Archaeologists Start First Ever Excavations of Buzovo Kale Fortress near Bulgaria’s Kazanlak

Part of the ruins of the Buzovo Kale Fortress near Bulgaria's Kazanlak and Buzovgrad. Photo: BNR

Part of the ruins of the Buzovo Kale Fortress near Bulgaria’s Kazanlak and Buzovgrad. Photo: BNR

A team of archaeologists has started the first ever excavations of the Early Byzantine, and medieval Bulgarian fortress of Buzovo Kale near the towns of Buzovgrad and Kazanlak in Central Bulgaria.

The excavations have been organized and funded by the “Iskra" (“Spark") History Museum in Kazanlak which was recently granted a permit to carry out rescue digs there, reports the Bulgarian National Radio.

They are led by Dr. Deyan Rabovyanov from the Veliko Tarnovo Branch Office of the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia, and also include archaeologists Plamen Doychev from Veliko Tarnovo University “St. Cyril and St. Methodius" and Kalin Chakarov from the Pavlikeni Museum of History.

The archaeological team is going to spend a month carrying out rescue excavations of both the Buzovo Kale fortress, and the ruins of an Early Christian basilica from the 4th-5th century AD.

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.

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.

The Buzovo Kale Fortress has been badly affected by treasure hunters over the years. The Early Christian basilica has been especially damaged by the treasure hunting raids.

Despite that, the ruins of the temple, which was 20 meters long and 9 meters wide, still feature patches of preserved pink mortar on the outside of their walls.

The fortress itself has an area of nearly 20 decares (app. 8 acres) which makes it one of the largest fortresses in the region of Kazanlak. Judging by the fact that it is believed to have been densely populated, it is deemed to have been a major regional center not just in the Late Antiquity when it was built but also during the Late Middle Ages when it was restored and used by the Second Bulgarian Empire.

“Based on the pits left behind by the treasure hunters, we can say in advance that this was probably one of the centers of the Second Bulgarian Empire," lead archaeologist Deyan Rabovyanov has stated.

After the excavations are concluded, the Buzovo Kale fortress and the Early Christian basilica will be partly restored and included in the cultural tourism routes in the Kazanlak Valley.

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.

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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.

Check out this YouTube video of the ruins of the Buzovo Kale Fortress.

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