Zaldapa fortress reveals its mysteries

The big basilica is a yet another discovery made by an international team of archeologists

The ancient fortified settlement of Zaldapa in Northeast Bulgaria is revealing its mysteries bit by bit. After the fortress was declared an archaeological monument of national importance a team of archaeologists from Canada, France and Bulgaria have recently made a yet another discovery at the site. In their words, the excavations have just started and the work to be done on the site can be planned for at least 100 years ahead.

The biggest find of this year is a richly decorated basilica dated back to 5th-6th century AD. It is located close to the northern gate of the site and equals in size the episcopal basilica discovered last year, i.e. 21m in width. According to Georgi Atanasov from the Silistra museum, one of the heads of the excavation team, the decoration of the newly found basilica is one of a kind for the Moesia region, as its walls are ornamented with mosaic panels with gilded elements.

A well preserved marble Corinthian order was also discovered in the basilica along with the late-antiquity ceramics, coins and even an incense burner. Although the site has been in the focus of archaeologists’ attention since the time of the Skorpil brothers - the end of the 19th century - it is only now that its real scope and importance become apparent.

The excavations of Zaldapa are part of a largescale project dedicated to Christianisation of the Lower Danube region. The research work is financed by the universities of Quebec and Lille and supported by funds of the Krushari municipality where the site is located. Bulgaria's Ministry of Culture also takes part in the project.

Recently, the municipality won the Culture Ministry's tender for roofing the already discovered basilicas of Zaldapa. The constructions are to be built before mid-November at the latest in order to protect the site from rains and snow during autumn and winter.

The excavations at Zaldapa started in 2014. Before that the biggest Roman and Early-Byzantine settlement in the inland of Dobrudzha and Northeast Bulgaria has not been studied on a regular basis. The name of the site means “yellow water”. The fortress occupies 25 hectares, while the urban agglomeration spreads over 40 hectares.

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