01 - A Late Roman Fortress in the Lower Danube’s Hinterland: Recent Results of the International Archaeological Project at Zaldapa, Bulgaria


Nicolas Beaudry, Université du Québec à Rimouski, Canada; Georgi Atanasov, Regionalen istoricheski muzey-Silistra, Bulgaria; Albena Milanova, Sofijski universitet "Sv. Kliment Ohridski," Bulgaria; Dominic Moreau, Université de Lille, France; Brahim M’Barek, Eveha International, France; Elio Hobdari, Instituti i arkeologjisë, Tirana, Albania; and Philip J. E. Mills, Leicester, United Kingdom


Zaldapa (Krushari, Bulgaria) is the largest known late Roman stronghold of the hinterland of the lower Danubian provinces. The city was known in the sixth century as the fatherland of general Flavius Vitalianus, who rebelled against Anastasius and contributed to the rise of the Justinianic dynasty; it is also mentioned in medieval sources as an episcopal see. Zaldapa was abandoned in the late sixth or early seventh century and was never reoccupied, thus its remarkable potential.

From the late 1880s to the early 1910s, Karel and Herman Škorpil, the “Fathers of Bulgarian archeology,” explored the site, planned the city walls, excavated a basilical church and identified other monuments including a second basilica. In 1949 a large, vaulted cistern was excavated by Milko Mirchev at the foot of the fortified hill. From 2014 to 2018, Georgi Atanasov and Valeri Yotov explored a third, larger basilical church that they interpret as the city’s cathedral, as well as an earlier church lying underneath. Their work also confirmed the remarkable archaeological potential of Zaldapa, all the more interesting as the hinterland of the Danubian provinces remains less explored than the network of fortresses and military camps along the river.

An International Archaeological Project was launched in 2018 to investigate the Christianization and militarization of the urban fabric of Zaldapa. Excavations initially concentrated on the northern end of the intramural city, where the rampart juts out to include the second basilica identified by the Škorpils and to overlook both the cistern and the access to the city from the north. The international team also joined in the exploration of a tetraconch church discovered in 2019 to the east of Basilica 3. This poster presents the preliminary results of the fieldwork carried out to date by the international team.