The Zishtova Fortress in Bulgaria dates back to the 14th century, maybe even the 13th century. It lies in ruin now, having been destroyed by the Russian military in 1810. But between those dates, the fort had some big adventures.
An archaeological team led by Nikolay Ovcharov from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofzia are currently conducting excavations at the site and the area around it. In mid-May, the team stumbled upon some cannonballs dating back to the mid-15th century—a time that coincides with a siege of the fortress, according to the website Archaeology in Bulgaria. This siege is notable in that it involved forces led by none other than Vlad III Dracula, aka Vlad the Impaler.
Dracula had three stints as the Voivode—an old Slavic term for the ruling military commander—of Wallachia, a late medieval principality situated between the Danube River and the Carpathian mountains. He was known for his unusual acts of cruelty, especially his excessive use of impalement to torture and kill his victims. Tales of Dracula’s brutality eventually reached Germany and Italy, inspiring a series of bestselling books. Bram Stoker may have taken inspiration from Dracula’s infamy, naming his vampire accordingly.
Ovcharov is also excited by the find because the cannonballs were ammunition for a rare early version of cannon, used for only one century. Read about the discovery and about Vlad's campaign against the Ottomans at Gizmodo.
(Image credit: Svishtov Municipality)