Bulgarian archaeologists given more time to survey Via Diagonalis site

Bulgarian archaeologists would be given an additional month for digs on the site of the Roman Via Diagonalis remains near Kapitan Andreevo, before work must start on the Maritsa highway, Culture Minister Petar Stoyanovich said, as quoted by Bulgarian National Television (BNT).

After visiting the dig site at the weekend, Stoyanovich said that it was not possible to change the route of Maritsa highway or further delay construction, BNT said. The highway, 117km long, is meant to link Trakia highway to the Bulgarian-Turkish border at Kapitan Andreevo checkpoint.

“It would mean stopping a years-long process, linked, in this time of economic crisis, with money we receive from outside,” he said, referring to the EU funding for road construction. “In this case, we cannot preserve [the finds].”

If the digs are completed by the end of July, the additional expenses would be covered by the project budget, funded by the World Bank, Stoyanovich said.

The stretch of the Roman-era military road Via Militaris – also known as Via Diagonalis, it was built in the first century CE to link Singidunum (Belgrade) to Byzantium (Istanbul) – near Kapitan Andreevo is one of the widest unearthed previously, about 18m wide.

The even bigger find on the site is the prehistoric sanctuary, said to date from 5200 to 4900 BCE. The sanctuary was used for religious rituals and is close to a spring, an important element in ancient beliefs related to fertility and conception, with the water seen as emanating from the Mother Goddess. Items found at the site include pottery for ritual meals and other cult objects. Horns of wild and domestic animals were found.

The sanctuary is outside the planned route of Maritsa highway and could be preserved as a tourist attraction.

“This complex could be a kilometre wide, it could even stretch into Turkey. It is unbelievable, this is the first time I see something like that,” the head of the archaeological team, Professor Valentin Nikolov said.

Bulgarian archaeologists were seeking to get in touch with Turkish colleagues for joint investigation of the site, BNT reported.

(Photo: Sascha Hoffmann/sxc.hu)



The Sofia Globe staff

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