Archaeology: Discoveries in Bulgaria in September 2015 – roundup

Prehistoric housing and 24-carat gold objects in Provadiya, a tomb from the late Middle Ages in Veliki Preslav, a fountain carved in rock at the ancient sacred site of Perperikon, an early Christian cathedral in Silistra and close to 3000 silver coins from the second century CE in central Sofia’s Serdica site were all among finds announced by Bulgarian archaeologists in September 2015.

In Provadiya, the finding was announced of two-storey housing in an elliptical tower of a diameter of 90 metres, along with 24-carat gold objects identified as pendants, the latter found between two graves.

The prehistoric fortress near Provadiya is the site of the oldest salt production centre in Europe and the oldest and strongest stone fortress on the continent for those times.

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A team of archaeologists at Provadiya, led by Professor Vassil Nikolov of the Archaeological Institute at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, revealed a huge wall of the city that had been destroyed by an earthquake in ancient times. The substrata of the wall had a thickness of four metres, meaning that the wall must have been at least four to five metres high.

Nikolov said that the reason that the people of the ancient city had such substantial fortifications was that they were very wealthy and had to guard their wealth behind thick stone walls. The salt production centre had been the basis for the wealth of the entire region, he said.

The fortress at the site is estimated to date back 6500 years. At the time, salt was a unit of trade of a value equivalent to that of gold.

Nikolov also announced that DNA analysis of human bones from gravesites in Provadiya showed that 7000 years ago, people in the area already were using cow milk as a foodstuff.

Meanwhile, one of the biggest monetary centres of the 12th century Second Bulgarian Kingdom was probably located at the Ryahovets fortress near Gorna Oryahovitsa, according to archaeologists who this season revealed a large amount of coins from the XIV century issues by Tsar Ivan Alexander.

In late September, the Regional History Museum in Rousse said that finds at the ancient site of Cherven, which was a major centre at the time of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom, included coins, metal artifacts, ceramic fragments of storage vessels and ceramics from buildings. The brief archaeological season at Cherven focused mainly on a part that had been at the centre of the city, where previously remnants of a church were found.

The opening soon of a new archaeological museum in Sapareva Banya was announced on September 21. The new museum, covering 250 sq m, will portray the ancient past of the town and the region, and show off a reproduction of a gold coin with the image of Emperor Theodosius II (408-450 CE), which archaeologists found this summer while excavating a baths facility found on the spot where a private landowner had been digging to build a swimming pool. In all, 25 copper and bronze coins were found at the site.

In Veliki Preslav, a tomb dating from the late Middle Ages was found, Professor Margarita Vaklinova of the National Archaeological Institute announced on September 21.

At the Sexaginta Prista site in Rousse, site of a Roman city settlement, archaeologists found a wall of a height of 7.65 metres, the highest preserved Roman wall along the Danube, according to the director of the Rousse History Museum, Nikolai Nenov.

In the 2015 archaeological season at the Sexaginta Prista site, discoveries have included one of the entrances to the fortress, a semicircular tower, an inscription on a third-century altar, 300 ancient coins. Also found, through drilling, was the former protective moat, but the depth of the excavations now makes them too dangerous for human exploration, according to Nenov.

At Perperikon, the ancient sacred site that is one of the premier archaeological sites in Bulgaria, a fountain carved into the rock, probably part of a temple to the water gods, had been found, Professor Nikolai Ovcharov said in mid-September. The fountain is estimated to date back 1700 years.

Ovcharov said that the fountain had rich friezes and a complex system of water management.

Nearly 50 public and residential buildings had been explored by the end of this year’s survey of Perperikon. There have been more than 1000 finds, among them there are a lot of silver and gold coins and a luxurious bronze statue of Apollo.

On September 4, archaeologists in Silistra said that they had discovered the remains of an early Christian cathedral, which is believed to be the throne of the first Bulgarian church patriarchs.

The new find was a surprise to archaeologists, because it is located just metres from the Episcopal patriarchal basilica opened and examined in the 1980s. The two houses of worship are very similar. Professor Georgi Atanasov of the Silistra Archaeological Museum said that the newly-found church had similar proportions, adding that this was one of the five most important such finds of a house of worship in Bulgaria.

Archaeologists have proposed altering the route of a water project to allow maximum preservation of the archaeological finds. It is not clear whether the study of the church will further delay the work. Since the beginning of the the water project in Silistra, more than 30 archaeological sites have been found.

One of the headline-making finds of September was at Sofia’s Sveta Nedelya Square site. Archaeologists found a treasure containing 2976 silver coins, dated back to the first to second centuries CE. Experts say that the treasure was collected in the course of at least 100 years.

The latest coins bear the visage of emperor Commodus – he of Gladiator infamy, portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix in the film – who reigned in 177-192 CE.

The treasure appears to have been accumulated slowly and includes coins minted during the reigns of each emperor in the Nerva-Antonine dynasty – the period when Sofia rose to prominence, having been declared a municipium by Trajan (also known for the conquest of the Dacian tribes in what is now Romania). In addition to coins bearing the visage of various emperors, the treasure included coins with imagery of some of the notable women of that dynasty – Faustina the Elder and Faustina the Younger, Bruttia Crispina and Lucilla.

The clay pot itself bore the name of one Selvius Callistus, believed to have been the last owner of the coin treasure, whom archaeologists believe to have been a Roman citizen of Greek descent.



The Sofia Globe staff

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