Fortress by the sea shore

Chrisosotiros, a stronghold near Sozopol, reveals its secrets bit by bit

Photo: BGNES The remnants of Chrisosotiros fortress are located on a small peninsula close to Sozopol.

On a steep-sloped peninsula, not far from the popular Black Sea resort of Sozopol, lie the remnants of Chrisosotiros, an antique fortress which archaeologists of the National Historical Museum have been studying in recent years. Now it is slowly revealing its secrets.

The excavations results show that in contrast to Sozopol proper, which has been existing for thousands of years already, the history of Chrisosotiros is rather short. The fortress was built in the middle of the 5th century to protect the region from frequent Barbarian invasions, and for two centuries it was turned into a fortified settlement with sharp-cut internal planning, public and cult buildings and storage facilities. It was a thriving settlement before it was destroyed by Avars and Slavs in mid-7th century.

The archaeological excavations of the last season brought to light numerous valuable artefacts. Among them are gold and bronze coins, a bronze lamp and a bronze scale weight of anthropomorphic shape. All of the artefacts were discovered in the western sector of the site, while a part of the southern rampart was studied for the first time during this year's archaeological season. The peninsula's defensive wall stretches over more than 300m and has four robust towers.

The rampart at the southern coast is located behind a rock which protected part of it from destruction. Here, the wall is 1.6m thick and is preserved up to the height of one meter. It is built of uncut stone blocks bonded together with white mortar reinforced with crushed ceramics. The wall is dug into a layer where diverse materials of the pre-Roman epoch and Antiquity, as well as the Middle Ages, were found.

After this part of the wall was discovered, the walled-off area of Chrisosotiros grew to over 24.7 acres. So far, it was believed that it occupied about 18.5 acres. Not far from the wall, the archaeologists found a storage facility where dozens of amphorae, pots, jugs and other pottery were kept. They also discovered two North African amphorae of Spatheion type, which were fairly widespread in 602-615. Six buildings dated to Early Byzantine period: barracks, residential buildings with adjacent streets and fenced-off yards, were also studied. The so-called 'money-changer's house' (sarafska kashta) is of special interest. The members of the expedition named it so because there they discovered seven bronze scale weights for expensive merchandise as well as gold Byzantine coins.

The archaeologists assume that the fortress was razed to the ground and burnt down after one of the numerous Slavic invasions into the region. They provide evidence to their assumption: three coin finds with about 100 bronze and 10 gold coins discovered in layers rich in ashes and cinder. The gold coins are in the best state of conservation and are of the so-called 'portrait coins' kind, featuring emperors Maurice, Phocas and Heraclius. All of them ruled at the end of the 6th and beginning of the 7th century.

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