Slavnata Kanara (Glorious Rock) Fortress – Debrene / Prilep, Bulgaria

The Late Roman, Early Byzantine, and medieval Bulgarian fortress in the area known as Slavnata Kanara (The Glorious Rock) is located near the towns of Debrene and Prilep, Dobrichka Municipality, Dobrich District, in Northeast Bulgaria. There are traces of civilized life from the Early Iron Age (the 12th – 6th century BC) but the construction of an Early Christian basilica and the fortress are dated to the second half of the 4th century AD. The fortress has several archaeological layers – a Late Roman layer from the 4th-5th century AD, an Early Byzantine lawyer from the 6th century AD, and a Bulgarian (Bulgar) layer from the 10th century AD, the time of the height of the First Bulgarian Empire (r. 632/680-1018 AD). It was destroyed three times – during the barbarian invasions of the Huns in the middle of the 5th century AD, during the invasion of the Slavs and Avars at the end of the 6th century AD, and during the Bulgarian-Byzantine wars at the end of the 10th century AD.

The Slavnata Kanara (Glorious Rock) Fortress was the home of a large religious complex including a Christian basilica, which has now been partly excavated by the Bulgarian archaeologists. The basilica is said to be disproportionately large compared with the size of the fortress itself, which is why the Bulgarian archaeologists believe that the fortress was built after the temple in order to protect the religious site. The fortress has an area of 2 decares (app. 0.5 acres). The basilica itself is dated to the Late Roman period, and was in operation until the end of the 6th century AD.

The Starata Kanara (Glorious Rock) Fortress near Debrene and Prilep is located in the woods of the Batovo Valley which starts at the Black Sea coast and continues inland. It is not mentioned in the known historical sources, which is why its real name is unknown. It was first described by the found of modern-day Bulgarian archaeology, Czech-Bulgarian archaeologist Karel Skorpil, at the beginning of the 20th century, and was excavated at the end of the 1980s by Bulgarian archaeologist Assoc. Prof. Sergey Torbatov from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology. It was further excavated in 2014 by archaeologists from the Dobrich Regional Museum of History, with lead archaeologist Boyan Totev, and with funding from the Dobrichka Municipality. The archaeologists found there an amphora containing a treasure of 1,202 6th century AD Byzantine bronze coins of the lowest face value (more specifically attributed to the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I the Great (r. 527-565 AD)), three skathas – long Roman swords, and the belt of an Ancient Bulgar warrior, among other artifacts. During its first archaeological excavations in the 1980s, the Slavnata Kanara (Glorious Rock) Fortress yielded another interesting find – an Ancient Bulgar medieval saber from the 9th-10th century AD. The medieval Bulgarian home where the belt was found was made of wattle, wood, and mud; other artifacts found in it include clothing buttons and pottery; the archaeologists believe that the home was destroyed by an arson, most likely when the Slavnata Kanara (Glorious Rock) Fortress was conquered by the troops of Knyaz Svietoslav I Igorevich, ruler of Kievan Rus (r. 945-972 AD) who invaded the First Bulgarian Empire in 968-971 AD), or by the Byzantine forces that conquered the eastern part of the First Bulgarian Empire in 971 AD. The archaeological data indicate that the late 10th century AD was when the Slavnata Kanara Fortress ceased to exist – except for the discovery of part of a Viking sword which is taken to mean that the fortress could have been inhabited at a later period as well – during the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD).

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Archaeology in Bulgaria. and Beyond