Archaeologists Find Eastern Fortress Gate of Rock City Perperikon in Bulgaria’s Rhodope Mountains

An aerial shot showing the excavated section of the prehistoric, ancient, and medieval rock city of Perperikon in Southern Bulgaria, i.e. almost fully excavated acropolis. Photo: archaeologist Nikolay Ovcharov

An aerial shot showing the excavated section of the prehistoric, ancient, and medieval rock city of Perperikon in Southern Bulgaria, i.e. almost fully excavated acropolis. Photo: archaeologist Nikolay Ovcharov

The ruins of what was the eastern gate of the fortress of the prehistoric, ancient, and medieval rock city of Perperikon (also known as Perperek or Perperik) in the Eastern Rhodope Mountains, near the city of Kardzhali in Southern Bulgaria, have been unearthed by the archaeologists working on the site.

As an archaeological site, Perperikon is an 8,000-year-old prehistoric megalithic shrine, which was later built upon by the Thracians, the Romans, the Byzantines, and the medieval Bulgarian Empire, and was destroyed as a city and fortress by the invading Ottoman Turks in the 14th century.

The newly found gate in question is presently being excavated by the team of archaeologist Nikolay Ovcharov from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology, who has been in charge of the excavations of Perperikon since 2000, reports BNR.

“It is from it that a large street lined with buildings starts, and thus we are establishing completely the infrastructure of the rock city Perperikon," Ovcharov has said.

“Technically, by completing the excavations of this gate, at the beginning of September, we are supposed to wrap up the [excavations] of the acropolis of Perperikon, a major task that we have been working on the past 17 years," he adds.

The researcher reminds that data about the possible location of the eastern gate of the Perperikon fortress had been found in the notepad of late Bulgarian archaeologist Ivan Balkanski, the finder of the rock city who also discovered and explored a large number of archaeological sites in the picturesque Eastern Rhodope Mountains.

The discovery of the gate had been set by Ovcharov as one of his team’s tasks for the 2016 summer archaeological season

“For several days now, we have descending into the southern quarter right underneath the acropolis, and by the end of the season we are going to have very serious surprises in it as well, many interesting discoveries are expected there," the archaeologist has forecast.

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).

The 2016 excavations of Perperikon have 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.

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.

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.

Over 17,000 coins from different time periods have been discovered during the 17 years of excavations on Perperikon so far, including over 6,000 Byzantine coins, and over 100 Byzantine lead seals.

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Another aerial shot of the acropolis of Perperikon, with the sole partly preserved fortress tower visible on the left. Photo: archaeologist Nikolay Ovcharov

Other aerial shots of the acropolis of Perperikon, with the sole partly preserved fortress tower visible on the left. Photos: archaeologist Nikolay Ovcharov

Perperikon 1

Also check out our stories about the other recent archaeological finds in the ancient and medieval rock city of Perperikon:

Archaeologists Find Exquisite Medieval Ring with Obsidian Gemstone in Bulgaria’s Rock City Perperikon, Complete Excavations of Its Acropolis

Bulgarian Archaeologists Discover Three Roman Pagan Temples, Nymphaeum at Ancient and Medieval Rock City Perperikon

Archaeologist Finds Clay Lamp with Eros, Other Roman Age Artifacts in Ancient and Medieval Rock City Perperikon

Archaeologist Finds 14th Century Monogram, Coins of Bulgarian Tsars at Ancient and Medieval Rock City Perperikon

Archaeologist Discovers Gold Coin of Byzantine Emperor Basil II the Bulgar-Slayer in Bulgaria’s Perperikon

Bulgarian Archaeologists Find Roman Temple, Apollo Statuette in Excavations of Ancient Rock City Perperikon

Background Infonotes:

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.

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