Name: The Late Antiquity fort at the village of Cherven is one of the hundreds anonymous fortifications, localized within the territory of Second Moesia. It is very probable for its name to figure in the treatise "On the Buildings" by Procopius of Caesarea, but due to lack of strict geographical order in the listing of the fortifications in the interior of the province, such identification is impossible.
Location: The fort is located 25 km to the south of Rousse, immediately to the north of the present village of Cherven, on a high rock plateau, in a meander of the Cherni Lom river.
History of the research: The site became known for the science as early as the end of the 19th century, when it was visited by the Hungarian traveller F. Kanitz, who presumed that the ruins of the Medieval town are lying over an earlier fortress. After the Liberation of Bulgaria, the site was visited by K. Skorpil as well. He generalized his observations in his work, dedicated to the antiquities along the Rousse Lom river stream. With the exception of several rather concise notes on the earlier materials from the site, the information that the author gives, refers to the relatively well preserved Medieval structures. The systematic archaeological excavations began in 1961 and up to 1975 they have been finalized as relates to the citadel of the Medieval town. The results are published in a special collection by a team of authors under the leadership of Prof. St. Mihaylov.
Revealed structures and finds: As part of the research on the Medieval Bulgarian citadel, the fortification system of the earlier, Late Antiquity fortress, have also been revealed. It has an irregular plan, entirely predetermined by the configuration of the terrain. Its size is estimated around 2.4 ha. Given the topographic features, defensive walls have been constructed only to the east and west, because the vertical rocks to the north and south, reaching up to 100 m in height, appeared to be an insuperable obstacle.
The Eastern fortification wall appears to be a lineal facility at almost the total of its length, directed towards northwest-southeast, without any towers taken in front of the defence line. It is 72 m long and 2.60 m wide. On the northern side of the rock crown it makes a curve and diverts in western direction. Here, it has a length of 5.60 m, while its width is reduced to 1.70 m. On the southern side of the hill the wall makes a curve to the southwest, reaching the natural rising of the continental terrain. Its length in this section is 8.50 m, and the width, like the one in the northwestern angle, is 1.70 m. A specific feature of both fortification walls is the lack of any visibly distinguished sub- and superstructures. They are based directly over the continental rock, which has been cleared and levelled in advance. In height the Eastern wall is preserved up to 3 m. Its external face is built of large rustic tightly placed one next to another limestone blocks, with mortared joints. The soldering is of white mortar with marks of crushed construction pottery. During the formation of the internal face are used much smaller in size stone blocks. Here again the joints have been thoroughly mortared, and with sharper object have been carved lines that form quadrae. The emplecton is of crushed stones, soldered with white in colour mortar with mixtures of large coarse and crushed brick.
Two gates, located at the opposite ends, have been excavated along the wall. The first one stands at 15 m from the northeastern angle. According to its plan, it is a tower-gate with trapezium shape, recessed inside within the fortified space. The entrance space, shaped like a propugnaculum, has the size of 5 x 5.50 x 3.50 m. The entrance on the outside has a width of 2.10 m, and on the inside – 4.90 m. The gate has been closed with an outside two-leaved door, barred with a beam, for whose retraction is provided a special channel within the width of the wall from its western side. The door is recessed at 1.00 m on the inside within the body of the wall, flanked by two growths that appear to be a natural continuation of its external face. The door from the southern side of the propugnaculum has probably also been two-leaved. Above the propugnaculum in height has risen the tower.
The second door along the length of the Eastern wall is revealed at the curve of its southeastern angle. It is shaped as a regular opening (a postern) in the fortification wall, again like at the other gate, recessed within the body of the wall. In its southern half the opening has a width of 2.00 m and a length of 1.70 m. After the threshold are preserved the nests for the axes of the two-leaved doors, the passing space reduces to 1.40 m.
The access to the battle platform has been conducted through a constructively connected to the wall double staircase, excavated to the south of the main fortification gate. The base of the staircase is a solid body, 12 m in length and 1.25 m in width, which appears as an additional thickness of the fortification wall in this section. At a height of 1.00 m above the surrounding terrain, the construction splits, receiving the outlook of a double staircase with a shorter northern wing. A smaller staircase – perpendicular to the base, leads up to it.
The Western fortification wall has a length of 96 m. Its opposite ends are reaching the vertical slopes of the plateau. For 69 m the wall appears to be a lineal section, directed towards north-south, and after that under an obtuse angle, it changes direction to northeast. It is preserved up to 5.00 m in height. The construction technique is completely identical with that of the Eastern fortification wall – rusticated blocks at the external face and well processed, but smaller in size quadrate at the internal side, with the difference that the width here is 3.00 m, and in the section to the north of the tower, next to the curve, it reaches 4.00 m. Along the front of defence, the tower is provided with one tower-gate, 10 m in width and protruded at 9 m in front of the curtain. Its shape is defined as "similar to the U-shaped towers", but given the plan-composition specifics, derived from the topographic reality, it rather has the shape of a trapezium with rounded corner at the southern base. It is constructively connected to the wall and has its width – 3 m. It is constructed of large rusticated blocks, which at its rounded part are connected with metal brackets.
In the northern side of the tower is arranged an entrance, blocked during the Middle Ages. Its width on the exterior is 2.30 m.
The idea of the fortification outlook of the Western wall is supplemented by the data from the excavated to the south of the entrance single staircase that leads to the battle platform. Its width is 1.00 m, built within the structure of the wall by large monolithic blocks.
The last compositional element of the fortification system of the site is the registered in western direction deep ditch, partially dug into the continental rock.
The clarification of the internal planning of the Late Antiquity fort is hardened by the outlook of the subsequent Medieval town. Remains of Late Antiquity buildings are studied in different sections of the fortified territory, but they are best preserved on the northern slope, next to the Medieval fortification wall, to the east of Church 7. Here are excavated five buildings that deliver notion for the overall outlook of the Late Antiquity residential building within the outlines of the fortress. All of them are constructed in identical manner - foundations and plinth of well-processed stone blocks, plastered with clay, and in height - through adobe.
The buildings have been covered by massive tile roofs, given the large quantity of tegulae and imbrices, discovered within the layers of demolition. The separate premises are clearly marked by corners and beds, cut into the rock, for laying the walls. Remains of other buildings are partially revealed within the residential area of the citadel of the Medieval town, within the outlines of the feudal castle and next to the western fortification wall. Individual finds, as segments of marble architecture decoration - capitals and cornices, display that in immediate proximity to Medieval Church 2 or in the layers underneath, was located a Late Antiquity basilica.
Directly involved with the security of the fortified settlement is also the revealed tower in the northern foot of the hill of Cherven. It presents a polygonal, septangular tower, thick in its foundation. The tower steps over a semi-round base of one row of stones, and in height is constructed by large rusticated stone blocks, which reach 1.70 m in length, plastered with yellow mortar. The width of the tower in east-west direction is 13.50 m, and its frontal edge stands 19 m away from the rock wreath. The northwestern side is preserved in better condition, reaching to 5.20 m in height. During the Middle Ages, a water-supply facility has been accommodated inside its volume. Typologically, the tower is paralleled with a Late Antiquity burgus or turris, and functionally its construction is related to the observation, control and security of the approaches and the bridge over the Cherni Lom river, traces of which are preserved in the "Moskov dol" locality on the opposite riverbank.
Chronology:The presented fortification system of the site has an undoubted Late Antiquity origin. Indirectly, researchers refer its construction to the reign of Emperor Justinian I, without adducing any certain arguments in this direction. Considering the characteristics of the fortification facilities and the used construction technique, which has accurate parallels to part of the fortified walls of the Late Antiquity town on the hill of Tsarevets, as well as the type of archaeological materials discovered, a more probable date for the construction of the fortification infrastructure is the end of the 5th and the beginning of the 6th century, during the reign of Emperor Anastasius I, when a large-scale construction program has been implemented in the Province of Moesia Secunda, with the aim of reorganization of the system for internal security. Regarding the functional essence of the fortification, its relatively large fortified area that exceeds 2 ha and the traces of dense internal build-up convincingly argue in favour of its civilian character.
There are differences in the applied construction technique in separate sections of both fortification walls, which indicates the repair and restoration works along them. Thus, in a section of 13 m in the northern end of the Eastern wall, the construction is of roughly cut stones instead of rusticated blocks. Repairs are registered on both gates of the Eastern wall. At the central gate, on the northern side of the entrance a wall is attached with the aim of narrowing the passage. Such narrowing is present at the other gates as well, and in that case the additional construction, implemented with crushed stones with clay mortar, prolongs the entire passing space. Here we can presume the construction of a square tower, aiming the increase of the defensive abilities of the postern. On the basis of the revealed ceramic material, found on the site, the repair works are dated to the second half of the 6th century without the possibility for a more clear chronological precision. Such are not given by the scant data from the research of the fortified territory. The only certain data is for a large fire, dated by a coin of Emperor Justinian I, discovered on the floor of a building from the Late Antiquity period within the outlines of the Medieval castle. Whether the repair and restoration works in terms of chronology precede the cataclysm that struck the fortress in the last quarter of the 6th century, or are the result of returning to the normal way of life in the years afterwards, has not been settled for certain. The fact is that researchers refer the death of the fortification to the first half of the 7th century, relating the event with the traces of the big fire, but according to us this dating is more an a priori one, with no specific data of archaeological character presented in favour of it.