Archaeological discoveries in Bulgaria: September 2016 highlights

September marks the closing phase of Bulgaria’s annual archaeology season, but the month did not disappoint as digs exposed a Roman-era public building in Sofia, a 3300-year-old home in ancient former capital Pliska, a necropolis in Vratsa and Thracian votive images at the site of Abritus fortress.

Archaeologists working at a site beneath Sveta Nedelya Square in central Sofia uncovered a public building from Roman era.

The building, believed to have been public baths, is estimated to date from second-century Serdica, as Sofia was known in the Roman era. After extensive research, archaeologists have rejected the initial thesis that the palace of Emperor Constantine the Great was located under what is now Sveta Nedelya Square.

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Veselka Katsarova, assistant professor at the National Institute of Archaeology, said that the building had a huge hall, wider than 15 metres. It was one of the most important in the functioning of Serdica in the Roman era, she said.

At the end of the fifth century, the building was gutted by fire, it has been established.

In the course of the dig, archaeologists have found 110 coins. All the smaller finds are to be exhibited at the Sofia History Museum, in the former Baths not far from the site.

In Pliska, which at one point in Bulgaria’s mediaeval history was the country’s capital, archaeologists found a residence believed to date from the Late Bronze Age, dating back about 3300 years, and a furnace, indications that life in the city began much earlier that previously had been though. The dating was established on the basis of fragments of ceramics found at the site.

In Vratsa, archaeologists found a necropolis, used by the rich of the time as a burial place. Bones and jewellery from the time of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom were found.

The discovery was made as preparations for construction of a block of flats were being done. Archaeologists were given a month to work on the site, with a contribution of a budget of 13 000 leva from the investor in the project. So far, 16 skeletons have been uncovered.

Alexandra Petrova, the head of the team carrying out the dig, said that the site dated from the 12th to the 14th centuries. Grave goods in the form of personal jewellery had been found, including bracelets, earrings and rings.

Historians say that it is possible that the necropolis may have been connected with the first representatives of the Vratsa goldsmith school.

At the Abritus fortress site, near Razgrad, archaeologists found two votive images of the Thracian horseman, a cult worship object.

Researchers say that the findings show that in the early days of the existence of the settlement it was a sanctuary dedicated to the mysterious deity.

The excavations at the site lasted only a month because of a lack of funding from the state.

Galena Radoslavova, the head of the dig, said that two votive plates with the image of the Thracian horseman had been found, one with the horseman made of exquisite polished marble.

Professor Nikolai Ovcharov, head of the archaeological excavations at the Perperikon site in the eastern Rhodope mountains, recounted to Bulgarian National Radio a round-up of this season at the ancient sacred site.

He said that his target had been completion of research on the acropolis, a goal that the team had pursued for the past 17 years.

“This is the fortified city at its highest point. It was fortified in the second half of 3 c. during barbarian raids. Originally, it did not have walls but after the growing threat from invaders in the Roman Empire, solid walls were erected, up to 3 m thick. Unearthing the acropolis has been our main target in the recent years. It was a challenge because the area is large. However we have completed the commitment made to the Bulgarian public – after all we receive subsidies from the Bulgarian government,” BNR quoted Ovcharov as saying.

Archeologists aimed to unearth the northern gate of the stronghold, the last one among a total of five gates. “Now we have the entire structure of the acropolis and it is amazing”, he said.

The archeologists have also researched a large water reservoir – a cistern cut up to 4.5 m into the rocks. Not far from the cistern, archeologists came across the remains of an impressive building. “It is made of masterfully cut huge stones, a style we call Perperikon style.” This means the use of huge stone blocks.

Meanwhile, in Starosel in the Hissarya municipality, the team headed by Professor Ivan Hristov established the site of an ancient Thracian village, covering 1.5 hectares, in the region, and found a great basilica, 25.8 metres long and 13 m wide, near Starosel.
“We have explored a single-nave church on Kozi Gramadi peak which dates back to Late Antiquity. Two more basilicas have been found on the land of Starosel. We also have evidence about the existence of other two basilicas in the neighboring villages Matenitsa and Krasovo,” Hristov told BNR.

(Photos of the Sveta Nedelya site in Sofia via the Facebook page of Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandukova)



The Sofia Globe staff

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