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SUBMARINE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES

NEAR THE SOUTH COAST OF VARNA BAY

Teodor Rokov
/Varna Regional Museum of History, Bulgaria/

Varna bay lies between cape Sveti Georgi to the North and cape Galata to the
South. A large part of the original coastal outline is significantly changed during
the construction of the new Varna port in the beginning of 20th century. The
ancient and medieval harbour of Odessos/Varna is now deep under the new
embankment along the north coast of the bay. The south part of the bay however
is far less altered during the contemporary construction works and there could be
found and explored some submarine archaeological sites.

Lazuren Bryag – Karantinata


In 1960 some local fishermen found in the sea near Lazuren Bryag –
Karantinata a well preserved amphora. Two years latter Naval Academy divers
found a great number of amphorae on the sea bottom in the same area. Because
of this discovery many submarine expeditions were carried out near Lazuren
Bryag – Karantinata. The first was organized in 1962 and led by Goranka
Toncheva from Varna Museum of Archaeology. Then the wall of an ancient
breakwater was found on the bottom of the sea. Shortly after in 1963 Ivan
Kazakov and Vladimir Pavlov from Varna Naval Museum explored the
submarine breakwater in a series of one-day expeditions. In 1964 a new research
near Karantinata was led by the archaeologist Goranka Toncheva. Latter in
1989 Varna Naval Museum was the initiator of a full geo-physical sonar
documentation of the area.
The breakwater near Lazuren Bryag – Karantinata is irregular in shape and
about 250 m long. The structure runs North to South, from the old coast to a
reef.
The breakwater is made of crushed-stone, dry-walling. The faces of the wall are
covered with bigger, oval in shape stones. The section of the structure is a
trapezium with rounded angles. The preserved height of the breakwater varies
from 1 to 5 m in different parts of the wall. The highest point of the ruins is now
on about 2.00 – 2.50 m beneath the sea-level.
13 m to the North of the reef and 10 m to South-West of the breakwater a heap
of amphorae (about 380) was found. 15 of them are completely preserved.
Near by other ceramics (numerous fragments and preserved vessels) were found
as well. All these artifacts date from the late 4th – early 5th century AD. Most
likely they mark the location of a shipwreck from the Late Antiquity.
During the exploration of the area of the above-mentioned amphorae heap three
iron anchors were found: one with two arms and the other two with four arms.
The type of the iron anchor from Lazuren Bryag with two arms perpendicular to
the body dates from 4th – 9th century AD. The anchors with four arms appeared
for the first time in the Middle Ages but in the Black Sea region they were wide-
spread in the Ottoman times.
Further to the west of the amphorae, close to the old Turkish harbor the remains
of a 19th century ship were localized along with the part of the cargo – Ottoman
ceramic pipes.
In Varna Archaeologiacal Museum could be seen a stone anchor found in the
sea near Lazuren Bryag – Karantinata (Inv. N II 6211). It is made of limestone,
trapezoid in shape and 16 kg of weight. Height is 37 cm, width 32/24 cm,
thickness 8.5 cm. The anchor has three openings: two circular (d = 5 cm) and
one rectangular (5 x 8 cm). The circular openings are on the long side of the
anchor and the rectangular is on the upper part, in the middle of the short side.
Another stone anchor of the same type is still on the sea bottom near Lazuren
Bryag – Karantinata. This type of anchors (made of stone, with three openings
etc.) often found along the West Black Sea coast dates from the 2nd millennium
BC.

Cape Galata
On June 2nd 1962 the Institute of Fisheries Policy and Oceanography carried out
a one-day expedition near Galata cape for collecting biological samples from the
sea bottom. During the work a number of amphorae fragments were found. Soon
after a series of one-day expeditions was organized for exploring the
archaeological site.
The first of these expeditions was led by Ivan Kazakov (Varna Naval Museum)
and took place in 1962. Then the wall of another ancient breakwater was
discovered. In the same year Goranka Toncheva from Varna Museum of
Archaeology led a project for exploring and mapping the site. A second
expedition of Varna naval Museum near Galata was carried out in the next year
(1963).
In spite all above mentioned expeditions today we don’t know much about the
ancient breakwater near Galata. On the published plan the structure is situated
to the west of the cape and runs North to South. According to the available
description the breakwater is very similar in shape to the wall near Lazuren
Bryag. It is built of big rough-hewn stones. We don’t have any data about the
measurement of the structure.
However it is very likely that there is a mistake in the description of the
breakwater. Situated like it is said and shown the wall could not stop the waves
made by the northern and north-eastern winds. Furthermore according to some
professional divers the breakwater is situated South-West – North-East.
In 1942 a picture of Galata area is taken from a plane. On this aero-photograph
could be seen three dark underwater structures in the shape of straight lines near
the west coast of the cape. Two of them are to the south of the small pier of
Galata. They are parallel and orientated North-East to South-West. The third
object is to the North of the pier and has orientation North-West to South-East.
These three submarine objects are not archaeologically explored and we don’t
have any further information about their origin. There is a theory that they
functioned as harbor piers or other harbor structures in the time when the Black
Sea level was lower than now. It is possible that the northernmost object on the
photograph actually is the above mentioned breakwater.

In 1963 a leaden stock of an ancient anchor was discovered near cape Galata
during submarine archaeological excavations organized by Varna Naval
Museum. The arms of the stock are 70 cm long, 13 – 15 cm large and have
rectangular section. They are hollow and inside there are remains of the wooden
parts of the anchor. Between the arms of the stock there is a rectangular box (11
x 11 cm) – now broken. The body of the anchor was made of wood. On its upper
part there was a wooden stock covered with lead.
The stock is found about 200 m far from the coast at a depth of 16 – 18 m. The
type of the leaden stock with rectangular box and wooden nucleus dates from
the period between late 2nd century BC and late 1st century AD.
Another artifact, a round grindstone is accidentally discovered in the small bay
near cape Galata during an amateur diving. The object is made of limestone and
weighs 19 kg.
The diameter is 42 cm, the thickness – 11 cm. In the middle of the grindstone
there is a circular opening (d = 4 cm). The artifact is found about 50 m to the
North-West from the end of Galata pier at a depth of 3 – 3.5 m. Because the
object is found by chance it is impossible to date it. In general the round stone
grindstones are wide-spread in the Middle Ages. There is an idea that may be
this grindstone was used on the board of a ship.
In the same area an iron anchor with four arms is accidentally discovered during
the construction works of a fishing facility. The type is characteristic of the
Black Sea region in the Ottoman times.
Until the construction of the new Varna harbor the big ships were laded and
unshipped in the small bay near Galata cape. The cargo was transported to and
from the ships with small boats. Because of that the bay near the West coast of
Galata was called Eski Baalak (tur. “The old place for mooring”). In the area
from Lazuren Bryag – Karantinata to cape Galata no submarine archaeological
excavations are made. There only a V-shaped iron anchor is accidentally found.
Until now there is now clear answer to the question when the submarine
archaeological structures near Lazuren Bryag – Karantinata and in the small bay
near Galata are constructed. The only parallel along the Bulgarian coast are the
structures in the bay of Sozopol. They are parts of the harbor of the ancient
Apollonia. According to some scholars they date from 5th – 3rd century BC: the
time when Apollonia was a flourishing city. According to others they are built in
the Late Bronze Age because of the artifacts from that time on the sea bottom. In
Varna the finds from the area of Galata and Lazuren Bryag – Karantinata are
mostly from the Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages.
The small number of stone anchors and leaden stocks near cape Galata and
Lazuren Bryag – Karantinata are not enough to date the submarine structures in
an earlier time. They are not enough either to link the breakwaters to some
Hellenistic settlements in the region (the so called “port of Karabyzia” for
example). Of course (because of the stone anchors and the leaden stock) it is
very likely that these sites were used as temporary harbors in earlier age as well
long time before the building of the walls.
However the main port of Odessos/Varna was on the north coast of Varna bay.
It is mentioned in the works of Arianus (Arr. PP, 35) and in the Anonymus
Periplous (An PP vss. 79-80). The used term is ormos (gr.) which usually means
a bay used as a natural harbor. The structures on the south coast couldn’t be
more than additional facilities to the main harbor complex of Odessos/Varna as
was the case in Late Antique and Ottoman times.
The archaeological evidences discovered on the sea bottom show clearly that the
harbors near Lazuren Bryag – Karantinata and in the small bay near cape
Galata were used most extensively from the Late Antiquity to the end of the
Ottoman Age. More precise date could be applied only after further excavations
at the two submarine archaeological sites.

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