1 March 2024 The Future is the Product of the Past

Archaeologists discovered floor mosaics with early Christian designs in Roman town of Marcianopolis, in Bulgaria

Archaeologists discovered floor mosaics with early Christian designs and nearly 800 artifacts in the archaeological reserve of Marcianopolis in Devnya, in the northeastern part of Bulgaria.

The Roman town of Marcianopolis (present-day Devnya) in northeastern Bulgaria appears to have originated as a Thracian settlement. It was later inhabited by Hellenized settlers from Asia Minor and named Parthenopolis.

Roman Marcianopolis was established around 106 CE, following Trajan’s campaigns in Dacia to the north. The settlement was named after his sister, Ulpia Marciana. At the crossroads between Odessos (modern Varna), Durostorum, and Nicopolis ad Istrum, as well as the location of plentiful springs, Marcianopolis became a strategically important settlement.

Diocletian’s administrative reforms in the late third century CE divided Moesia Inferior into Moesia Secunda and Scythia Minor, with Marcianopolis serving as the former’s administrative capital. Marcianopolis experienced its most prosperous period during the middle of the fourth century CE. From 367 CE to 369 CE, the eastern emperor Valens used Marcianopolis as his winter quarters during campaigns against Visigoth incursions in the region. During this time, it served as the Eastern Empire’s temporary capital.

Floor mosaics with early Christian designs were found in the remains of a building. Archaeologists are not yet sure whether it was a public building or it belonged to a rich Roman citizen. 

Excavations in Devnya. Photo: Devnya Municipality
Excavations in Devnya. Photo: Devnya Municipality

The tentative dating of the mosaics is in the first half of the 4th century AD.

The finds from the current archaeological season in Devnya contain another thousand bronze coins, several clay lamps and two clay vessels, which are awaiting scientific processing and restoration.

During the past archeological season, researchers restored bronze vessels discovered in the 1990s in a brick-walled tomb dating to the late 2nd – early 3rd century.

The vessels had a ritual use and were related to the personality of the person buried, Mosaic Museum director Ivan Sutev said in a statement to BTA.

They are richly decorated and the workmanship is exquisite, he added. The find includes a vessel for pouring liquids as offering to a deity, and a wine jug with a trefoil mouth (oenochoe). A simple kitchen pan was also found along with these. All this leads archaeologists to suggest that a Roman citizen of Marcianopolis may have been laid to rest in the tomb, but that he may have had more specific functions: a soldier, a cook, or even a priest, Sutev said.

Gold solid coins. Photo: Devnya Municipality

Pottery that was discovered in the basilica’s environs during excavations in 2023 has since been restored. Among these are a mortarium vessel for liquids and an exquisite crater-shaped pot for liquids. These were located in the structure with the mosaic floors. Coins from the time of Emperor Theodosius II were also found scattered on the floor.

In 447, Attila’s Huns captured and destroyed Marcionopolis after conquering the entire Balkan Peninsula but failing to capture Constantinople. That is determined by 20 gold coins scattered on the floor of the building being studied. On one side of the coins is an image of Theodosius II, while on the other is the patron goddess of Constantinople. Among the coins discovered during the Marcianopolis excavations were those from the city’s founding in the second century. The latter are dated to the sixth century, around the time of Emperor Justinian.

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