Preliminary considerations regarding archaeological research at Soroca fortress in 2012-2013
In 2012-2013, the researchers from the State Pedagogical University „Ion Creangă”, National Museum of History of Moldova and Archaeology Center of the Institute of Cultural Heritage of Academy of Sciences of Moldova conducted investigations at Soroca Fortress as part of a restoration project at the medieval stone stronghold.
The archaeological investigations aimed at the study of successive cultural layers from the medieval fortress Soroca in order to establish the site’s evolution and the periods of rebuilding/reconstruction. The research was conducted within and outside the fortress walls. The excavations from pillbox no. 5 and towers no. 1 and no. 2 identified consistent cultural deposits from the medieval period. The cultural layers from inside pillbox no. 5 (Section no. 1) were uncovered up to 450 cm (from actual stepping level). The investigations from tower no. 1 (Section no. 3) reached the depth of 1030 cm (from tower entrance).
In pillbox no. 5, along ceramic materials and central-European and Polish coins discovered in upper layers, was identified Moldovan ceramics from 15th-16th centuries represented by fragments of bowls and jugs. Here were also found many stone cannon balls and iron arrow heads, but also a Moldovan coin from Ştefăniță IV (1517-1527). A ditch from a fortification made of earth and word, earlier to the stone fortress, was discovered in the inferior part of the Section.
The investigations from Tower no. 1 (circular) revealed successive layers of mortar and debris, which stays as evidence to distinct periods of building and reconstruction. Under the last mortar and debris layer situated at the depth of 850 cm, were discovered fragments of Moldovan ceramics from 15th century, stone cannon balls and an ottoman coin made of white metal belonging to an early issue of sultan Bayazid II (1447-1512). All these discoveries come from the filling of a ditch of the earth and wood fortification, with walls consolidated with beams angle arranged.
Three sections were opened outside the fortress walls. The remains of an earth and wood fortification were discovered in section no. 4, traced at 22 m south-east of the stone fortress, and which is probably distinct from the one identified in Sections no. 1 and no. 3. The ditch 6 m wide in the upper and 4,50 m in the lower part was 4,0-4,5 m deep. The ditch sides were built with wood pillars sharpened in the upper part and were inclined at an angle of 70 degrees. The distance between the two parallel rows of pillars was about 20-25 cm.
Many Moldovan medieval ceramic fragments made using the potter’s wheel and imported fine ceramic fragments were found in the filling and at the bottom of the earth and wood fortress ditch. Here were also found several (over 20 entire or fragmented pieces) stone cannon balls which are proof of the intense fights from the building period. Several coins from reign Ştefăniță IV (1517-1527), nephew of Ştefan cel Mare și Sfânt (1457-1504), serve as chronologic indicator of the period in which the earth and wood fortress ditch functioned and was filled. We also assume that under this reign the stone fortress continued to be built.
Archaeological material from the building period of the fortification was found in Section no. 6 at the entrance in the stone fortress. Several lead shots, rings and bronze buttons, Ottoman and Polish coins were found here. Also, a Moldovan medieval coin was discovered at the old stepping level which marked the beginning of building the fortress, issued by reign Bogdan III (1504-15017), son of Ştefan cel Mare. It seems that he also continued the building works at the stone fortress started by his predecessor Ştefan cel Mare.
It is to mention that during the investigations many soil samples were taken from different areas adjacent to the fortress, samples of mortar from different wall building levels of the stone fortress, samples of mortar from stones discovered in the earth and wood fortress ditch which will be subject to further analysis in the laboratory.
Sergiu MUSTEAŢĂ, Ion TENTIUC, Ion URSU