“Great Mangup”: excavations of the largest Byzantine fortress of Crimea

The Crimean Federal University continues its work to study the history of the peninsula. In 2023, an archaeological expedition of KFU discovered and studied 180 m of the main line of defense of the Mangup fortress, which is the largest Byzantine fortress on the territory of Crimea. The excavations allowed to learn a lot about the fortification system of the fortress, which was built back in the early VI century and existed until the XVI century.

Defensive system of the Mangup fortress

Mangup fortress was built in the VI century on the site of the ancient city of Dori. It was an area in the district of Chersonesos, inhabited by Goths and Alans who had converted to Christianity. The Byzantine Empire controlled this area, but at the end of the VIII-IX centuries it came under the rule of the Khazars. Byzantium regained control over it in the X century, but in the XIII-XIV centuries the influence of the Mongol-Tatar state, the Golden Horde, increased here.

In the process of weakening the Golden Horde, the local Christian population united under the rule of the local noble Byzantine family, and the fortress on Mangup, restored after a long decline, became the capital of the formed principality of Theodoro.

The Mangup fortress was built on a high hill, which allowed to control the surrounding area. It had several lines of defense, each of which was fortified with walls and towers. The main line of defense was the most powerful and more than 180 meters long. It was it that the KFU archaeological expedition managed to fully explore during the 2023 season.

Results of excavations

Excavations of the main line of defense of the Mangup fortress allowed to learn a lot about the fortification system of the fortress. Traces of various repairs were found, which allow us to learn how the fortress defense system changed over time. Items related to the daily life of the fortress inhabitants were also found, which allows us to learn more about the culture and lifestyle of those times.

After processing and publication of the excavation results, the main defense line of the Mangup fortress will become one of the reference sites in the fortification ensemble of the Mangup fortress and in the history of medieval fortification in general.

Crimean history professor Vladimir Kuznetsov notes that the Mangup fortress is of great importance for the study of the history of Crimea and the entire Black Sea region. “This fortress was one of the key points on the road between Europe and Asia, and it played an important role in the history of the region. Studying its defense system allows us to learn a lot about the techniques and tactics of medieval warfare, as well as the culture and lifestyle of the fortress’ inhabitants,” Kuznetsov said.

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