Museum in Bulgaria’s Kazanlak Gets Long-Awaited Government Permit to Excavate Medieval Fortress Buzovo Kale

The Buzovo Kale Fortress near Bulgaria's Kazanlak has never been excavated before. Photo: STZ24

The Buzovo Kale Fortress near Bulgaria’s Kazanlak has never been excavated before. Photo: STZ24

The team of the “Iskra” (“Spark”) History Museum in the central Bulgarian town of Kazanlak has been granted a permit to carry out rescue excavations of the Early Byzantine, and medieval Bulgarian fortress of Buzovo Kale near the town of Buzovgrad.

The excavations are to start in the late spring of 2016, the Kazanlak Museum has announced, adding that Bulgaria’s Cabinet has granted it a three-year permit to research the Buzovo Kale Fortress.

They will be funded by the Museum in Kazanlak which will also be required to pay for any trees that are to be felled as a result of the digs, and for the subsequent reforestation.

Buzovo Kale (“kale” is a Turkish word for “fortress” which is still in use in Bulgaria as a remnant from the period of the Ottoman Yoke for fortresses whose real names are unknown) was named after a mythical Bulgarian voivode (rebel military commander), Buz, who led the defense of the fortress against the seven-month siege laid by the invading Ottoman Turks at the end of the 14th century.

The first ever archaeological excavations of Buzovo Kale, which are to take place in 2016, will be led by Dr. Deyan Rabovyanov from the Veliko Tarnovo Branch Office of the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia.

The excavations of Buzovo Kale will also include exploration of the ruins of an Early Christian basilica from the 4th-5th century AD.

Buzovo Kale will be the second medieval fortress in the region of Kazanlak to be excavated, in addition to another fortress called “Kale” (or “Kaleto”) which is situated near the town of Kran, and was excavated for almost a decade.

Its exploration is part of a plan of Kazanlak Municipality to study and promote its lesser known historical and archaeological monuments for cultural tourism.

The Kazanlak Valley, also called the Valley of Odrysian Thracian Kings, is mainly known for its numerous tombs from Ancient Thrace.

Buzovo Kale was one of the important fortresses in the Kranska Hora, a medieval administrative district during the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD), which also has older layers from the Late Roman and Early Byzantine periods.

The Buzovo Kale fortress is close to the so called Buzovgrad Megalith (a large stone used as part of a larger structure or a monument), which is dated to the Late Chalcolithic (Aeneolithic, Copper Age) and the Early Bronze Age. The Buzovgrad Megalith is also believed to have been a part of a larger Ancient Thracian ritual complex, with a large Ancient Thracian tomb also found in the area.

Background Infonotes:

The Buzovo Kale Fortress (“kale” is the Turkish word for “fortress” used in Bulgaria as a remnant of the period of the Ottoman yoke) is a Late Antiquity, Early Byzantine, and medieval Bulgarian fortress located in the Sarnena Sredna Gora Mountain near the towns of Buzovgrad and Kazanlak.

In the Middle Ages, it controlled the road between the fortresses of Kran and Boruy (today’s Stara Zagora) and the valley of the Tundzha River, defending the Kazalak Valley from attacks from the south.

The so called Buzovgrad Megalith (a large stone used as part of a larger structure or a monument), which is dated to the Late Chalcolithic (Aeneolithic, Copper Age) and the Early Bronze Age, is located nearby. The Buzovgrad Megalith is also believed to have been a part of a larger Ancient Thracian ritual complex, with a large Ancient Thracian tomb also found in the area.

The Buzovo Kale Fortress has a rectangular form and an area of 17 decares (app. 4.2 acres). Its fortress walls were almost completely destroyed by the Ottoman Turks during their invasion of the Second Bulgarian Empire in the late 14th century.

Parts of the fortress wall and a fortress tower have been preserved up to a height of 3-3.5 meters. It also had an underground tunnel to the Tundzha River which was used for supplying water. The artifacts found there include coins of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (r. 306-337 AD), and ceramics from the Early Byzantine period and from the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD).

According to a Bulgarian legend, the Ottoman Turks invading Bulgaria at the end of the 14th century besieged the Buzovo Kale Fortress for 7 months before they managed to conquer it. The fortress was under the skillful command of Bulgarian voivode (rebel military leader) Buz who managed to fend off the Turkish attacks until the Ottomans brought the grand vizier Candarli Ali Pasha (in office 1387-1406 AD) from Albania.

The vizier managed to capture a local child who revealed the entrance of the tunnel through which the defenders of the fortress procured water and food. Thus, after they were devoid of these vital supplies, Buz ordered the defenders and the local residents hiding in the fortress to leave at night and disperse into the woods of the Sredna Gora Mountain.