Градът Карвуна? (Извори и археология)

The Town of Karvuna? (Sources and Archaeology)

  • Valentin Pletnyov Regional History Museum – Varna, 41 Maria Luiza Str., 9000 Varna
Keywords: Late Middle Ages, Second Bulgarian Empire, Karvuna Late Middle Ages, Karvuna


This study reviews all available sources and publications about the territory known in the 11th–14th century under the name of the Karvuna land (Karvunskata zemya), Karvona chora, Karvuna archontate and the town of Karvuna.

The analysis contradicts the claim that Tsar Ivan Alexander’s charter form 1230 given to the merchants from the city of Dubrovnik includes all territories within the Bulgarian kingdom. The thesis that these territories have always been named after their administrative centers has also been rejected. This is supported by the Privilegium given by Emperor Alexios III Angelos to Venice in 1198. It is widely accepted, based on the territories listed in the Dubrovnic Charter – Tarnovo and entire Zagora, and Preslav, and the the Karvuna chora, that the centers of these two territories were the new and the old capital cities of Tarnovo and Veliki Preslav, and not a town named Karvuna. According to the written sources, other ports and fortresses did not exist to the north of the present-day city of Varna and the Danube estuary until the late 13th and the early 14th century. The data allows to reject the suggestion of the existence of a district center named Karvuna in the 10th–13th century. It has also been established that the theses that a town named Karvuna has given the name of the territory in the 11th century is based on sources dating back as late as the 14th–18th century.

The archaeological evidence for the two towns claiming the title of administrative center of the Karvuna – Kavarna and Balchik has also been reviewed. The conclusion is that this evidence does not support the possibility of the existence of a fortress and an administrative center with this name. There is no reason to believe that either town was the center of the Karvuna archontate. The studies reveal that the fortress and port named Karvuna developed as late as late 13th century and existed in the 14th century when a port with this name appeared on the portolan charts and sea maps.

The analysis of the written sources dated back to the 14th century reveals that the information they provide is not about the town of Karvuna but about a territory – the Karvuna chora and the Karvuna archontate. One of the sources provides information about a fortress but its name is Karnava-Kavarna and not Karvuna. The evidence form written and archeological sources examined in this study does not support the longstanding thesis that this 14th century fortress gave the name of the area – Karvuna/Karvuna chora/Karvuna land – in the 11th century. The origin of the name of the Karvuna land/chora area is a subject of further research, but it seems possible that this is the name given by the Bulgarians to the Slavic toponim Hundred hills (Stohalmie). Since there is no information about the location of the fortress/town of Karvuna in the 11th–13th century, it seems more logical that the name of the harbour or the fortress of Karvuna marked on a number of maps and portolan charts after the 14th century was taken from the name of the district.

Finally, this study argues that Karvuna is not the “first capital” of the Karvuna archontate/principality. There is no evidence of the existence of a castle or residence in any of the fortresses claiming this name; similarly, there is no evidence of an intense urban life in the 14th century. Such evidence exists only for the Kaliakra fortress, which functioned as the center of the principality from its establishment in the 1320s until its possible relocation to Varna after 1385.

How to Cite
Pletnyov, V. (2018). Градът Карвуна? (Извори и археология). Contributions to the Bulgarian Archeology / Приноси към българската археология, 8, 21-32. Retrieved from http://series.naim.bg/index.php/CBA/article/view/11