Secrets from Beneath the Sea

New evidence of ancient seafaring along the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast 

This week the Balkan Heritage Foundation (BHF) contributed to the recovery of an invaluable artifact. A large stone “stock” – part of an ancient anchor – was documented in situ and retrieved by underwater archaeologists in the Bay of Burgas, Bulgaria. The find dates back to the period between the 7 th and 5th century BC, presenting a valuable trace of Ancient Greek seafaring along the Western Black Sea Coast in the Archaic Period.

For the past few months, the Bulgarian Centre for Underwater Archaeology (CUA) in Sozopol has been conducting maritime surveys in the northern parts of the Burgas Bay. The research area encompasses the southern aquatory of the small coastal town Pomorie (ancient Anchialos), where the construction of new fishing harbor has recently been initiated.

As it often happens, the archaeological research raised a lot of interest in the local community. As a result to that, a week ago, marine archaeologists Dr. Nayden Prahov and Dr. Dragomir Garbov from the CUA Sozopol and Balkan Heritage Field School instructors, were approached by local snail divers (rapandzhii), who shared information on an ancient anchor-stock they had discovered and wanted to hand over to the local museum. With the financial support of the Balkan Heritage Foundation, the archaeologists visited the find spot and, to their amazement, documented in situ and then retrieved one of the oldest and largest Archaic Greek anchor stocks along the southern Bulgarian Black Sea Coast.

The stock was discovered at a current depth of 4.5 meters, half buried in the seabed, approximately 1000 m off the eastern coast of Pomorie. Its orientation is North-to-South which suggests that the anchor it held was lying on the bottom, oriented West-to-East – possibly retaining the ancient ship against an easterly wind when it was lost. After thorough photo- and videographic documentation the find was extracted from the seabed and brought to the Archaeological Museum of Pomorie for further study. A lazer-scan 3D model is on the way of being produced and further petrographic analysis will be conducted with the aim to determine the origin of the anchor and possibly – of the ancient ship which it belonged to.

Anchialos was founded in the 5th c. BC by Milesian Greeks as a trading station (emporion) of Apollonia Pontica (a  Balkan Heritage Field School site) and quickly became an important local economic centre. In the 2 nd century BC its riches became the “cause de guerre” in the conflicts between Apollonia Pontica and Messambria. During the Roman period Ulpia Anchialus became the leading regional centre of the Burgas Bay area – a status the town retained until the 1920ies. With its early date (7 th – 5th c. BC), the anchor stock, recovered with the help of the Balkan Heritage Foundation, marks out the initial period in ancient Anchialo’s glorious history and draws a new insight in Archaic Greek seafaring along the Western Pontus.