YAILATA

The national archaeological reserve ‘Yailata’ is situated 2 km away from Kamen bryag in south and 18 km away from Kavarna in north-eastern. It is a seaside ledge covering 300 decares (45, 3 hectares) and is detached from the sea by 50-60 meters high rock massifs.

There is a cave ‘city’ of 101 ‘apartments’, settled as far back as V century B.C. Three necropolises (family tombs) out of III- IV century have been hollowed out in the rocks. Necropolis №1 has come onto being near a whittled down sanctuary, facing the rising sun. A little early- Byzantine stronghold is situated in the northern part of ‘The Big Yaila’. It is built in the late V century. One tower- gate and four towers are partially preserved. There are also a sanctuary, sacrificial stones, and wineries, four dug into tombs, which have been reserved since the Antiquity. During the middle Ages, the caves have been used as a monastery complex. There are some proto- Bulgarian signs on their walls- runes, crosses and stone icons.

The area of ‘Yailata’ is announced as an archaeological reserve in 1989 by a resolution of the Ministerial Council of Bulgaria. It covers comparatively big surface of the coast line starting from the village of Kamen bryag in the north and reaching ‘Rusalka’ resort in the south, including 500 meters all along the sea line as well. There are many monuments in the territory of the archaeological complex, belonging to different historical epochs- from VI millennium B.C. until the middle XI century. The regular archaeological excavations have been made since the beginning of 1980. Every endeavor has been made so that the early- Byzantine stronghold, the necropolises out of stone tombs and the cave complexes to be investigated carefully and in detail

Not less important are the remains in the Kaliakra reserve. The huge arc of the Kaliakra gulf is the only protection of ships against the northern and eastern winds since ancient times and it is a natural wharf for loading and unloading ships. There are signs of arrival of ships in Rusalka and the Yailata.

Stone, parts of leaden and iron anchors, as well as a variety of ceramic materials have been pulled out of the sea bottom. In 1791, in the gulf, the Russian fleet commanded by admiral Ushakov defeated the Turkish fleet and many ships sunk. Once, when fishers pulled out their fishing-nets from a depth of about 60m, they found remains of antique and medieval ships. All this proves that the territory around Kaliakra is full of cultural remains.

The name ‘Yailata’ has a Turkic origin and in Bulgarian means ‘high pasture’.

The legend tells us that the Roman poet Ovidius had spent his last days here banished to the town of Tomi (today – Kjustendja) by Emperor August. His friends rescued him from Tomi with a ship. Ovidius took refuge in Yailata where he was harboured by the local people.

THE FORTRESS

A small fortress is situated on the northern part of the plane terrace known as the Big Yayla. The place it was built on, slightly dominates over the surrounding terrain and is separated from the sea by 20 m high rocky cliffs to the north and east. Thus fortification walls were needed only to the west and south. These are 2.60 m wide, with total length of 130 m. Facing the mainland, four solid towers are placed in front of the western fortification wall, and the gate to the fortress was located in the southern end of the southern fortification wall. The faces of the defense constructions were precisely built from closely fitting stone blocks, which at some places are 2.00 m long and 0.70 m wide. In the inside there are three stairs closely attached to the fortification wall, which are in a good state of preservation. They were positioned in such a way as to allow fast and easy access to the platforms of the walls and the towers. A small area from the interior of the fortification settlement has been excavated and investigated. The main street has been cleared leading from the gate to the fortress center and a large-sized building, probably the sentinel premises. Stone stairs closely fit to one of the building indicate that this was a two-storey construction.

The gate would have been the most neuralgic and most important spot for the functioning of the fortress. It is a tower-type gate with two entrances, each 2.60 m wide. The outer entrance was barred by a descending cataracta, and the inner entrance had a two-winged door barred with massive beams that glided into deep grooves made for this purpose into the fortification wall. The entrance arch was watched over by a tower, which provided better guard for the entrance gate and the surrounding area.

The various archaeological artifacts made from copper, bronze, bone and clay and numerous coins found there indicate that the fortress was built at the end of the 5th – beginning of 6th century A.D. Existing during the time of some of the most devastating raids of the Slavs and proto-Bulgarians, the fortress was short-lived. It was finally destroyed in the last quarter of the 6th century and the settlement survived the burned ruins of the fortification for another couple of centuries. A Proto-Bulgarian settlement emerged there as late as the 9th century. At that time the entrance gate was blocked with a wall of secondary-used stone blocks and a small temple was built at the fmall gate in the western wall. Similar to the fate of most settlements in the Dobroudja region, this one too was destroyed by the invading Pecheneg tribes at mid-11th century. After that time life entirely ceased at this place.

THE CAVES

On the territory of the reserve, there is a great number of human-hand carved caves, either single or grouped in complexes. Just on the Big Jaila they are 101. Within a matter of years, with the help of geologists and technicians they were fully described and documented.
The caves are situated in several levels in the vertical cliffs, limiting the place to the Dobrudja plateau and the Black sea. They have been used for centuries as lodgings, some of them as tombs or churches. In the early Byzantine period – 5C -6C they served as monastic monastery i.e. here existed one of the so called rock monasteries in Dobrudja.

Rocky Cementries

Over 120 grave constructions were found in the three cemeteries in the Natural Reserve Yaylata; they were cut into the even rocky plateau or in the steep vertical cliffs. Several cave-type tombs were investigated on the southern terrace. They were cut into the base of the rock and consisted of small antechambers leading to rectangular burial chambers.

Cemetery 1, situated in the Dobroudja plateau about 700 m to the north of the early Byzantine fortress, has been investigated more systematically. It is situated along the ridge of the rocky cliffs standing 50-60 cm above the sea. According to their architecture, the burial constructions can be divided into:
Cave type with small-sized shaft-like antechambers with or without steps; the burial chambers have a comparatively large, usually rectangular or oval-shaped opening to the surface closed with slab-stones. This type of tombs is usually with well-shaped ante-chambers and steps;

Rectangular or oval-shaped graves covered with one or several slabs. This type of grave construction was for burial of children. The cemetery emerged around the sanctuary cut into the rock. Similar to the greater part of the grave construction, it faced the sea, towards the rising sun.
Cemetery 12 with 14 investigated tombs is situated in close proximity to Kamen Bryag village, to the east of it. In contrast to Cemetery 1, the tombs here are isolated into small groups oriented both east-west and north-south. Most of them are larger and more precisely cut in the rock. Tomb No 2 is of special interest; its eastern wall is decorated with a stylized image of a bull’s head, which is the only relief decoration discovered in the cemeteries investigated up to now.

With a few exceptions, all tombs have been plundered already in antiquity or in more recent times. The grave goods found: ceramic bowls, pots, mugs, lamps, bronze and iron clasps, glass beads, coins, etc, date within the chronological range 2nd-5th century A.D.
These were family tombs that had functioned for a long time; in some of them up to 15 skeletons have been excavated.
The cemeteries in the archaeological complex Yailata pose rather important and interesting problems related not only to the burial rites practiced there but also to the ethnical origin of the people buried. The formal and typological comparison of the constructions in the investigated cemeteries showed more similarities to analogous constructions along the north Black Sea coast than to the burial constructions from the East Rhodopi or Strandja-Sakar mountain regions. Therefore their occurrence along the Dobroudja Black Sea coast can be related to the invasion and settlement of barbarian tribes, most probably of Sarmathian origin.

FLORA AND FAUNA

Yailata not only preserves significant and interesting cultural and historical monuments, but also presents a unique natural environment. The floral and fauna world here is various. More than 178 bird species nestle here or stop for a while on their route to wintering along the African shore. In National Reserve Yailata are registered more than 270 species fauna. One of the most interesting species are the following:

Shag, Phalacrocorax aristotelis (Linnaeus, 1761)

This species breeds in the coastal rocky cliff caves only between village Tyulenovo and cape Kaliakra. It is included in the Red Data Book of Bulgaria as a ‘threatened species’. In 1978 there were only 25-30 breeding pares which have now increased to 150-170 pares

Great Bustard, Otis tarda (Linnaeus, 1758)

This species was common in the region at the end of the 19th century. By the end of the 70s of 20th century only single birds bred in Dobroudja. Single small flocks spend the winter here and to the south of Stara Planina mountain. This species does not breed anymore here and the region is visited occasionally only by small groups of mainly young birds. Breeding populations exist in Spain and Hungary. In the Ukraine and Russia the species has strongly decreased. The Great Bustards in Ukraine are constantly settled there and migrate not very far to the south only during severe and snowy winters, reaching Bulgaria.

Little Bustard, Tetrax tetrax (Linnaeus, 1758)

In the past the species bred in middle and central Europe. Since the end of the 19th century the population has sharply decreased. It currently nests only on the Perinea peninsula, France, Italy and the Russian and Central Asian steppes to the east of Azov sea. It does not breed in Bulgaria probably since the 70’s of the 20th century. It has not been observed during the winter period. A protected species, included in the Red Data Book of Bulgaria with the category .extinct’.

Monk Seal, Monachus monachus (Hermann, 1799)

An extinct species which inhabited in the past the rocky coastal area of Black sea around capes Kaliakra and Maslen nos, as well as Strandja region. In 1936 about 128 seals lived near cape Kaliakra, in 1979 they were already only 2, and the species has not been observed here since 1980. A small population inhabits the Turkish Black sea coast, in the Aegean basin, and the islands and African coastal area of the Mediterranean. The species is included in the IUCN Red List as ‘critically endangered’, as well as CITES (Appendix I), Bern and Bon Conventions. This is a protected species everywhere.

Via Pontica

In Bulgaria could be observed almost 70% of the birds, living in Europe, because of the transcontinental migrant ornithological routes, leading through our country – Via Pontica and Via Aristhotelis, the humid areas over the Bulgarian seaside coast and the Danube, as well as the variety of nature conditions in the interior. The most suitable spots for observation are situated on the Danube coast, on the northern Black Sea coast (including Yailata, the cape Kaliakra), on the southern Black Sea coast, in the National Park Shumen plateau, in the Provadian plateau, in the Upper and Lower Topchia reserves near the Tundja river.
Via Pontica is the second ‘famous’ migrant route in Europe. After the Gibraltar (Spain), most of the birds in Europe and Asia pass through this migrant route. Via Pontica leads through the Black Sea coast.

текст: Драган Горанов