Plans for More Digs in Plovdiv

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.

Roman Wedding at Nicopolis ad Istrum

I really think focus-fen ought to look into a better translation service:

The wedding ritual will start at around 4 p.m. The entire ceremony and the wedding festivities will be held in the spirit of the Ancient Rome. Though the wedding will observe all the Roman traditions and rituals it will be also in line with the legal requirements of the nowadays marriage procedure.

All guests at the wedding will be dressed in Roman tunicas. The wedding will start with the dance of the Vestal Virgins, who symbolically clean the house where the wedding ceremony will be held. The couple, which is to wed, will be brought in by their parents. Mayor of Veliko Tarnovo Municipality Daniel Panov will play the part of a senator, while a young man will be the pontiff, who will addressed a series of prayers to Jupiter, Venus and Diana.

After the wedding ceremony there will be treats for the guests, which will be made under ancient Roman recipes.

Let’s hope they at least consulted Karen Hersch’s recent book and didn’t just take their info from the internet …

More From Debelt

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 Legio VIII Augusta

Roman Tombs from Debelt

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.

I tend not to include photos of things in other sources, but this time I have to … ecce:

Sofia News Agency Photo

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.

Roman Wall Paintings from Bulgaria

Flag of the city of Svishtov, Veliko Tarnovo O...
Image via Wikipedia

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.

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.