Phanagoria: New findings
16 December 2015
Volnoe Delo Oleg Deripaska Foundation, one of the largest private charities in Russia, announces that Russian archaeologists working at the site of an ancient Greek city of Phanagoria near the Black Sea, have found traces of a violent coup on the territory of Phanagoria that used to be the capital of the Kingdom of Bosporus in the 5th-4th century BC.
Following the 12th archaeological season in Phanagoria, supported by the Foundation, archaeologists have reached the ancient layers dating back to the 6th-5th century BC. Scientists unearthed fragments of a city destroyed by a massive fire in 480-470 BC. It matches historic chronicles about power transition in the Kingdom of Bosporus when a Thracian dynasty of Spartocids deposed ruling Archaeanactids dynasty in the 5th century BC.
The discovery proves that the ruling dynasty’s takeover was accompanied by violent clashes that destroyed the entire city. Archaeologists will thoroughly study the city’s fragments next year. The recent archaeological season in Phanagoria was marred by heavy rains that hindered access to the finds.
Among other secrets Phanagoria revealed in 2015 is the mystery related to the city’s fall in the 10th century when the residents abandoned Phanagoria for unknown reasons. Scientists have previously found no signs of fire, devastations or soldiers’ remains in the 10th century cultural layer. The reasons behind the mysterious disappearance of the city’s population have puzzled archaeologists through many decades. Following years of scrutinizing historical sources, it was found that Phanagoria that used to be one of the main cities of Khazar Kaganate in the 10th century, was besieged by a Slavic warlord Helgu (often interpreted as Oleg) who was known as a diplomatic invader. He was believed to force locals to flee the city in exchange for immunity.
Archaeological finds together with historic documents found in Phanagoria confirm the version about Slavic invaders’ showdown against local inhabitants.
Among the recent discoveries made at Phanagoria are remains of a two-room sun-dried earth brick building dated 6th century BC. If the further studies confirm it was an acropolis, it will be the most ancient shrine found on modern Russian territory.
Phanagoria is a stockpot of rare historic relics. Among them is an ancient naval ram used by the army of Mithradates VI of the Bosporan Kingdom to quell a popular uprising against him in 63 BC, as well as a palace of Mithradates VI dated the 1st century BC, an ancient tomb with a stepped ceiling, the oldest temple unearthed on the Russian territory dating back to the 5th century BC and a number of submerged objects, e.g., the ancient city’s streets covered with sand, Phanagoria’s port structures, and ship debris.
Vladimir Kuznetsov, the head of the Phanagoria expedition:
“One of the main results of the Phanagoria fieldwork this year is the hypothesis about possible reasons of the resident’s exodus in 10th century. Phanagoria’s studies allow us to tie the history of the Byzantine Empire, Khazar Kaganate and Ancient Rus together. We can see that the emerging Old Russian state had a strong political and social influence in the region. As for the ancient cultural layers, we possess unique historical artifacts that have no analogues in the world. We’re currently working with a 6th-5th century BC layers covering 1,000 sq.m so the new finds are to follow.”