near Banya was rebuilt by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I the Great (r. 527-565 AD). It was restored in the 12th century AD but fell prey to an invasion once again – this time it was destroyed by the crusader knights from the Third Crusade (1189-1192 AD). However, it remained in use during the entire period of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396), until it was conquered by the Ottoman Turks at the end of the 14th century.

The Kaleto fortress near Banya was important in ancient and medieval times because of its strategic location between the Valley of Zlatitsa and Pirdop, and the Upper Thracian Plain (in today’s Southern Bulgaria). Different archaeological artifacts such as tools, arrows, and spears have been found by locals on the site of the Kaleto Fortress. Its first excavations were led by Assoc. Prof. Valeri Grigorov from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, together with Lyubka Todorova, archaeologist from the Pazardzhik Regional Museum of History, Georgi Abdulov, former Director of the Panagyurishte Museum of History, and Vasil Katsarev, curator at the same museum.