This just in from Novinite:
A Bulgarian team of archaeologists have discovered well-preserved remains of a Roman bath in the ancient Bulgarian town of Sozopol.
The news was revealed by National Museum of History director Bozhidar Dimitrov.
“The team, led by Sozopol Archaeology Museum director Dimitar Nedev has made the discovery as part of its digs in the area in front of Sozopol’s fortress walls,” said the historian.
According to Dimitrov, the thermae building is 18 meters long and features an intricate water supply systems as well as numerous pools of various sizes.
“Except for Roman baths in Hissarya and Varna, this is the best-preserved Roman bath in Bulgarian lands,” added he.
Dimitrov expressed satisfaction at the string of discoveries made in Sozopol, which he said will make an attractive open-air exhibit once archaeological works are completed.
Sozopol, founded by Greek colonists in the 5th century BC on what is now Bulgaria’s southern Black Sea coast, is now a popular resort town.
- via: Bulgarian Archaeologists Uncover Major Roman Thermae (Novinite)
… the article is accompanied by a photo of what is clearly a hypocaust system of some sort …
It isn’t often that archaeologists get more than ten times the funding they asked for … from the Sofia News Agency:
Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Simeon Djankov, has pledged the significant amount of BGN 3 M for restoration and conservation of the historical Roman Baths in the Black Sea city of Varna.
The sum came as a pleasant surprise to archaeologists who have asked for BGN 200 000.
Djankov made the pledge during a discussion organized by the Bulgarian Standard daily in Varna in the frame of the newspaper’s campaign “The Miracles of Bulgaria.”
The Minister stated the idea to provide significant funds under the Via Pontica program was not to give more money for archaeological research, but to make existing archaeological sites more attractive in order to boost tourism. He called on archaeologists to be creative in inventing names and stories around their discoveries.
The program is named after the Via Pontica bird migration flyway.
Djankov noted the Roman Baths are located in the very heart of Bulgaria’s Black Sea capital and are a great tourist attraction, thus the goal would be to make them even more interesting and accessible.
The idea was firmly backed by prominent Bulgarian archaeologist Professor Nikolay Ovcharov, nicknamed the Bulgarian Indiana Jones.
The Finance Ministry’s list of sites for funding includes several medieval fortresses and the former royal palace and now government residence “Evsinograd” near Varna.
Varna Mayor, Kiril Yordanov, noted his city had 125 years of history in tourism, and in recent years the City Hall had slated BGN 11 M of its own funds for cultural events.
The Roman Baths are one of the most valuable monuments of culture in Varna, situated in the central part of the city, on the corner of the streets San Stefano and Khan Krum. This is one of the sites of the Archaeological Museum in the city.
The Public Baths of Odessos are one of the most preserved architectural monuments of the Roman Age in Bulgaria (1st – 4th century AD). They are of the so called “small imperial style” and their construction refers to the end of the 2nd century AD. This is the largest roman bath on the Balkan Peninsula – with an area of 7000 square meters. It is the forth in size in Europe – among the baths of Karakala and Diocletian in Rome and Trevira (Trier, Germany). It was used by the end of 3rd century.
Bulgarian archeologists in the historical coastal town of Sozopol are working on unearthing two antique temples – of Gods Poseidon and Priapus.
The information was announced over the weekend by the Director of the National History Museum and former Minister for Bulgarians abroad, Bozhidar Dimitrov. He added that archaeological excavations were ongoing near the fortress wall where the entrance to the town was uncovered in the summer with well-preserved parts of two towers and the “Saint Nikolay” monastery.
According to Dimitrov, two antique temples were discovered on the left of the monastery, both about 2-meters tall. Inside one there is a stone plate with an image of God Poseidon. The altar of the second temple is well-preserved, and was made by squares of white limestone cemented with iron clamps and lead. There, the archeologists have found a ceramic phallus with Priapus inscribed on it in ancient Greek. Dimitrov says this could be a gift from an individual who might have had some reproductive problems since Priapus is the god of fertility, protector of livestock, fruit plants, gardens and male genitalia.
Digs are also continuing at the north tower, which is located on the highest elevation in Sozopol. When works are completed, the tower will offer a splendid scenery viewed from the sea. Dimitrov predicts it will become one of the symbols of the historical town.
- via: Bulgarian Archeologists Unearth Poseidon, Priapus Temples (Novinite)
Okay … I’m getting cranky with identifications lately; not really sure what the basis for identifying these temples with these particular divinities, although the phallus is, er, suggestive. The other thing that confuses me is the photo that accompanies this article … I’ll break my usual practice of simply linking and include it below:
This is apparently a temple of Poseidon … it’s kind of interesting that no connection is made to the find of an erotic vase fragment at/near this site earlier this year (Erotic Vase Find from Sozopol) … previous temple finds include one to Demeter (Another Temple of Demeter) …
The finds are from various periods, but it sounds like this find might lead to more within our purview. From Novinite:
A necropolis with over 100 burials has been unearthed during archaeological excavations near the village of Marten in northern Bulgaria.
The discovery was made by the archaeologist from the Archaeology Museum in the Danube city of Ruse, Deyan Dragoev.
The necropolis is on the path of the future gas connection between Bulgaria and Romania.
The site includes tombs from the Thracian times to the times of the First Bulgarian Kingdom. The oldest ones date from the 5th – 4th centuries B.C. Some reveal very interesting rites such as the tomb of a decapitated soldier, whose head was laid on his lap, while others have been buried with gold and silver jewelry or with their dogs.
Some skeletons have deformed skulls, which have been typical for the First Bulgarian Kingdom as a sign of high position in society and of nobility. Noble children then had their heads tightened with headbands in order to change the form of the skull, experts say.
Remnants include wooden coffins, and ceramics and glass from Roman times.
The two Thracian tombs, according to archaeologists, show that a Thracian settlement, unknown until now, has been located nearby.
On Wednesday, the Ruse archaeologists sent bone material for analysis at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.
- via: Ancient Necropolis Pops on Path of Bulgaria-Romania Gas Link (Novinite)
From the Sofia Globe:
Archaeologists working at the Odeon site in Bulgaria’s second city of Plovdiv have found 40 silver coins said to date from the third century CE when the city was under Roman rule.
The coins were said by archaeologists to have been minted during the Severan dynasty, while ruled from 193 to 235 CE and variously feature images of four different emperors.
The Odeon site, dating from the second to fifth centuries, is the location of a Roman-era theatre, and is smaller in scale than Plovdiv’s well-known ancient theatre in the city’s Old Town.
The coins were found near the complex of administrative buildings at the northern end of the forum complex.
This archaeological season, more than 600 coins have been excavated at Plovdiv’s Odeon site. From the Hellenic era, there have been many finds of pottery.
At the Odeon site, a marble eagle was found earlier in 2012, and is estimated to date from the second to third century. Maya Martinova, head of the dig at the site, said that the eagle was of a type from the interiors of public buildings, and along with finds of marble columns and other items, was proof of the luxurious interiors of buildings in Phillipopolis, a prosperous city at the time.
The Odeon site has also seen finds of tiles depicting theatrical masks and Roman pottery. The coins include some with the images, respectively, of the emperors Geta and Caracalla, minted in ancient Sofia and in ancient Plovdiv at the end of the second and beginning of the third centuries. [...]
Some previous coverage of this dig:
- Plans for More Digs in Plovdiv (September, 2012)
- Greek Inscription From Plovdiv (August, 2012)
- Plovdiv Roman Stadium Restoration Project (February, 2010 … sort of related)
This is another one I’ve been sitting on because the darned story kept developing — something not normally seen with finds from Bulgaria. In any event, here’s the original notice from Novinite:
Bulgarian archaeologists have found a unique gold Thracian treasure in the famous Sveshtari tomb.
The team, led by one of the most prominent Bulgarian experts on Thracian archaeology, Prof. Diana Gergova, from the National Archaeology Institute at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, BAS, made the discovery during excavations at the so-called Omurtag mount.
The researchers found fragments of a wooden box, containing charred bones and ashes, along with a number of extremely well-preserved golden objects, dated from the end of the 4th and the beginning of the 3rd century B. C.. They include four spiral gold bracelets, and a number of intricate applications like one which shows the head of a female goddess adorned with beads, applications on horse riding gear and a forehead covering in the shape of a horse head with a base shaped like a lion head. The objects weigh 1.5 kg, but the excavations continue.
The precious find also contains a ring, buttons and beads. Gergova explains that it seemed the treasure was wrapped in a gold-woven cloth because a number of gold threads were discovered nearby.
The Professor says these were, most likely, remnants from a ritual burial, adding the team expects to discover a huge burial ground, probably related to the funeral of the Gath ruler Kotela, one of the father-in-laws of Philip II of Macedon. She notes this is a unique find, never before discovered in Bulgaria.
According to her, the Omurtag mount is the biggest one in the Gath center, which was their religious and political capital while the Gath were the tribe that influenced the most western tribes such as the Celts.
Gergova expects the treasure will entice the Culture Ministry to finally fund in full this emblematic Thracian site, part of the archaeological reserve Sboryanovo with the Sveshtari tomb, which is on the world cultural-historical heritage list of UNESCO.
The Professor says the Omurtag mount must be turned into a museum where the excavated segment could become an exhibit hall.
- via: Bulgarian Archaeologists Find Unique Gold Thracian Treasure (Novinite)
… and I initially found the connection to Philip II interesting, and planned on mentioning that and moving on. Then, for reasons unknown, this story caught on. Art Daily, Greek Reporter, and the Telegraph, to name but three, were giving the find some attention. Al Jazeera gave a nice video report as well:
And shortly after this media frenzy, the story seems to have taken a different turn. Novinite then was telling us that the Louvre ‘Eyes’ Bulgaria’s Newest Thracian Treasure and that Magnificent Bulgarian Thracian Gold ‘Outshines’ Obama’s Win. Of course, it’s only natural to follow those up with being told Bulgarians Want Unique Thracian Treasure Back in Hometown, while the Daily Mail decided to take it to it’s usual sensationalistic extreme: Golden discovery: Archaeologists discover astonishing haul ‘linked to Alexander the Great’ in network of tombs in Bulgaria … but they had some really nice photos. Things seem to have quietened down a bit over the past few days … it is a nice find.
Given how often we hear of Bulgaria actively promoting archaeological finds, this story from Novinite seems somewhat strange (especially the stuff at the end):
A real archaeological treasure has popped out underneath the “Struma” highway construction works in western Bulgaria.
Archaeologists at the site have managed a last-minute rescue operation, pulling “under the nose” of waiting construction workers and machinery gold soldier breastplates, gold earrings and hairpins, and a number of silver and amber items, the Bulgarian Standard daily writes Friday.
The finds came from an unseen so far in size Thracian necropolis in the vicinity of the village of Dren, near the town of Radomir. They have been unearthed in the spring of 2012, after flooding in the area, but were kept secret in order to prevent their pillage from illegal treasure hunters.
Now, after the necropolis is buried underneath highway asphalt, the treasure will be on display for the first time Friday in the western city of Pernik on the occasion of its official day, according to Standard.
The unique necropolis dates from 7-8th century BC. It includes an area of 5 825 square meters, and is over 300-meter long. Bulgarian archaeologists are quoted saying it has no analogue worldwide and it belonged to local Thracian aristocrats since they were the only ones allowed to wear gold.
At the beginning of the year, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov treated local archaeologists in a surprisingly offensive fashion with respect to an archaeological site found during the construction of the southwestern highway “Struma”.
Borisov and his Cabinet have reiterated a number of times their discontent over the fact that the very recent discoveries of Thracian archaeological sites along the route of the Struma Highway might delay its construction. In December 2011, Borisov accused the archaeologists of “racketeering” the state.
Brief (as always) item from the Sofia News Agency:
Archaeologists have discovered colorful floor mosaic from the Roman era near the so-called West Gate of Serdica in downtown Sofia.
The news was announced Monday by the Mayor of Sofia, Yordanka Fandakova, who visited the archaeological excavations in the company of her Deputy in charge of Culture, Todor Chobanov.
The mosaic has an area of 40 square meters and is located in the ruins of a Roman building discovered for the first time between 1975 and 1980 when archaeologists began exploring the site. The works were later abandoned and remained unfinished.
Serdica’s West Wall followed the current “Washington” and “Lavelle” streets to the Central Court building. Fragments of it can be seen in the yard of the largest catholic cathedral in Bulgaria “Saint Joseph.”
Fandakova said there is likelihood the mosaic is part of a large basilica, which continues under “Washington” street, adding it means archaeologists are to continue their work there to fully uncover “the wealth of Sofia.” She stressed the key importance of preserving this wealth and displaying it in the urban environment in order make the city an even more attractive destination.
“The basilica shows the standing of Serdica during the rule of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (274-337),” the Mayor concluded.
… no photos, alas.
From the Sophia Globe:
Archaeologists working at the site of the Roman baths in Deultum, an ancient settlement about 17km south-west of Bourgas on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, have found a ceramic lamp in the shape of a dog, a find described as one of kind not seen before in Europe.
Deultum was founded in the first century CE as a Roman colony. It grew over the subsequent three centuries and from the second century was protected by large fortified walls. The baths are said to date from the first century and archaeologists believe they were renovated some time in the third century.
The site of Deultum, known in early medieval times as Develt, is today’s village of Debelt.
The dog-shaped ancient lamp was found in the baths part of the site, at a spot believed to date from the middle of the third century. The object is almost intact and will be restored.
Local media said that the director of the Sredets historical museum, Krasi Kostova, had checked with colleagues elsewhere in Europe and established that no similar find had been made, but the discovery elicited excitement because the dog depicted is believed to be a North African breed depicted in Egyptian papyri as a cult object, later associated with Artemis, ancient Greek goddess of the hunt.
- via: Archaeology: Ancient lamp in the shape of a dog found at Bulgaria’s Deultum Roman site (Sofia Globe)
… no photo, alas. Some of our previous coverage of finds at Dueltum … still waiting to hear about what they found in the tombs they uncovered a month or so ago:
I’m not sure I’ve seen one of these ‘Causes’ things before, but the Bulgarian Archaeological Society is apparently seeking some assistance in regards to the site of Colonia Ulpia Traiana Ratiaria:
Here’s some info from their page:
The Bulgarian Archaeological Association (BAA) along with Association “Ratiaria” have set themselves the goal of attracting the attention of the international community and to raise funds to protect Colonia Ulpia Traiana Ratiaria. This archaeological site was one of the most important Roman and Early Byzantine centres in the lower Danube area which in the past 20 years was targeted by treasure hunters and destroyed.
Since 2008, the Bulgarian Archaeological Association carried out rescue actions on the territory of Ratiaria. For several years we have discovered 14 new Latin inscription, over 700 artifacts, more then 15 new monumental buildings, and over 20 new legionary stamps. In 2010 was uncovered the well preserved main street (decumanus maximus) of the city. All these data show that Ratsiaria is not irretrievably lost for the Roman archeology.
From Novinite … sounds like one we’ll be hearing more about (hopefully):
A team of Bulgarian archaeologists has found a coin treasure from the 3rd century BC near the southeastern-most Bulgarian Black Sea village of Sinemorets.
The coin treasure was discovered by the team of Prof. Daniela Agre excavating archaeological sites in the region in a ceramic vessel.
“We are now working, cleaning around the vessel. Once we lift it, we will be able to say how many are there. This is a treasure consisting of silver coins, a large one,” she told the Focus news agency.
Prof. Agre explained the vessel containing the coins was found buried next to a tower of the fortified home of an Ancient Thracian ruler that has been known to the Bulgarian archaeologists since 2006.
The archaeologist pointed out that there are only a few cases in which coin treasures of such scope have been found during excavations in Bulgaria.
She believes the coins in question were most likely minted by Alexander the Great or his officer and successor Lysimachus. Agre promised to provide more information later.
… if you’re keeping score of who finds what in Bulgaria, Dr Agre is the archaeologist who found that chariot burial a couple of years ago (Chariot Burial (and more) from Borissovo)
Bulgarian archaeologists have stumbled upon a unique lion head stone sculpture from the times of the Trojan War.
The discovery has been made in the so-called Womb Cave in the Eastern Rhodopes.
It was German ornithologists who initially discovered the sculpture, local media inform. They stumbled upon the artifact while studying the behavior of local birds and subsequently handed it over to Bulgarian experts.
The sculpture has been dated to the Late Bronze/Early Iron Age, or approximately 2nd/1st century BC.
The lion was an extremely important power symbol at that time, archaeologist Nikolay Ovcharov has pointed out, reminding its symbolic use in Homer’s Iliad.
According to Ovcharov, the sculpture was used in a Thracian fertility rite.
At the beginning of each year, Thracian kings went in similar caves to commit animal sacrifices, he said.
The stone sculpture will be shown in the Regional Historical Museum in the town of Kardzhali.
… the original article has a photo; it’s kind of tough to see a lion there (but I’m still only slightly caffeinated) …
From the Sofia Globe:
Archaeologists working on digs at the Roman Forum and Odeon sites in Bulgaria’s second city of Plovdiv have unearthed a number of interesting finds from various periods and the city now wants to expand excavations at the Forum site.
The Forum site, near the current modern-era central Post Office, dates from the first to second centuries CE. Overall, it covers about 11 hectares, making it arguably the largest such Roman-era forum site in Bulgaria.
The Post Office dates to the 1970s, to the communist era when 19th and early 20th century buildings were razed to make way for it and other large-scale buildings adjoining it on a large square. Some archaeologists believe that any number of archaeological finds lie waiting to be discovered beneath the massive concrete of the Post Office.
Nearby is the Odeon site, dating from the second to fifth centuries, location of a Roman-era theatre, smaller in scale than Plovdiv’s well-known ancient theatre in the city’s Old Town.
Plovdiv mayor Ivan Totev wants to create a pedestrian link between the central square, the western side of the Forum and the Odeon site. Work on reconstructing the square is to start in 2013, including removing some buildings, among them the small tourist information centre next to the Post Office.
Totev said on August 23 that he was seeking permission from the Ministry of Culture to expand the excavations on the site north of the Post Office by a further 400 sq m.
On the Forum site, a construction inscription in ancient Greek was found in the dig in early August.
The head of the archaeological team on the site, Elena Kisyakova, was quoted by local media as saying that the inscription dates back to the times of Emperor Antoninus Pius, who governed in 138-161, and shows that the building was built in his honour. “It is, however, unclear who paid for the construction of the building, since only a small part of the inscription is preserved,” Kisyakova said.
Other finds at the site, which by late August had been excavated to a depth of 2.5m, included coins dating from, variously, the third century to as late as the reign of Sultan Murad, who ruled from 1359 to 1389.
Kisyakova said that the location of the Propylaea, the ancient arches that were the entrance to the Forum, had been established and it was expected that in time these would be fully exposed.
At the Post Office site, archaeologists also had found traces of medieval buildings from the 10th to 12th centuries, a significant find, according to Kisyakova who said that this was the least-known period ofPlovdiv’s history.
At the Odeon site, a marble eagle was found, estimated to date from the second to third century. Maya Martinova, head of the dig at the site, said that the eagle was of a type from the interiors of public buildings, and along with finds of marble columns and other items, was proof of the luxurious interiors of buildings in Phillipopolis, a prosperous city at the time.
The Odeon site has seen finds of more than 200 coins, tiles depicting theatrical masks and Roman pottery. The coins include some with the images, respectively, of the emperors Geta and Caracalla, minted in ancient Sofia and in ancient Plovdiv at the end of the second and beginning of the third centuries.
Other finds include nails, glassware, Roman cups and bowls, amphorae, a lead water pipe that was part of the Roman-era sewerage system, and drinking vessels used in religious rituals.
Mayor Totev, elected in 2011, is keen to highlight the city’s archaeological wealth – the city of which he has stewardship boasts of being older than Rome and is the 11th-largest on the Balkans – because Plovdiv is among Bulgarian cities in the running to be the European Capital of Culture in 2019. Among Totev’s election campaign promises was work on an underground archaeological museum in the city.
We mentioned the Greek inscription find (Greek Inscription From Plovdiv) … links to previous coverage about finds from Plovdiv can also be found there.
From the Sofia Globe:
An ancient incense vessel in the shape of a bull’s head, estimated to date from the sixth century BCE, has been found by archaeologists on St Kirik island off the Bulgarian Black Sea town of Sozopol.
The discovery was made on the last hour of the last day of the 2012 summer archaeological season.
Public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television quoted John Stevenson, a Harvard student volunteer working on the dig, as saying that the find was a great surprise and one of the most interesting made this season.
Archaeologist Dragomir Garbov said that the vessel probably was used by the earliest settlers in Apollonia Pontica, an ancient name for Sozopol.
The head of archaeological excavations, Kristina Panayotova, said that the find was “very rare”, the only such incense vessel in the shape of a bull’s head that had been found in Bulgaria.
“This really is the crown of our work on St. Kirik even just for this season,” Panayotova said.
Thirty-five volunteers, including archaeological students from the United States, Canada and the UK, joined in the work on St Kirik island this archaeological season.
- via: Archaeology: Incense vessel in shape of bull’s head found on island off Bulgaria’s Sozopol (Sofia Globe)
… no photo, alas … Past Horizons had a pre-dig announcement which gives some background to the site: Apollonia Pontica Excavations.
Another tantalizingly brief one from Bulgaria … this time from the Focus news agency:
“An ancient Roman bridge was found over Osam River by the Sostra stronghold near the town of Troyan”, archeologist Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ivan Hristov, deputy-director of the National Historical Museum said for FOCUS News Agency .
The discovery was made today. The ancient Roman bridge over Osam River connects roadside station of Sostra stronghold with a Thracian sanctuary, which is being currently researched.
“Since one week an expedition of the National Historical Museum and the National Archeological Institute and the Museum of Arts in Troyan has been working on exploration of the Thracian sanctuary of the Thracian Horseman dated from the Roman ages”, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ivan Hristov said.
In the past, we’ve heard of a Gallienus Inscription being found in the area … for a sort of overview of what has been found there over the years, here’s an item which I put in Explorator but strangely not in rogueclassicism: “Sostra” Fortress
Another tantalizingly brief item from Novinite:
Bulgarian archaeologists have discovered a Thracian settlement during the first ever excavations in the town of Tsarevo on the southern Black Sea coast.
The team is led by Milen Nikolov, an archaeologist from the Regional History Museum in the Black Sea city of Burgas.
The settlement is very close in location to the town church “Uspenie Bogorodichno.” The find proves that Tsarevo and nearby areas have a history more ancient that what was believed until now.
During the excavations, the archaeologists have found remnants showing that as early as the 4th – 5th century BC Thracians have built a town that existed until the 1st century AC.
Nikolov explains the discovery is a 2 500-year history rewind, saying the finds further include a four-wick lamp, tomb gifts, and a number of vessels.
- via: Archaeologists Find Thracian Town on Bulgarian Sea Coast (Novinite)
Another one from Focus Fen which seems to have lost something in translation:
“A construction inscription in ancient Greek language was discovered during the archaeological excavations in the western part of the Roman Forum in Bulgaria’s second biggest city of Plovdiv. Head of the archaeological team Elena Kisyakova announced the news for Radio FOCUS – Plovdiv.
“The inscription dates back to the times of Empiror Antoninus Pius, who governed in 138-161, and shows that the building was built in his honour. It is, however, unclear who paid for the construction of the building, since only a small part of the inscription is preserved. It was deciphered by epigraph Nikolay Sharankov. We hope to end up with the mediaeval layer and reach the ancient one in few days,” Kisyakova commented.
At the moment her team has reached 2 metres under the modern layer, as the ancient findings are expected to pop up a meter deeper.
In the beginning of the excavations in the western part of the Forum in June, which nowadays is situated between the Tsar Simeonovata Gradina City Park and the Central Post Office, the archaeologists expressed hopes to reach one of the central entrances to the big city square and find the western Propylaea. So far they have found only ceramics, characteristic for the X and XII centuries.
- via: Ancient Greek inscription on a building found during archaeological excavations at Plovdiv’s Roman Forum (Focus Fen)
The finds from Plovdiv (ancient Philipopolis/Trimontium) are certainly varied; this is the first we’ve read about the excavations in the forum, I think. Our previous coverage:
- Roman Tunnel in Plovdiv (July 2009)
- Plovdiv Roman Stadium Restoration Project (February 2010)
- Walls of Philippopolis Found (December 2011)
Last week we mentioned a find of some Roman burials which were found when a truck broke through the pavement near Debelt (ancient Dueltum): Roman Tombs from Debelt. Today we get a followup, with a slightly different version of the circumstances of discovery … from the Sofia Globe:
Golden medallions featuring inscriptions and images found in a gravesite dating to the Roman era in Debelt, a village in the region of Bourgas on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, have been identified by archaeologists as being from the second century CE.
According to archaeologists, the graves are those of veterans of the eighth legion of Augustus. They are in the western part of the ancient Roman colony of Deultum, according to a report on July 17 2012 by public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television.
Today the gravesite is next to a street in the latter-day village of Debelt. Deultum, in its time, was known as “Little Rome in Thrace”, the report said.
The find was made by accident while people were pouring concrete for construction. The vibration of the concrete mixer caused the surface to crack and a tomb was found.
Krasimira Kostova, director of the Archaeological Museum in Debelt, said that the find was of extremely high value. The valuable gifts were evidence that the people who lived there were of high status.
The finds included golden jewellery and a needle, beads and scrapers used by the ancient Romans for bathing and massage and in medicine as a means of inserting medication in the ears and throat, the report said. All of these were signs of urban life in what was then an important place in the Roman empire.
An inter-ministerial committee will decide what will become of the site. According to the report, Debelt archaeological reserve is the only one in Bulgaria to have “European archaeological heritage” status.
And just to add my own followup, we have heard of finds in the region of Bourgas before, and I speculated (if it needs speculation; as often, it might just be left out of the Bulgarian coverage) it might be the location of one of a string of forts established by Vespasian and the connection with the Legio VIII Augusta might support that. See Further Thoughts on that Bulgarian Site Near Bourgas. On the movements of the Legio VIII Augusta, see the informative article at Livius.org: Legio VIII Augusta
From the Sofia News Agency:
A truck carrying concrete for a construction site near Bulgaria’s Debelt has caused the precious discovery of two tombs dating from Roman times.
The news was announced Saturday by the Director of the National History Museum at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, BAS, Lyudmil Vagalinski.
The truck was on a dirt road near the main one between the Black Sea city of Burgas and Sredets, carrying concrete for the construction of a house. The road caved in under its weight and uncovered the marble plates of a Roman tomb, most likely dating from the 2nd-3rd century A.C.. Another tomb was discovered nearby in the aftermath.
The truck, however, cracked some of the marble, while treasure hunters, conducting their own research, have added to the problems archaeologists now face.
The area is currently sealed in expectation of a permit to start archeological digs. The authorities are also conducting a probe in the case.
“Debelt is one of the key archaeological sites in Bulgaria. This is a Roman city, a colony of the highest level, meaning it is a direct copy of the organization and planning of Ancient Rome. It has been founded in year 70 A.C. by retired Roman legionnaires,” Vagalinski explains.
There are 15 Roman colonies on the Balkans, 3 of them in Bulgaria, with Debelt being the earliest one.
- via: Heavy Truck Causes Important Archeological Find in Bulgaria (Sofia News Agency)
I tend not to include photos of things in other sources, but this time I have to … ecce:
If you look at this, it is clear that the tombs aren’t really that deep and are directly under the highway. Indeed, I’m sure I’m not the only one who is thinking at this point that they must have found those tombs when they were building the road and just paved over them, no?
In any event, Debelt is the ancient Deultum.
As often, something seems lost in translation in this one from Focus Fen:
A Greek painted vase with erotic scene on it was discovered during excavations in the Bulgarian coastal town of Sozopol. Professor Bozhidar Dimitrov, Director of the Bulgarian National Museum of History, announced the news exclusively for FOCUS News Agency.
One of the oldest Greek painted vases found on Bulgarian territory was discovered during excavations, which started in October 2011, at the fortified wall of Sozopol and the St Nicolas the Wonderworker Church in the beginning of the old town. It was discovered in the lowest layers, remains of Sozopol’s history of the end of the VII and the middle of the VI centuries Before Christ.
“There is a strong erotic scene on the vase, which unfortunately was discovered in several fragments. There are several naked young boys and girls, having sex in some untraditional way. Such a scene is found for the first time on the territory of our country,” Dimitrov said.
“The scene is a rarity, we have thousands of vases found here, but this is the first one with such a scene on it. We have seen similar items in Greece. The Ancient Greeks used to consider sex a free gift from the Gods; it is for the Christian Church to be the first to start labelling what is right and what is wrong in the sex. It imposes restrictions, allowing only one position between the man and the woman and it is not by chance that this position is called ‘monastic’. For good or evil, the Ancient Greeks did not think this way,” Dimitrov commented further.
Lacking a photo, I guess we’ll have to let our imaginations run wild with the “untraditional way” phrase. I recall a similar phrase in a translation of Herodotus … if I get some time I’ll try to track it down …
ADDENDUM (the next day): The coverage from the Sofia Echo is rather more clear and includes some other information, to wit:
[...] Archaeologist Dimitar Nedev told Focus that there were such erotic scenes in finds from ancient Greece, but none so large, expressive and done by such a good artist.
According to a preliminary analysis of the style, the painting was made by one of the prominent artists in Apollonia – the Artist of the Running Satyr.
The painting is comprised of seven figures; the scene is erotic, with good style, expressive and very “spicy”, Nedev was quoted as saying.
He said that the find would widen the knowledge of the region, its trade contacts, and the aesthetic and artistic criteria of ancient Hellenes and Thracians who used to live in this region.
The last bits from a piece at Novinite:
The latest Perperikon finds presented Tuesday include a human idol from the 5th century BC, a bronze axe and a Thracian war knife. The archeologist explained that during the first day of the excavations they also found a medical instrument from Roman times, which has been used to remove from skin a worm-parasite and then clean the wound.
Other unique discoveries include a Roman lamp from the 3rd century with the picture of a scarcely clad female dancer waiving a scarf above her head, a number of antique coins, a silver coin with Tsar Ivan Alexander and his son Mihail, and a medieval silver tiara. The finds are very important because they are not very typical for this area and are proof for Bulgarian presence here in 1343, according to Ovcharov.
The archeologist informed that this summer the digs are subsidized with BGN 118 000 which will allow for 3-month work and a team of over 100. In addition to the connection between the palace and the Perperikon Acropolis, the archeologists will study for the first time the northeastern sector of the Acropolis with the full study of the latter being the final goal.
Ovcharov declared the excavations and the research show Perperikon is the largest ancient city in the Rhodope Mountains and one of the largest on the Balkans during the Antiquity and the Middle Age, much larger than the Bulgarian historical coastal towns of Sozopol and Nesebar.
The first few paragraphs are a response to claims of ‘relationships’ between archaeologists and treasure hunters in Bulgaria.
Ivan Hristov is characterizing this as a ‘Bulgarian Machu Picchu’ … interesting how they get a dig in at Philip II in this one:
Bulgarian rchaeologists have uncovered a unique residence of the rulers of the Odrysian Kingdom, the state of the most powerful tribe of Ancient Thrace.
The residence is located on the Kozi Gramadi mount in the Sredna Gora mountain, close to the resort town of Hissar in central Bulgaria, at about 1 200 m above sea level.
“The residence of the Odrysian kings is a monument unrivaled in scope in Southeastern Europe. I am convinced there is no other fortress-sanctuary dating back to the 4th-5th century BC which is so well-preserved,” said Dr. Ivan Hristov, head of the archaeological team and Deputy Director of the Bulgarian National History Museum.
The Bulgarian archaeologists call the Thracian fortress “the Bulgarian Machu Picchu” because of the similarities in the organization of the two ancient cities.
The construction of the residence near Hissar is believed to have been started by the Thracian ruler Cotys I (384 BC – 359 BC)
The team led by Dr. Hristov has uncovered the remains of the palace of the Odrysian kings Amatokos II (359 BC – 351 BC) and Teres II (351 BC – 342 BC).
The latter is the last Thracian king who fought Philip II of Macedon (359 BC – 336 BC).
“Philip II of Macedon most likely also visited this fortress. It is about him that Demosthenes says that he spent 11 nightmarish months in the winter of 342 BC fighting the Thracians who inhabited the mountains,” explained Dr. Hristov.
The fortress-residence of the Thracian kings is located on a plot of 4 decares, not far from the village of Starosel, which is the site of the largest tombs of Ancient Thracian rulers.
The researchers believe that the connection between the newly-uncovered fortress and the Starosel tombs is clear.
“This is the holy mountain in the mind of the Thracians. We have various archaeological objects located on different levels – a fortress, a sanctuary, an altar of sacrifice. Therefore, the comparison with the ancient city of the Incas Machu Picchu is a good one,” said Dr. Hristov.
His team has already excavated two of the towers of the citadel, whose remains are about 2 m high.
The archaeologists’ guess is that the treasure of the Odrysian kingdom was also located in the newly uncovered residence but Philip II of Macedon most likely stole the gold kept there.
The Odrysian Kingdom was a union of Thracian tribes that existed between 5th and the 3rd century BC. The last Thracian states were conquered by Romans in 46 AD. The most famous Thracian in human history is Spartacus, the man who led a rebellion of gladiators against Rome in 73-71 BC.
UPDATE (a few minutes later): discussion on the Classics list suggests this isn’t a recent discovery; the site was actually found back in 2005; we don’t seem to have covered it but it seems connected with the Starosel tomb which has received quite a bit of coverage because of that gold mask found thereabouts, e.g.:
I’ve been waiting for my spiders to bring me this one … but they seemed to have stopped at Francesca Tronchin’s first (tip o’ the pileus). Brief item from Balkan Travellers:
An archaeologist has discovered unique wall paintings in an ancient residence in the late Roman town of Novae, located in northern Bulgaria.
Over 21 days, Pavlina Vladkova, an archaeologist from the Regional History Museum in Veliko Tarnovo, researched a residence, located outside of the territory of the erstwhile legionary base, which was located in Novae. She studies rooms that date to the second, third and fourth centuries.
One of the premises she studied was a dining room with a length of 12 metres and width of 4.5 metres and heating built into the floor and walls. The room was divided into two parts, and Vladkova stumbled onto the valuable frescos in one of them.
One of the room’s walls was covered in coloured paint, while the other had paintings on it. The decoration is reminiscent of contemporary wall paper, the archaeologist explained and added that the colouring has been well preserved.
The residence where the frescos were found used to house representatives of the imperial family, Vladkova said. Work on preserving the wall paintings has already started.
Meanwhile, a team of Polish archaeologists continues excavations at the Novae site this summer, with plans to study the military hospital at the site. At the same time, a group of archaeologists from the National Archaeology Institute at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences will be studying the officers’ residences in Novae.
The site of Novae is situated on the southern bank of the Danube near the present-day town of Svishtov. The site was an ancient Roman legionary base. During the reign of Emperor Trajan, the legio I Italica settled in the base, from where it was supposed to guard the borders of the Roman Empire from the barbarians. A settlement was established and grew around the base.
- via: Archaeologist Discovers Unique Wall Paintings in Ancient Site of Novae in Northern Bulgaria | Balkan Travellers
The archaeologist in charge is one whom we mentioned last summer (in passing) as having discovered a nymphaeum at Nicopolis ad Istrum ; interestingly, at Novae (I think) three or so years ago a Polish team also came across an nymphaeum.
I’m often asked how I find so much stuff to post on rogueclassicism and one of the sad things is that there actually is a lot more that I seem to get, file away, and forget about and only ‘rediscover’ while poking around looking for other things. A case in point is this brief item from the Sofia Echo way back in August of 2008:
A team led by archaeologist Daniela Agre of Bulgaria’s National Institute of Archaeology unearthed an ancient four-wheel chariot near the Borissovo village in the Elhovo region, dating back from the first half of the second century ACE, Focus news agency reported.
Along with the 1900-year-old chariot, in the funeral mound the team discovered shields, richly adorned in bronze, as well as table pottery and glass vessels. The finds led Agre to believe that she had come across the funeral of a wealthy Thracian aristocrat.
The chariot was fully preserved, which, the archaeologist said, was a rare circumstance and it was the first such case in Bulgaria.
Agre’s team also found the skeletons of two riding horses and some leather objects placed next to them, believed to be horse harnesses. The archaeologist suspected the horses have been sacrificed for the burial ceremony.
Agre has explained that the discovery could be traced back to the rule of Roman emperor Trajan (from 98 to 117 ACE), when Thrace was a Roman province. Thracian aristocrats, however, displayed loyalty by serving in the Roman army, and were able to preserve their privileges of nobility.
I discovered my lapse in reporting this one (which I had squirrelled away in Evernote for some reason) when my spiders brought back a more lengthy piece from something called Horsetalk (from New Zealand): Unearthed chariot provides spectacular detail, which actually turns out to be echoing a piece from Alphagalileo, which I missed back in May. The Alphagalileo piece provides a pile of more details, inter alia:
Because of the narrowness of the pit, the spokes of wheels had been broken, the wheels had been detached and placed at the walls of the pit. As a result of this action, the naves remained attached to the axles. In contrast to the wheels, the framework and the basket of the cart rested on their original places. The cart was supported by stones in order to be fixed in upright position. The fact that the axels, the framework and the basket of the cart were preserved in situ provided opportunity to define very precisely its type as well as the location of its parts.
The cart has no suspension; it is four-wheeled, with a short basket and a seat and is a very luxurious vehicle indeed. It was aimed to carry a charioteer (driver) and a passenger. At the front the basket was open; the two long sides of the basket are provided with timber beams, strengthened in the upper part with iron rims. The seat is at the back side of the basket.
All reconstructions of carts made until present were based on the assumption that this was a closed type of vehicle. The discovery of the Borissovo chariot offers the possibility to revise the reconstruction of this type of ancient vehicle. The surviving wooden and leather parts of the cart provide opportunity to define all details of its construction.
There is a boot (storage compartment) situated behind the back edge of the seat. It is a new element of the construction of this cart type. Until now it was believed that there were luggage boxes, which were attached to the four-wheeled carts. The boot found in situ proves that it was part of the Roman cart construction. Besides being there, the boot of this cart was full. A bronze ellipsoid pan and a set of a bronze ladle and a bronze strainer with long handles were lying on the bottom of the boot. There were also an iron grill on which were placed four prismatic and a large spherical glass bottles. Red slipped vessels – a small pitcher, a jar and a bowl – were placed in front of the bottles. A clay mortarium was found on top. The bronze artefacts are Italic imports. The bronze ladle is stamped on the handle with the name of the manufacturer. The four prismatic glass bottles were made by blowing in a mould and had been used for transporting and storing commodities. The large spherical glass bottle finds parallels in the Eastern Mediterranean and was most probably manufactured in a Syrian atelier.
The analysis of the position of the horses in front of the cart provided the conclusion that they had been killed in the pit. The horses were buried with lavishly decorated harnesses and a yoke. The iron bars were placed on the horses’ heads. The shape of the yoke can be reconstructed after the few traces of wood, the yoke rings found in situ and the silver ornaments of the horse collars. The yoke is abundantly decorated with bronze appliqués and has 13 bronze rings. The central ornament of the cart – an exquisite figurine of a panther on a solid bronze stand – was found on the shaft, between the skeletons of the two horses. A skeleton of a dog was unearthed behind the cart, tied up to it with a chain.
The chariot is dated back to the late 1st – the early 2nd century AD.
We also read of the contents of a second pit:
A second pit, which yielded two sacrificed riding horses of the Thracian warrior, was excavated immediately to the south of the first one. The horses’ skeletons were lying in an anatomical order next to each other. The iron bars were found between the horses’ teeth and the bronze halters and the ornaments of the horse collars were taken and thrown on top of their bodies. There were timber shields with solid bronze shield bosses placed on the lower part of the horses’ bodies. The shields are round, 1 m in diameter. They were covered with animal hide, fixed to the wooden part with bronze rivets.
East of the pit with the riding horses, the grave of the warrior, the owner of the chariot and the horses, was discovered under a special burial stone structure – a stone revetted tumulus, whose entrance faced the south. His body had been cremated there, in a two-stepped pit. The body had been placed on a special litter covered with a textile. The deceased had been buried in full armour: six iron spears, two swords, a poniard and spurs. One of the swards is double-edged and is 0.98 m long. It had been suspended on a leather strap decorated with gilded silver appliqués; its scabbard ends with a bronze tip with tracery patterns. On the knees of the deceased there were round bronze lamellae (probably used as greaves), which overlaid some kind of fabric. Two bronze silver-plated fibulae were found at the left shoulder and a highly patinated and burnt bronze coin was lying at the skull.
The medical and sporting accessories are represented by a bronze toilette box and two iron strigils. The strigils have iron strigil holders and before being placed into the grave pit, they had been wrapped into a textile. The toilette box has two bronze tubuses. In a special drawer of the box there are medications crushed into powder and medical instruments made from bronze.
Apart from being a warrior, the deceased had been a literate person. A ink-well, a bone tablet made of bone, a bronze stylus tied up with a chain to the tablet as well as a spatula, which would have been used to spread wax onto the writing tablet, had been laid beside the body.
After a ‘graph on some other grave goods, we read of the folks buried in this ‘family tomb’:
Seven burials were unearthed under a stone structure in the center of the tumulus. Three of them yielded skeletons of adults and the grave goods provide ground to suggest that these were females. The shallow, rectangular grave pits yielded cremation burials and the cremation ritual had been performed in them.
The central burial is a female one. The dead body had been placed on a timber stretcher covered with a textile. The deceased had been buried with a large number of bronze, ceramic and glass vessels as well as with bronze, glass and bone personal ornaments. All bronze vessels had been ritually cut into pieces (killed) before being placed into the grave pit. The bronze appliqués for toilette boxes comprise beautiful figurines of eagles and swans, masks of satires and deities, busts of deities, etc. The burials yielded remains of wallnuts and raisins.
The second female burial yielded a skeleton of a young woman, which also had been laid on a timber stretcher covered with a textile. The woman had leather shoes decorated with gold foil. The grave goods include ceramic and glass vessels, an exquisite bronze mirror, a bone spindle with a bone spindle whirl for fine spin, a bone comb, a bronze hair pin and a miniature bronze spoon. Pieces of textiles were found at different places of the grave pit. Various textiles were found in the rest of the burials of adults as well.
Three of the burials are children’s ones and contained bones of babies. They had been buried in timber coffins, placed in grave pits. The grave goods comprise glass and ceramic vessels as well as bronze mirrors. The fact that the children were the only ones who had not been cremated indicates that they had been treated with a special care.
The last burial in this group is the cremation burial of a juvenile. Part of the cremated bones had been gathered and placed in a krater-shaped vessel. An amphora was placed in the grave pit as a grave gift.
There is quite a bit more to read at AlphaGalileo as well as five very interesting photos … sorry for lateness on this one folks; it seems to be very important.
Kind of surprising that a country so ‘archaeology conscious’ as Bulgaria could have this happen:
Specialists from the Yambol History Museum have prevented the destruction of a valuable archaeological site during road construction in Southeastern Bulgaria.On Monday, employees of the local “Mining Company” started to expand a road running past the Ancient Thrace town of Kabile without a permission from the Tundzha Municipality.
The company also failed to inform the regional history museum of the Yambol District.
As the road construction started, the digging machines destroyed tiles and pottery from the Ancient Thrace settlement within a 50-meter long and several meters wide area along the road in question.
The firm management said it was not aware that it was trying to expand the road through the Kabile Archeaological Reserve. A local resident, however, contacted the Yambol museum, whose director Iliya Iliev reacted immediately.The Yambol Museum is going to refer the case to Bulgaria’s National Institute for Culture Monuments.
The digging machines of the mining company came very close to destroying four graves of Thracian nobles. However, the digging was stopped in time, leaving the graves barely affected.In 341, BC the town of Kabile, a former Neolithic settlement, was founded anew by Philip II of Macedon. It was under the rule of Philip II, Alexander the Great and Lysimachus from 341 BC up to 280 BC, when it came under the control of the Thracian Odrysian kingdom from 280 BC, thus becoming one of the most important cities in Ancient Thrace.
- Archaeologists Prevent Destruction of Ancient Thracian Settlement in South-Eastern Bulgaria | Balkan Travellers