Archaeology: Large tower found at Bulgaria’s mediaeval Rusokastro site

Archaeologists working at the mediaeval Rusokastro fortress site in Bulgaria have found remnants of a large tower, that was 15 metres long and 12 metres wide, the Regional Historical Museum in Bourgas said.

The museum said that the latest discovery by archaeologists examining Rusokastro “is probably the most important since the beginning of the excavations in 2006”.

For more than a month, the team from the Regional Historical Museum of Bourgas has been surveying a monumental building built at the highest point of the rocky hill.

It said that the walls of the tower were 1.9 m wide. Their surfaces were made of carefully crafted squares, sealed with mortar.

According to the plan, the tower was hexagonal, and was not connected to the fortress walls. Such archaeological sites are called “donjons”. These are the main towers of the castles, which are often the homes of the ruler of the fortress. Sometimes the term “citadel” means the most fortified part of the mediaeval city. On the Balkan Peninsula, such sites are called piers or self-defence towers.

The excavations are being led by Dr Milen Nikolov and Vassil Mutafov.

“In essence, this is the tower of the ruler, here resided the local ruler – the mullet or castrophylaxis, appointed by the ruler of the state,” Nikolov said.

“The entrances to such towers were at least three metres high, and were reached by stairs which, in the event of a siege, were defended by the defenders. The towers were three, four, five stories. Their height was one and a half to twice their width,” he said.

“That is, the tower at Rusokastro probably reached, and perhaps exceeded, 20 m. There were weapons depots, food supplies, bedrooms, and a reservoir in them. Thus, in the event of a siege, even if the city and the castle are taken over, the last defenders and the local aristocrat with their family can hold out for a long time until outside aid arrives or until supplies finish,” Nikolov said.

The dating of the newly discovered tower in Rusokastro is yet to be established, but provisionally, it is believed to date from the 13th century.

In Bulgaria and the Balkans, such free-standing polygonal or multi-walled towers are very rare. An example of this is the Tsepina Fortress in the Western Rhodopes – the capital of despot Alexius Slav until 1215, but this tower is octagonal. So is the tower in Plateemon fortress in northern Greece.

At this stage of the dig, the only hexagonal tower that can be cited as the most similar is the Rusokastrenska in the Tsarevi kuli Fortress, near the present-day city of Strumica, in the Republic of North Macedonia.

The Regional Historical Museum of Bourgas said that unfortunately, the very nice building material – the squares – had attracted the attention of many locals hundreds of years ago and had been removed from the site.

Part of the inner walls of the ruler’s tower have been preserved, but the outer walls have been almost completely destroyed and the material with which they were built, taken away.

The exploration of the interior of the “tower of kings” will start in the last week of August, the museum said.

For the latest consecutive year, the archaeological excavations of the mediaeval Bulgarian town of Rusokastro are conducted by the Bourgas Museum and funded by the municipality of Kameno and Bulgaria’s Ministry of Culture.



The Sofia Globe staff

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