• Tzari Mali Grad 1

“Tzari Mali Gradancient fortress

When the upper layer mixed with ruins from the tower building and black bulk soil was removed, a well defined and relatively homogeneous layer was reached that contained opal clay and ash at a level of 0.40 m from the level of the preserved walls of the tower. This level actually corresponds to the tower floor level, according to the mortar coatings on the bottom lowest joints, both internal and on the facade. The layer of opal clay and ash was traced to a depth of -0.60m- (at 0.20 m below the floor level of the tower) where no sterile layer has been reached yet. Within the drilling well – in situ, the lower parts of two medium – large earthenware dolia were discovered destroyed by the collapse of some preserved high parts of the facility, and single fragments of their necks, as well as a fragment of a gray late antique pot similar to those known from the group found by the Popovyane village.


The corners and the gate of the fortress wall are flanked by large rectangular towers. Until now, three such have been revealed. Their structure consists of hewn stones laid in mortar with countervailing brick belts following the technique opus mixtum. The geophysical survey carried this year rather accurately defined the position of the gate and availability of some buildings adjacent to the fortress wall. The area surveyed in this sector so far covers about 600 square meters. The chain plan of the buildings made of perishable material (wooden structure plastered with mud and covered with tile roof) and traces of fireplaces, iron tools, weights for weighing scales (Egzagia), weights from a vertical loom – all discovered inside them – point out to the trade purpose of these premises. Coins found there, date the occupation of the settlement from the end of 4th Century A.D. to the end of the 6th C. The archaeological structures are multilayered and it marks the dynamics and development of occupations and various inhabitants. The boreholes drilled inside the settlement surprised the archaeological team with earlier findings from the Late Bronze Age. Among the pieces of discovered stone piles and inside pits, very fragmented cult ceramic items were found, suggesting the existence of a Thracian sanctuary of the time about the Trojan War period.



Reconstruction of the “Ascension of Jesus Christ” church from the 15th Century

An uncovered Christian religious complex also points towards a strong religious dedication of the hill. It is located immediately to the north of the fortress gate. Earlier architectural remains were discovered and studied around the excavated in 2007 medieval church. From the data we obtained there, we can conclude at this stage that the medieval Christian Temple refers to 15-16th C. Its parameters as measured along the internal lines – length of 14.50 m without the apse, length of the nave – 10.50 m and an average width of 4.70 m (while in its middle section it is about 4.50 m wide), the altar space side measures 3.30 m and it has a square shape, and the apse is slightly elliptical shaped and its diameter is 1.50 m and 1.10 m deep.


There is a little niche to the north of it, 0.40 m deep and 0.50 m wide. As far as the outer facades of the walls in the eastern surveyed area are concerned, those cannot be outlined since their foundation excavations in the north and northeast of the temple have probably been buried below the level of the ancient terrain and thus they had sooner acted as a substructure. It defines the church as half-hidden, while its upper structure appeared only above a certain height; the western part of the church though, is almost completely above ground surface and only there we managed to measure the wall thickness – 0.75 m, and to claim that outside facades had been shaped there.


With the expansion of the perimeter of surveying, it was found that the 15th C. medieval church has been dug in a destructed early Christian basilica from the end of 5th – 6th Century. It is built of hewn stone soldered with white mortar. The preserved upper structure of the walls on both side aisles is almost 1m high. Such a plan is already known in this region – a long and narrow nave, an entrance and an open narthex to the west and north, while the altar area is shaped with aisles (separate premises with an open passage to the presbyterate looking like a prosthetist and a deaconicon as normally planned for a three-nave Basilica). The medieval church is located entirely on the foundations of the central nave. The findings discovered on the floor level and around the foundations of the altar including coins and fibula of the “tuck foot” type date the church to around the end of 5th C. There are no parallels to this type of early Christian basilicas in the nearby surroundings, but strangely enough some parallels were found in present-day Macedonia.