Floor Mosaic Discovered in Ancient Rome’s Augusta Traiana

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The newly discovered Ancient Roman floor mosaic covers an area of 60 square meters. Photo: TV grab from InfoZ


By Ivan Dikov / 09.28.2016

Archaeology in Bulgaria

A floor mosaic from the Ancient Roman city of Augusta Traiana has been discovered during rescue archaeological excavations in the southern Bulgarian city of Stara Zagora.

The newly found Ancient Roman mosaic floor dates back to the beginning of the 4th century AD, reports local news site InfoZ.

It has been discovered by archaeologist Assist. Prof. Mariya Kamisheva from the Stara Zagora Regional Museum of History.

The Augusta Traiana – Vereia Archaeological Preserve also made the news as recently as the spring of 2016 with the discovery of two huge family tomb sarcophagi.

The Ancient Roman city of Ulpia Augusta Traiana was probably founded ca. 107 AD by Roman Emperor Trajan (r. 98-117 AD) (after whom it was named) on the site of a previously existing Ancient Thracian settlement called Beroe. (Some recent research indicates it might have been founded by Trajan’s successor, Emperor Hadrian (r. 117-138 AD).) It quickly became the second most important city in the Roman province of Thrace after Philipopolis (Trimontium), today’s Plovdiv.

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Lead archaeologist Mariya Kamisheva showing the newly discovered mosaic in the Ancient Roman city of Augusta Traiana, Bulgaria’s Stara Zagora. Photos: InfoZ

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The mosaic used to decorate the main hall of a rich Roman Era home. Photos: TV grabs from InfoZ

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The newly found Roman mosaic floor has been discovered during rescue excavations along the Ruski Street in Stara Zagora.

The mosaic, which has a total area of 60 square meters and is made up of colorful tesserae, used to decorate the floor in the main hall of local Roman Era aristocrats’ rich home.

It used to feature a central image of a pagan deity which, however, was scratched out after the adoption of Christianity in the Late Antiquity. For the time being, the originally portrayed deity has not been identified.

Beautiful and relatively well preserved Ancient Roman floor mosaics are no rare finds in the Augusta Traiana – Vereia Archaeological Preserve in Bulgaria’s Stara Zagora.

The newly found mosaic is comparable to the already famous mosaic entitled “Dionysus’s Procession”, also known as “Silenus with Bacchantes”, depicting Dionysus’s tutor and companion Selenus leading two dancing bacchantes, according to lead archaeologist Kamisheva, the Monitor daily reports.

The “Dionysus’s Procession” mosaic was discovered by Kamisheva and fellow archaeologist Dimitar Yankov back in 2011. Since then, it has been restored with a total of USD 45,588 in funding from the the American Research Center in Sofia and the America for Bulgaria Foundation, Sofia-based NGOs, and exhibited in the Antiquity Hall of the Stara Zagora Regional Museum of History.

The lead archaeologist says that not unlike “Dionysus’s Procession” the newly discovered mosaic was created at about the same time. Both decorated the floors of rich homes inside the fortress walls of the Roman city of Augusta Traiana.

The residential building where the new mosaic floor has been found was located next to one of the main streets of Augusta Traiana.

Large stone slabs have survived from the pavement of the street which had east-west orientation. Next to them, the archaeological team has found Antiquity glass and numerous bronze coins which are yet to be studied. A foundry workshop was also probably located nearby judging by the discovery of traces of molten iron.

For the time, the fate of the newly found Ancient Roman mosaic floor. It will probably be dismantled, and later restored and exhibited whenever sufficient funding is procured.

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Archaeologist Mariya Kamisheva showing the central image of the mosaic floor, a pagan deity which was scratched out after the adoption of Christianity. Photo: Monitor daily

The Augusta Traiana – Vereia Archaeological Preserve in Bulgaria’s Stara Zagora features the ruins of the Ancient Roman city of Ulpia Augusta Traiana founded by Roman Emperor Trajan (r. 98-117 AD) (after whom it was named) on the site of a previously existing Ancient Thracian settlement called Beroe. (Some recent research indicates it might have been founded by Trajan’s successor, Emperor Hadrian (r. 117-138 AD).)

It saw its greatest urban development later under Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (r. 161-180 AD). It quickly became the second most important city in the Roman province of Thrace after Philipopolis (Trimontium), today’s Plovdiv.

The Roman city of Augusta Traiana covered a territory of about 500 decares (app. 125 acres). During the Late Antiquity, it was visited by several Roman Emperors including Septimius Severus (r. 193-211 AD), Caracalla (r. 211-217 AD), and Diocletian (r. 294-305 AD), which is seen as a testimony to its importance.

In the 2nd-3rd century, Augusta Traiana minted its own coins (a total of 874 of them have been found, as of 2016); it is known to have had commercial contacts with faraway regions and cities such as Sparta, Aquincum (today’s Budapest in Hungary), and the province of Syria.

In the middle of the 4th century, Augusta Traiana became one of the major Early Christian centers in the Balkans.

In the Late Antiquity (4th-6th century) the city of Augusta Traiana was once again known under its original Thracian name of Beroe. Much of it was destroyed by barbarian invasions – by the Goths in the 4th century, the Huns in the 5th century, and later by the Avars, Slavs, and Bulgars. The invasions of the Bulgars and Slavs in the late 7th century, around the time of the two peoples formed the First Bulgarian Empire (680-1018 AD), effectively ended the life of the Ancient Thracian and Roman city of Beroe / Augustra Traiana as it was.

It became part of Bulgaria under Khan Tervel (r. 700-718 AD), who called it Boruy. The city was a major bone of contention during the numerous wars between Bulgaria and Byzantium and became known as Vereia after Byzantium conquered the eastern parts of the First Bulgarian Empire in the late 10th century. Bulgaria reconquered it during the early years of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD).

In addition to its Neolithic, Ancient Roman, Byzantine, and medieval Bulgarian heritage, the territory of the city of Stara Zagora is dotted with Ancient Thracian archaeological sites, including more than 30 known temples of the main god according to Thracian mythology, the Thracian Horseman.

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