A spout which was draining newly brewed rakia from the distillation vessel back in the 11th century has been discovered by archaeologists in the Lyutitsa Fortress near Bulgaria’s Ivaylovgrad. Photo: BNT
A fragment from an 11th century vessel for the distillation of rakia, a traditional fruitbrandydrink popular in Bulgaria and other Balkan countries, has been discovered by the archaeologists excavating the Late Antiquity and medieval fortress Lyutitsa near the town of Ivaylovgrad in Southern Bulgaria.
The discovery of the medieval rakia distillation vessel has been made by a team led by archaeologist Filip Petrunov from the National Museum of History in Sofia, the Museum has announced.
The discovered fragment is actually the spout of a ceramic tube which drained the rakia from a round distillation vessel where it was brewed into another vessel where it was kept.
Even though it is from the High Middle Ages, it is hardly different from the modern-day devices used for the production of the rakia, according to the archaeological team.
“This [rakia making] technology is extremely simple but it is efficient,"lead archaeologist Filip Petrunov has told the Bulgarian National Television.
The Museum reminds that this is the second case of a medieval rakia distillation vessel fragment to have been discovered in the Lyutitsa Fortress, and the third such discovery in Bulgaria overall.
The previous such discovery was made in Lyutitsa in 2011. The other similar find was also discovered in 2011 but in the medieval city of Drastar (Drustur), successor of the ancient Durostorum (Durustorum), today’s Danube city of Silistra in Northeast Bulgaria.
While all discovered rakia distillation vessel fragments in Bulgaria are dated to the 11th century, Petrunov says the respective brewing technology may have emerged even as early as the 9th century, and may have been brought in from the Middle East.
“It was not just bellicose barbarians who invaded from the East but also a number of innovations and improvements, and it could assumed that the distillation of rakia might have been one of them," he adds.
In its statement, the National Museum of History in Sofia that until the recent archaeological discoveries, historians had believed that rakia, which is essentially the traditional alcoholic drink in Bulgaria, was invented only in the 15th century.
In this account, the commander told Ottoman Sultan (Emir) Murad Ithat his attack against Sredets (Sofia) in 1382 failed because the city was defended by “hardened moustached Bulgarians" who would drink rakia before the battles thus “becoming invincible".
(Sofia was attacked by the Ottoman Turks unsuccessfully several times – in 1349, 1355, and 1382, and was conquered only in 1388.)
This is fragment of a 14th century cup from the Trapesitsa Hill Fortress in Veliko Tarnovo with an inscription reading, “I drank rakia during the feast".
The Museum also points out that these discoveries have been used as arguments supporting the claim of the Bulgarian government before the European Union to brand grape rakia a Bulgarian product under the EU schemes for geographical indications and traditional specialities.
Learn more about the Lyutitsa Fortress near Bulgaria’s Ivaylovgrad in the Background Infonotes below!
The LyutitsaFortress is a LateAntiquity / EarlyByzantine and medievalBulgarianfortress located in the EasternRhodopeMountains near the town of Ivaylovgrad (and the depopulated town of Rogozovo (or Rogozino)), HaskovoDistrict, in SouthernBulgaria.
It has a total area of 26 decares (app. 6.4 acres), and is also known as the MarbleCity (because its fortress walls are made of whitemarble), and as Kaloyan’sCitadel (after TsarKaloyan (r. 1197-1207) of the SecondBulgarianEmpire).
Even though its research is still in its early stages, there is archaeological evidence to believe that this particular fortress is the rich medieval city Lyutitsa which is mentioned in numerous historical sources. In the 9th-17th century, Lyutitsa was the center of a bishopric, and in the 17th-18th century – of an archbishopric.
Lyutitsa is one of the best preserved Bulgarian fortresses from the Middle Ages; in that, it is comparable to other well preservedmedievalfortresses in Southern and SoutheastBulgaria such as the Mezek Fortress and the MatochinaFortress. Its fortress walls and towers have been preserved up to a height of 6-10 meters. It has 12 fortresstowers, 9 of which have survived.
The LyutitsaFortress is also located close to another popular archaeologicallandmark, the Ancient Roman villa Armira which has been restored and has emerged as a well-known culturaltourismsite.
Archaeologicalfinds such as pottery, coins, decorations, household items made of metal and bone indicate that the location of Lyutitsa was inhabited as early as the 1st millennium BC, (starting in the Late Bronze Age), i.e. the time of AncientThrace.
The first time Lyutitsa was mentioned in historicalsources goes back to the 9th-10th century when its name appears as a bishopric in the parish lists of ByzantineEmperorLeo VI the Wise (r. 886-912) and EcumenicalPatriarchofConstantinopleNicholas I Mysticus (901-907; 912-925), and then again in 940 under ByzantineEmperorConstantine VII the Purple-born (r. 913-959). It was also mentioned in the memoires of ByzantineEmperorJohn VI Cantacuzene (r. 1347-1354) who reveals that the city of Lyutitsa was destroyed in the invasion of the Ottoman Turks in the Balkans in the 14th century. While its name was not mentioned explicitly, it is also believed that the LyutitsaFortress was referred to by Frenchknight and historianGeoffrey of Villehardouin of the FourthCrusade who speaks of a fortress where TsarKaloyan (r. 1197-1207) of the SecondBulgarianEmpire stationed his troops after the siege of Dimotika (Didymoteicho) in 1207.
Based on historical and archaeologicalresearch, it is believed that the LyutitsaFortress first became part of the FirstBulgarianEmpire (632/680-1018) in the 9th century when it was located in the area of the border with Byzantium, and subsequently changed hands numerous times.
The fortresswalls of Lyutitsa date back to the LateAntiquity (4th-6th century), i.e. the EarlyByzantineperiod. They were destroyed several times, and today’s surviving fortresswalls and towers are believed to have been erected in the 12th-13th century. The fortress was in use during the time of EarlyByzantium and the medieval Bulgarian Empire, and even survived well into the Ottomanperiod and LateMiddleAges, i.e. up until the end of the 18th century when its residents abandoned it, and settled at nearby mineral springs founding a town called Ladzha (today a quarter of Ivaylovgrad).
Lyutitsa’sfortresswall has a total length of 600 meters. It features one octagonal, two round, and nine rectangular fortresstowers. Inside the fortress, archaeologists have found the ruins of two churches (dating back to the 10th and 15th-16th century, respectively), the keep of the fortress, a well, a waterreservoir hewn into the rocks (with Thracianfindsdiscovered on its bottom), a seweragesystem as well as a medievalnecropolis with 15 graves.
The 10th century bishopricchurch was built of marble, and had three naves and a very rich decoration of both murals and marblereliefs.
The most interesting finds include: AncientBulgar / medievalBulgarianpotteryidentical with the pottery from Pliska (capital of the FirstBulgarianEmpire in 680-893) and Veliki Preslav (capital of the FirstBulgarianEmpire in 893-970), which is a testimony to the importance of the LyutitsaFortress for medievalBulgaria and its high culture; a very rare coin of Byzantine Emperor John V Palaeologus; as well as two medieval fragments from vessels for the distillation of rakia, a traditional fruitbrandydrink popular in Bulgaria and the Balkans (found in 2011 and 2015).
In 2006, the archaeologists found in Lyutitsa the grave of one of the medieval bishops of the city who was buried in a sitting position, holding a magnificent silver-coated bronze cross in his right hand.