Archaeologists Show Early Ottoman Coins Carried by Turkish Soldier during Late 14th Century Attack on Bulgaria’s Targovishte

These six Early Ottoman coins are believed to have been carried by a Turkish soldier during an assault on Missionis/Kosovo Fortroess, today's Targovishte in Northeast Bulgaria. Photo: Targovishte Municipality

These six Early Ottoman coins are believed to have been carried by a Turkish soldier during an assault on Missionis/Kosovo Fortroess, today’s Targovishte in Northeast Bulgaria. Photo: Targovishte Municipality

Six early Ottoman silver coins which were discovered together with the skeleton of a Turkish soldier killed in an attack of the Bulgarian fortress Kosovo (ancient Missionis / Krum’s Fortress), today’s city of Targovishte, have been showcased by archaeologists.

The finds which are from a past archaeological season have been shown to the media at a news conference in Targovishte by lead archaeologists Nikolay Ovcharov from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia, and Angel Konakliev from the Targovishte Regional Museum of History.

Ovcharov and Konakliev spoke together with Targovishte Mayor Darin Dimitrov before the start of the 2016 summer excavations of the Early Byzantine and medieval Bulgarian city of Missionis located near Targovishte in Northeast Bulgaria, which was known as Krum’s Fortress and Kosovo in the Middle Ages, the press service of Targovishte Municipality has announced.

The archaeologists have made it clear that one of their goals in the excavations of the Late Antiquity and medieval city will be to learn more about the “dramatic history” of Kosovo (Missionis) at the end of the 14th century when the invading Ottoman Turks destroyed and conquered the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396).

According to Ovcharov, Missionis / Krum’s Fortress / Kosovo was one of the Bulgarian cities which put up the greatest resistance against the invading Ottoman Turks in the late 14th century before they could reach Tarvnograd (Veliko Tarnovo), the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire for 208 years (1185-1393).

The newly showcased six silver coins of Ottoman Turkish Sultan (technically bearing the title “Emir at the time) Murad I (r. 1362-1389) were discovered together with the bones of a man who appears to have been an Ottoman soldier underneath the ruins of a collapsed fortress tower.

The two archaeologists hypothesize that the man in question was killed during the Turkish assault on the Kosovo Fortress, as he was carrying the coins with him, possibly his soldier’s pay.

It was Murad I who in 1388 organized a major military campaign of the Ottoman forces against the still surviving Tarnovo Tsardom, a rump state that had been left of the feudally fragmented Second Bulgarian Empire.

However, Ovcharov says that the main battle for the Kosovo Fortress (Missionis), when the Bulgarian stronghold was ultimately conquered by the Ottoman invaders, took place in the spring of 1393.

Close-ups of the Ottoman coins. Photos: Targovishte Municipality

Close-ups of the Ottoman coins. Photos: Targovishte Municipality

Ottoman Coins Targovishte 4The archaeologists are also going to work on the excavations of the Early Byzantine fortress of Missionis, including its unexplored fortress walls and a basilica, and of a residential quarter which will be researched for the first time.

Because of its large territory (about 700 decares – app. 173 acres) but not only, Missionis / Krum’s Fortress keeps yielding numerous and diverse finds.

Some of the other interesting recently found artifacts include bone combs from the Early Byzantine period which were used not so much for combing but as decorations in the hair of noble Byzantine women, as well as a silver coin with the image of Bulgarian Tsar Georgi I Terter (r. 1280-1292 AD) which is the only one of its kind ever found.

Last year’s digs in Missionis / Krum’s Fortress / Kosovo yielded a number of intriguing artifacts such as a maimed figurine of Roman god Mars, a medieval lead cross reliquary and bronze icon.

The 2016 excavations are funded by Targovishte Municipality with a total of BGN 30,000 (app. EUR 15,000) and another BGN 10,000 (app. EUR 5,000) donated by local businessman Grigor Ivanov.

Ovcharov has also announced the upcoming publication of his new book, “Targovishte, the Jewel of Bulgaria’s Northeast”, a travel guide which will also be translated in English and will be used to present the city when an official delegation from the municipality is going to visit China in the fall of 2016.

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(Left-right) Archaeologist Nikolay Ovcharov, Targovishte Mayor Darin Dimitrov, and archaeologist Angel Konakliev during their news conference. Photo: Targovishte Municipality

(Left-right) Archaeologist Nikolay Ovcharov, Targovishte Mayor Darin Dimitrov, and archaeologist Angel Konakliev during their news conference. Photo: Targovishte Municipality

Also check out our stories about the 2015 archaeological excavations of Missionis / Krum’s Fortress / Kosovo near Bulgaria’s Targovishte:

Archaeologists Find Maimed Figurine of Roman God Mars in Ancient City Missionis near Bulgaria’s Targovishte

Bulgarian Archaeologists Show Lead Cross Reliquary, Lead Icon Found in Medieval City Missionis (Krum’s Fortress)

Bulgarian Archaeologists Discover Previously Unknown Coins in Medieval City Missionis near Targovishte

Background Infonotes:

The Early Byzantine and medieval Bulgarian fortress of Missionis, also known as Krumovo Kale (Krum’s Fortress) and Kosovo, is located 7 km southwest of the northeastern Bulgarian city of Targovishte. The fortress has an area of 25 decares (app. 6 acres), while the medieval city itself covered an area of 150-200 decares (up to 50 acres). The eastern section of the fortress wall has a gate with two towers.

Missionis / Krum’s Fortress was built in the 6th century AD, during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I the Great (r. 527-565 AD) as part of Byzantium’s fortifications in today’s Northern Bulgaria designed to stop the barbarian invasions of the Slavs, Ancient Bulgars, and Goths.

The fortress was destroyed by the barbarians in the 6th century AD. During the First Bulgarian Empire (632/680-1018 AD), in the 9th century AD an Ancient Bulgar settlement emerged on top of its ruins. At the time of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD), the fortress wall was rebuilt of stones and mortar as part of a fortification system defending the then Bulgarian capital Tarnovgrad (today’s Veliko Tarnovo).

A lot of information about the medieval city of Missionis / Krum’s Fortress is found in the Tabula Rogeriana, the work of Arab geographer Muhammad Al-Idrisi, completed in the court of Norman King Roger II in Sicily in 1153 AD. In it, together with other medieval Bulgarian cities, Al-Idrisi mentions the mysterious city Missionis, a large thriving city at the foot of a mountain with busy markets, whose residents got rich through trade. Al-Idrisi’s work is the last written document to mention Missionis whose name may later have been changed to Kosovo.

In 1393, the Bulgarian city of Missionis / Krum’s Fortress was conquered by the invading Ottoman Turks after a fierce siege. The shallow Christian graves discovered there by the Bulgarian archaeologists testify to the slaughter committed by the Ottomans who burned down the city, and it never recovered.

Ottoman historian Mehmed Nesri (d. 1520) writes that during the campaign of Turkish vizier Ali Pasha in 1393, after the Ottomans had conquered the city of Shumen, and were advancing to the west against the Bulgarian capital Tarnovgrad, they faced the fierce resistance of the strong fortress Kos Ova. Its brave lord is said to have told the Turkish messengers, “We will never renounce our master (Tsar Ivan Shishman) to obey the Turks!” Because of their resistance all of the surviving residents of Missionis / Krum’s Fortress / Kosovo were enslaved.

The exact location of Missionis / Krum’s Fortress was debated in the early 20th century Bulgarian archaeology even though Czech-Bulgarian archaeologist Karel Skorpil had estimated that it was located 7 km west of Targovishte. It was first discovered in 1962 when Prof. Dimitar Ovcharov started archaeological excavations on the hill known to the local population as “Krum’s Fortress”.

The digs yielded stunning results – strong fortress walls from the 5th-6th century preserved up to a height of 3-4 meters. The archaeologists unearthed the ruins of two large Christian churches as well as residential quarters. The archaeological excavations of Missionis were stopped in 1972, and were restored in 2004 by Targovishte archaeologist Angel Konakliev who discovered a second fortress wall deep inside the thick fortress nearby as well as more medieval residential quarters.

His major discovery has been a third Early Christian church, a basilica, which was 34 meters long, and 10.5 meters wide. In the middle of the basilica, the archaeologists found a floor imprint of the church’s main chandelier with dimensions 3×2 meters. Apparently, it fell down at the time of the destruction of the temple which is believed to have been a bishopric cathedral because of traces from the stone pedestal of the bishop’s throne.

The coins discovered inside the basilica belonged to Early Byzantine Emperors Anasthasius I (r. 491-518AD), Justinian I the Great (r. 527-565 AD), Justin II (565-574 AD), meaning that it was built in the 5th century AD. The building was destroyed in the horrific barbarian invasions of the Avars and Slavs in the 7th century. Missionis (Krum’s Fortress) was revived during the First Bulgarian Empire, and was an especially important medieval city during the Second Bulgarian Empire.

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