Archaeologist Prof. Nikolay Ovcharov showing the two silver coins from the Second Bulgarian Empire found recently in Perperikon. Photo: BTA
Two silver coins of Tsar Ivan Alexander (r. 1331-1371), ruler of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396), have been discovered in the prehistoric, ancient, and medieval rock city of Perperikon in the Eastern Rhodope Mountains, near the city of Kardzhali in Southern Bulgaria.
The coins have been shown to the press by archaeologistNikolay Ovcharov from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology who has been in charge of the excavations of Perperikon (also known as Perperik or Perperek) since 2000.
Ovcharov spoke at a press conference in Sofia dedicated to the start of the 2016 excavations of Perperikon and the other archaeological sites that he has been working on – the ancient and medieval city of Missionis (known as Krum’s Fortress and Kosovo in the Middle Ages) near Targovishte in Northeast Bulgaria and the Urvich Fortress near Sofia.
The two silver coins were discovered last week during a clean-up in Perperikon in preparation for the new excavations, reports BTA.
Ovcharov has pointed out that a number of the same silver coins have been found in Central North Bulgaria, in the region of Veliko Tarnovo(medieval Tarnovgrad) which was the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire for 208 years (1185-1393).
He adds, however, that the coins in question are a rarity for today’s Southern Bulgaria. While the long reign of Tsar Ivan Alexander brought some relative stability for Bulgaria (before the Ottoman Turkish invasion destroyed it at the end of the century), by the mid 14th century, the Second Bulgarian Empire was already losing control of many of its southern territories.
“This find is sending us back to 1343 when Perperikon was briefly retaken [by Bulgaria], for a few months, and a Bulgarian garrison was stationed there,"Ovcharov says.
“The coins are in a very good condition, and it can be presumed that they were brought [to Perperikon] as salaries for the garrison," he adds.
The archaeologist has also announced that the 2016 summer excavations of the famous rock city have just started, and are to continue until September.
The 17tharchaeological season on Perperikon is going to focus on completing the excavations of the acropolis of Perperikon, of its northern fortress wall, and potentially discovering the citadel’s eastern gate.
The main archaeological areas of the prehistoric, ancient, and medieval rock city of Perperikon are the acropolis, a palace/sanctuary, a northern suburb, and a southern suburb. So far the archaeologists have excavated in full the palace, and have nearly completed the excavations of the acropolis. The earliest traces of civilized human life on Perperikon date back to the Neolithic and the Chalcolithic (Aeneolithic, Copper Age).
“Our goal is to complete [the excavations of] the acropolis so that Kardzhali Municipality can apply for EU funding [for its restoration]," he says.
What is more, his team plans to start working on the southern suburb of Perperikon where a 4-meter-deep water reservoir and two tombs have been discovered so far. The water reservoir is hewn into the rock, and might have been part of a larger structure. The ruins of about 20 buildings have also been found.
Ovcharov has suggested that the excavations of Perperikon’s southern suburb are going to take at least a decade.
The 2016 excavations of Perperikonhave been funded with a total of BGN 220,000 (app. EUR 110,000) by the Bulgarian Cabinet (most of the archaeological sites in Bulgaria usually get much smaller government funding). According to Ovcharov, Kardzhali Municipality could add another BGN 20,000-30,000 (EUR 10,000-15,000), should the Cabinet’s funding prove insufficient.
The archaeologist points out that in 2015, the rock city of Perperikon was visited by some 200,000 tourists, with the profit for Kardzhali Municipality reaching BGN 200,000 (app. EUR 100,000) only from admission tickets.
Ovcharov has also reminded that Perperikon is about to be partly restored with funding from the Norway Grants / EEA Grants totaling BGN 1.5 million (app. EUR 750,000). The project provides for the partial restoration of a number of ancient and/or medieval buildings, the fortress wall, and the partly preserved fortress tower of the acropolis.
He adds that over 17,000 coins from different time periods have been discovered during the 17 years of excavations on Perperikon so far, and that two volumes are about to be published on the architecture of the city’s acropolis, and on the over 6,000 Byzantine coins, and over 100 Byzantine lead seals discovered there.
Perperikon(also called Perperek or Perperik) is an ancient rock city located in the Rhodope Mountains in Southern Bulgaria, 15 km away from the city of Kardzhali.
It is a large-scale archaeological complex including historical monuments from different ages. Those include a megalithic shrine dating back to the Neolithic Age, the 6th millennium BC, a Bronze Age settlement, and a holy rock city established by the Ancient Thracians later taken over by the Romans, Goths, and Byzantines, respectively.
In the Middle Ages, especially during the time of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD), it was the site of a strong fortress and a royal palace that Bulgaria and Byzantium fought over numerous times.
Perperikon has been excavated since 2000 by Bulgarian archaeologist Nikolay Ovcharov who has found evidence that the mythical ancient Temple of Dionysius was located there. The rock city and fortress at Perperikon, not unlike the vast majority of the medieval Bulgarian fortresses, were destroyed by the invading Ottoman Turks in the 14th century.