North African Amphorae Found by Bulgarian Archaeologists in Byzantine Black Sea Fortress Originated in Tunisia

One of the amphorae discovered by the Bulgarian archaeologists in the Early Byzantine fortress Talaskara on the Black Sea Cape Chervenka, also known as Chrisosotira, or “Golden Savior, Golden Christ

One of the amphorae discovered by the Bulgarian archaeologists in the Early Byzantine fortress Talaskara on the Black Sea Cape Chervenka, also known as Chrisosotira, or “Golden Savior, Golden Christ", near Bulgaria’s Black Sea resort town of Chernomorets. Photo: Sozopol Municipality

The North African amphorae (a type of ancient pottery vessels) discovered by Bulgarian archaeologists excavating the Late Antiquity and Early Byzantine fortress of Talaskara on the Black Sea Cape Chervenka, also known as the Chrisosotira (“Golden Savior, Golden Christ") Peninsula, originated in Tunisia, lead archaeologist Ivan Hristov has explained.

At least two of the some 50 amphorae found in a Late Antiquity building in the Byzantine fortress on Bulgaria’s Cape of Chervenka were made in Tunisia, Hristov, who is the Deputy Director of Bulgaria’s National Museum of History in Sofia, has told Radio Focus – Burgas.

He has revealed that the Tunisian amphorae are typical for the end of the 6th and the beginning of the 7th century AD. The North African vessels have been recognized by their inscriptions by experienced Bulgarian restorer of archaeological artifacts Zheni Koycheva.

Some of the other intact amphorae found by the Bulgarian archaeologists in the Byzantine fortress of Talaskara on the Black Sea Cape Chervenka (Chrisosotira Peninsula) originated on the western coast of Asia Minor, Hristov adds.

These are vessels of Late Antiquity “red-gloss ceramics". These discoveries are combined with very well preserved numismatic materialcoins that we discovered on the floor of the building," says the archaeologist regarding the latest discoveries on Cape Chervenka near Bulgaria’s Black Sea resort town of Chernomorets.

The coins discovered on the floor of the Byzantine cafeteria on the Chrisosotira / Chervenka Peninsula are from the reigns of Byzantine Emperors Justinian I the Great (r. 527-565 AD), Tiberius II Constantine (r. 574-582 AD), Maurice (r. 582-602 AD), Phocas (r. 602-610 AD), and Heraclius (r. 610-641 AD).

The latest of the coins is from 614 AD, which is the year of a devastating barbarian invasion campaign by the Avars and the Slavs in the Balkan provinces of the Byzantine Empire, who destroyed lots of settlements and fortresses in today’s Southeast Bulgaria.

One of the coins, however, was found in the mortar of the fortress wall; it is unknown whether it was placed in the wall on purpose or ended up there by accident. The coin is dated to the end of the 5th century AD before the reforms of Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I (r. 491-518 AD).

“We are studying the largest non-urban fortress in the Bay of Burgas," says Ivan Hristov adding that the Bulgarian archaeologists are still unable to say what portion of the Byzantine fortress is presently under water, which is why they are about to launch an expedition of underwater archaeology to figure this out.

After their restoration, the archaeological artifacts found in the Early Byzantine fortress of Talaskara on the Black Sea Cape Chervenka will be exhibited in the newly founded History Museum in the resort town of Chernomorets (which was opened in September 2014), Sozopol Municipality.

The archaeological team excavating the Early Byzantine fortress on Cape Chervenka (Chrisosotira) located near the resort town of Chernomorets, Sozopol Municipality, is led by Assoc. Prof. Ivan Hristov from Bulgaria’s National Museum of History in Sofia, and also includes archaeologists from the Burgas Regional Museum of History, Sozopol Municipality has announced.

For the second consecutive year, the archaeological excavations on Cape Chervenka, also known as the Chrisosotira Peninsula, are focusing on the Early Byzantine fortress Talaskara, which was built during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I (r. 491-518 AD) at the end of the 5th century AD, and existed until the beginning of the 7th century AD when it was conquered by the Slavs in a barbarian invasion.

The Late Antiquity and early medieval fortress near Bulgaria’s Chernomorets has an area of 68 decares (app. 17 acres), and could provide refuge for about 2,000 people in the event of an attack. It is the site of a former military base of the Bulgarian Navy, and excavations there are conducted with the special permission of the Bulgarian Defense Ministry.

The Black Sea Cape Chervenka, also known as Chrisosotira, or “Golden Savior, Golden Christ

The Black Sea Cape Chervenka, also known as Chrisosotira, or “Golden Savior, Golden Christ", near Bulgaria’s Black Sea resort town of Chernomorets. Photo: Assoc. Prof. Ivan Hristov, National Museum of History

Cape Chervenka is a small peninsula with a narrow neck south Bulgaria’s Black Sea town of Chernomorets. It harbors the unexplored ruins of an Early Byzantine fortress with an unknown name. Map: Google Maps

Cape Chervenka is a small peninsula with a narrow neck south Bulgaria’s Black Sea town of Chernomorets. It harbors the unexplored ruins of an Early Byzantine fortress with an unknown name. Map: Google Maps

Since they started their second annual excavations of the fortress at the beginning of June 2015, the Bulgarian archaeologists have explored about 300 meters of the fortress wall in the western and northeastern part of the Chrisosotira / Chervenka Peninsula; in this section, the fortress wall is 2.4 meters thick, and has 4 towers, two of which have just been researched.

The archaeologists are planning to launch an underwater expedition in order to study the end section of the western wall of the Talaskara Fortress, where they also expect to discover 6th century AD port facilities.

A major discovery made by Hristov’s team in early June 2015 are the foundations of a large public building with dimensions 13 x 6 meters, which was adjacent to the inside of the Byzantine city’s fortress wall, and whose roof collapsed helping to preserve the artifacts inside it. The building in question was a cafeteria where the Bulgarian archaeologists have discovered a large amount of pottery vessels and Late Antiquity Byzantine coins

This discovery of the Tunisian amphorae on Bulgaria’s Cape Chervenka is said to be changing the perceptions about the Late Antiquity and early medieval history of the region of Chernomorets located on today’s Southern Black Sea coast of Bulgaria. It indicates that in the 6th-7th century AD the region was an important commercial and sailing center. The Bulgarian archaeologists believe that the amphorae were used for transporting products such as grain, wine, and olive oil.

The Bulgarian archaeologists are hoping to be able to reach to deepest archaeological layers on Cape Chervenka where in 2014 they discovered artifacts from the period of the Ancient Greek colonization of the Black Sea coast in the 6th century AD.

Lead archaeologist Ivan Hristov has already published three books on the rich history of the Black Sea resort town of Chernomorets, and is about to publish the first volume of his new book about the most recent archaeological excavations there.

The excavations on Cape Chervenka are funded by Bulgaria’s National Museum of History in Sofia, the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture, and the Municipality of Sozopol.

Background Infonotes:

The Late Antiquity and Early Byzantine fortress Talaskara on Cape Chervenka, also known as Chrisosotira (“Golden Savior, Golden Christ") is located on a small peninsula on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast near the resort town of Chernomorets, and 2 km northwest of the resort town of Sozopol. Not unlike the peninsula of the Old Town of Nessebar, another Black Sea resort town, Cape Chervenka has a narrow neck leading to a wider cape with an area of 68 decares (app. 17 acres), which was surrounded with a robust fortress wall with large fortress towers every 30 meters. The fortress wall of the Byzantine fortress Talaskara on Cape Chervenka (Chrisosotira) is from the 6th century, and was built as part of the large-scale fortress construction at the time of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I the Great (r. 527-565 AD).

For a long time, Cape Chervenka was a military base of the Bulgarian Navy, and Bulgarian archaeologists gained access to it only in 2014 when a team led by archaeologist Assoc. Prof. Ivan Hristov, Deputy Director of the Bulgarian National Museum of History, conducted drilling excavations with a special permit from Bulgaria’s Defense Ministry. A large fortress tower with dimensions 5 by 6 meters unearthed by Ivan Hristov’s team in 2014 is taken to indicate that the fortified Byzantine settlement located on Cape Chervenka was a rich city. The last time the fortress on Chervenka was used was during the Russian-Turkish War of 1828-1829 when the navy of the Russian Empire used it to set up a base where it accepted tens of thousands of Bulgarian refugees fleeing Ottoman Turkish atrocities who were then transported by sea to the region of Bessarabia (in today’s Moldova and Ukraine), and the Taurica (Crimean) Peninsula, and settled there.