Archaeological finds in Bulgaria are usually limited to excavations of Thracian and classical antiquity sites on land, but the waters of the Black Sea hold no fewer treasures, as an expedition off the coast of Bourgas is finding.
The medieval fortress on Cape Akin near the village of Chernomorets (10km south east of Bourgas) is not a new find, but it has not been heavily investigated before this summer – in part, due to the military bases that dot the areas immediately around Bourgas, which were no-go zones during the communist era. This has proven a blessing in disguise because it has kept the sites undisturbed by treasure hunters, the bane of Bulgarian archaeologists in other areas, most notably the “valley of Thracian kings” near Kazanluk.
Following his digs on Cape Akin earlier this summer, archaeologist Ivan Hristov has now turned his sights on the waters of Vromos Bay, which lies between Cape Akin at the east and Cape Atiya to the west, according to the National History Museum.
With two boats and eight divers, Hristov’s expedition has focused on the remains of a trading village that also served as an unloading point for small ships, now entirely submerged under water at a depth of about 15m, the museum said in statement.
So far, the oldest finds are Greek amphoras dating back to the fifth century BCE, as well as flat bricks characteristic for the Hellenistic period (fourth and third centuries BCE).
The site appears to have been continuously inhabited well into the Middle Ages times, with dozens of medieval bricks found by divers. Another find, the fragment of an anchor, has been dated to the late 10th century or early 11th century CE.
One of the goals of the expedition is to find the ties between the underwater port and a nearby site on the grounds of an air defence base where, in the 1980s, several epigraphic monuments were found.
The other focus of the underwater exploration is an ancient pier near the western wall of the Cape Akin fortress.
Earlier in the summer, National History Museum director Bozhidar Dimitrov – who is often prone to making exaggerated comparisons of Bulgarian archaeological finds – described the fortress as a “Bulgarian Pompeii”, comparing it to the famous Italian city destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE. The grounds for comparison was the fact that the fortress was sacked and burned by Avari invaders late in the sixth century, with the fire preserving a lot of the artefacts now being dug out.
(Photo: National Historical Museum)