Fortunately, several ancient literary sources concerning Cape of Shabla survived, mentioning the place as Portus Caria and Caron limen (Καρών λιμένα), both names stressing its harbor or port nature that implies artificial mooring infrastructure.
In the 1st–2nd centuries AD, Pomponius Mela (Chorographia II, 22) and Arrian (Periplus Ponti Euxini 35) reported about a harbour between Callatis (Mangalia, Romania) and Cape Kaliakra. After a considerable hiatus, it is only in the 6th century AD that we reencounter this name in the works of Anonymous (Periplus Ponti Euxini XV, 10–14) and Procopius of Caesarea (De Aedificiis IV, 11,18). The latter mentioned the fortress of Kreas, which can also be associated with the archaeological remains at the Cape of Shabla.
The archaeological remains of Shabla were first described by Karel Škorpil, the father of Bulgarian archaeology. He gathered information about the port and the ruins of the fortification during fieldwork at the end of the 19th century. According to his observations, the visible remains at that time had a rectangular shape with a dimension of 40×67 steps. Intensive research began in 1962 with the underwater exploration of the harbour, succeeded by two other campaigns in 1979 and 1980.6 The first land surveys were only commenced in the 1970s (1977–1979) by archaeologists of the Regional Historical Museum, Dobrich: R. Boshnakov in 1976 and I. Vasilchin.7 Their efforts were concentrated on the northern part of the Byzantian castellum; they excavated the north wall and the eastern half of the round north-western tower, where they
unearthed 20 pithoi. I. Vasilchin also published some stray finds from the area.
The ground plan and the chronological relations of the castellum were more precisely defined during the campaigns in 1995–1996 conducted by S. Torbatov and I. Hristakiev. They unearthed the western gate of the castellum and the stone base of a sewer installation. In the fortified area’s eastern part, remains of a dwelling came to light. Excavations were also carried out at the fort’s south-western rectangular tower, shedding new light on the main phases of habitation. During their work, they uncovered the foundations of a room with hypocaust heating. A rectangular pool with waterproof plaster, a stone spout, and a big wide-necked pithos was also found inside the tower.
This installation could be interpreted as a winery. The excavations resumed in 2016 and are still ongoing under B. Totev (Regional Historical Museum, Dobrich) and V. Varbanov (Regional Historical Museum, Ruse);10 the project was instigated by the restoration of the trestle extending into the sea, built across the central part of the castellum. In carrying out this task, they were aided by archaeologists from the regional historical museums in, among others, Ruse, Varna, and Silistra. The surveys focused on the southern part of the castellum, outside the fortification walls; the earliest, south-western tower of the Late Roman quadriburgium was unearthed entirely. This tower was built on top of a Roman period room equipped with hypocaust heating, underneath which the remains of a Hellenistic building were also discovered. In 2021, a team from the Department of Ancient Archaeology of the Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE), led by L. Juhász, joined the excavation to expand their international fieldwork activity. That was made possible by the Bulgarian colleagues’ very open and welcoming attitude, based on an excellent relationship with V. Varbanov and N. Rusev. The idea of collaboration met with enthusiasm from B. Totev’s side, thus paving the way for successful cooperation within the frame of a five-year contract for the joint exploration of Cape of Shabla between the Dobrich Museum and the university. He gave a short unpublished description of the site; the notes were kept in his private archive (Torbatov 1994, 326).The territory of Cape Shabla has a wide array of archaeological remains: a castellum, a quadriburgium, a port, a necropolis, etc., dating to diverse historical periods. Thanks to the excavations and the abundance of accumulated finds, five chronological phases of habitation could be distinguished.
The first ancient settlement is located on the seashore, next to the modern lighthouse of Cape Shabla. The earliest habitation records date from the 6th–5th centuries BC, when the Greek colony of Karon Limen was established next to a supposed Thracian port. The ancient written sources confirm that the settlement was important for shipping along the western Black Sea coast for centuries due to its key geographical location provided by a bay protected by reefs. It served as a natural harbour that, according to L. Božkov, was divided into two pools. The smaller inner basin, located north of the castellum, was 160 m wide, 400 m long, and 4 m deep. Two reefs protected the bay’s open water area; nowadays, the eastern reef is absorbed by the sea, and a seawall was built upon the northern one. The reefs seem to have been above sea level in Antiquity, and can be connected with the decline of the settlement, as the rising water level resulted in unfavourable conditions for ships. Numerous anchors were found in the seabed, dated as early as the second half of the 2nd millennium BC (Torbatov 1994, 326–327). Further north, in line with the Shabla Lake, stone anchors and two Neolithic
graves were discovered underwater (Peev 2008, 303). The second basin, the bay of Kalkan kotura, where the cargo activities were supposedly done, lies just south of the castellum, where the modern fishing village and the weather station are located. None of the structures uncovered could be connected to the earliest settlement phase but some finds provide evidence of occupation during this period. Most of them are pottery fragments, amphora stamps from Heraclea and Thasos, a 5th-century coin from Histria, etc. 4th–1st centuries BC Structures from the 4th–1st centuries BC were unearthed during the excavation in 2019. The earliest one was a pit (No. 3) dug into the bedrock underneath the remains of a Hellenistic building.14 Only half of it could be unearthed, as the rest was outside the excavation area. The pit 14 Marked No. 3 in the 2020 excavation report (Ivanov et al. 2020).
Ancient Port and Fort on the Black Sea Coast at Cape of Shabla had a diameter of more than 3 m and a depth of about 0.60 m. It could be dated to the second half or the end of the 4th–3rd centuries BC. The infill of the pit contained a considerable number of finds, mainly amphorae and (among others) a Heraclean amphora stamp dated to the middle of the 4th century BC, pottery, a bronze arrowhead, and a loom weight. The pit was intersected by two other pits (Nos 1 and 2) dated to the 3rd or 2nd centuries BC.15 They had an irregular shape with dimensions of 0.96×0.8 m and 0.98×0.9 m, respectively. The first one was very shallow, containing only a few Hellenistic pottery sherds, while the second was about 0.2 m deep and contained some more pottery fragments with fine, black-glazed sherds from the ‘West slope’ pottery style among them.16
Only 0.45 m above pits Nos. 1 and 2, the remains of a building were discovered (Fig. 7), with dif- ferent sections unearthed in 2019 and 2020.17 It was cut through and destroyed by a building with a hypocaust installation from the 2nd–3rd century AD and the subsequent quadriburgium tower. By today, three rooms orientated northwest-southeast have been uncovered. The 0.55–0.6 and 0.66– 0.7 m-wide and up to 0.35 m-high walls were built of raw stones bound together by mud. So far, the
building’s known dimensions are 5.5 m in width (northwest-southeast) and 7 m in length (north– east-southwest). Based on its stratigraphic position, it is dated to the Late Hellenistic Period (2nd century BC?). Its more recent layers contained 17 terracotta figurine fragments, some of the most interesting finds from the area of Caria (Fig. 8). At this stage of research, it can be assumed that these remains belong to an imposing public building, possibly a temple.
During the excavations in 1995–1996 inside the south-western tower of the castellum, a building with a hypocaust installation belonging to the preceding period was discovered. A small section of a room was unearthed with its 0.8 m-wide south wall built of raw stones, bound with mortar, and plastered on the inside. According to the new surveys, the building expands to the west and northwest, where its parts have been destroyed by the tower of the quadriburgium (Fig. 10; Fig. 11). The stones of its north, west, and parts of its south wall were removed in Antiquity, leaving behind the mere foundation trenches that mark their outline. Only one-third of the south wall has been preserved. The hypocaust floor was made of a layer of small rammed stones covered by a 0.1 m-thick plaster layer. The suspensura was composed of vertically placed circular bricks with a diameter of about 0.18 m, fixed to the floor with mortar. There were also pillars made up of three rows of rectangular yellow bricks, each row consisting of bricks measuring 17×30 cm each, with 0.26 m space between each pillar. Only four pillars have been preserved, while the impressions of ten more were detectable on the floor. At the current state of research, the dimensions of the building are approximately 7 m in width (north-south) and more than 10 m in length (including the section discovered in 1995–1996). S. Torbatov interpreted the structure as part of a bath complex. A great amount of construction debris could be observed: pillars, bricks, tegulae, imbrices, and tubuli. Only a fragment of a ceramic lamp, discovered in the context of the building, could be used for dating. Pottery sherds from 18 The amphora stamps from the excavations in Shabla have been evaluated by dr. Kalin Madjarov (NAIM-BAS, Sofia). The publication is in print.
Caron limen / Portus Caria: Ancient Port and Fort on the Black Sea Coast at Cape of Shabla the 2nd–3rd centuries were few in the excavated area. At the current state of research, the building is estimated to have been in use until the middle of the 3rd century AD. Only one of the coins found in this area can be connected with this period.
Boyan Totev – Varbin Varbanov – Svetlana Todorova – Lajos Juhász – Bence Simon 301