The Archeological Reservation ‘Yailata’ (Rezervatia Arheologica Yailata)

Yailata is the national archeological reservation located in the north-eastern part of Bulgaria. The reservation consists of a terrace of more than 40 hectares which separates itself from the sea by means of rocky cliffs which can reach as much as 50-60 m in height.

The reason for which this specific location has become a national reservation, protected under the state, is that due to archeological explorations, a ‘cave town’ was unveiled in the region. This consists of 101 dwellings, all dating from the 5th century B.C. According to history, in medieval times, the caves were used for monastic purposes.  In addition, the northern area bears the marks of the Byzantine age.

In this part of the terrace, the remains of a fortress were uncovered. The structure did not survive the passage of time in its entirety, but had managed to hold on as much as possible, leaving behind for posterity a glimpse of the Byzantine keep that once stood so proudly in that part of the world. Only fragments of the 4 towers are still noticeable and a gate.

The discoveries were definitely impressive and the archeological diggings carried on throughout the 1980s with the purpose of unveiling as much as possible the past of this region. The main point of interest was, with no surprise, the citadel dating from the Early Byzantine period. But the underground tombs as well as the caves pose as much curiosity as the fortress. Due to these specific elements which carry immense cultural and historical interest, Yailata was declared an archeological reservation by the Government in 1989.

But the remnants of the past found in Yailata are not singular in nature and importance. The Kaliakra reserve holds within fragments of ships and good transported over the sea which have sunk in the gulf during specific historical periods and events. For instance, fragments of massive anchors made out of leaden and iron have been brought to the surface from the depths of the sea. With these, various ceramic items have been recovered from the region.

Near the end of the 18th century, in 1791, a Russian fleet defeated the Turkish fleet and, in the battle between the two, many vessels were sunk. All the goods found on board were lost at sea, together with the ship itself. But the past found its way back to the present as many of these items were recovered. On several accounts, fishermen caught in their nets remnants of antique and medieval vessels. Such repetitive occurrences could mean only one thing: that the Kaliakra region exudes cultural significance.

The Byzantine fortress was constructed on the northern segment of the Yailata. As it has been mentioned previously, the terrace is separated from the sea by rocky cliffs. These contributed extensively to the structure developed for the fortress, namely that walls were erected solely in the western and southern part, the cliffs which occupied the north-eastern part were sufficient for fortification purposes.

The walls were made out of stone and reached a height of 2 m and a width of 70 cm in specific places. At the interior, one can still notice three stairs on the walls, these having been preserved quite well throughout time. Such ‘details’ in the structure were developed with the purpose of easing access to the towers and the platforms found on the walls.

The certainty concerning the construction date of the fortress was determined by the multitude of artifacts made out of cooper, bronze, clay and bone, as well as the numerous coins discovered in the area. The archeological investigations conducted in the area clearly revealed the period of time in which the citadel came into being – i.e. in the 5th century.

The interesting thing about the caves is that these are not natural, but artificially created. These dwellings have been carved into the cliffs either as singular unities or as ensembles. The caves have been analyzed and documented in detail by trained geologists and technicians. At present, the complex of caves is accurately depicted so that those interested could learn everything about their structure and organization within the cliffs.

Yaylata also consists of extended burial grounds which contain more than 120 tombs. These are organized in 3 graveyards, and the structure of the tombs varies extensively in accordance to the person that found his/her rest there. Thus the tombs have rectangular or oval forms and can comprise antechambers. Depending on the cemetery you visit, you can find tombs covered with various images. The Yailata Archeological Reserve has many interesting things to offer and visiting this region means giving yourself the opportunity to learn something about the ancient civilizations that have dwelt in this part of the world.