Archaeologists Finds Sacrificial Altar of Unknown Pagan God Porobonus at Roman Road Station Ad Putea in Bulgaria’s Riben

Archaeologist Petar Banov showing the sacrificial altar of ancient deity Porobonus which has been found during the excavations of the Ancient Roman fortress and road station Ad Putea in Bulgaria's Riben, Pleven District. Photo: InfoPleven

Archaeologist Petar Banov showing the sacrificial altar of ancient deity Porobonus which has been found during the excavations of the Ancient Roman fortress and road station Ad Putea in Bulgaria’s Riben, Pleven District. Photo: InfoPleven

A sacrificial altar dedicated to the practically unknown pagan deity Porobonus has been found during the archaeological excavations of the Ancient Roman fortress and road station Ad Putea, which is located near the town of Riben, Dolna Mitropoliya Municipality, Pleven District, in Northern Bulgaria.

The limestone altar dedicated to god Porobonus dates back to the first half of the 3rd century AD, lead archaeologist Petar Banov from the Pleven Regional Museum of History, who has excavated Ad Putea since 2013, has announced, as cited by local news site InfoPleven.

This is only the third altar ever found which is dedicated to god Porobonus whose precise role in ancient mythology is unknown even though some scholars have hypothesized that the deity might be of Celtic or Thracian origin.

The other two sacrificial altars of Porobonus have been found in the Ancient Roman cities Abritus near Razgrad in Northeast Bulgaria, and Ratiaria (Colonia Ulpia Traiana Ratiaria) near Archar in Northwest Bulgaria.

The Porobonus altar found at Ad Putea has been announced to the public together with other recent finds at a news conference in the northern Bulgarian city of Pleven by lead archaeologist Petar Banov, and his colleagues Martin Dyakov and Vladimir Naydenov.

Archaeologists (L-R) Martin Dyakov, Petar Banov, and Vladimir Naydenov presenting the discoveries from the 2014 excavations of the Roman fortress and road station Ad Putea in Bulgaria's Riben. Photo: InfoPleven

Archaeologists (L-R) Martin Dyakov, Petar Banov, and Vladimir Naydenov presenting the discoveries from the 2014 excavations of the Roman fortress and road station Ad Putea in Bulgaria’s Riben. Photo: InfoPleven

The altar has an inscription in Latin which reads, “Domitius Domitianus placed [for] Porobonus according to his vow for himself and his kin".

The inscription was read and translated by Nikolay Sharankov from the Classical Philology Department of Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski".

“Only two such altars have been found to date. One is from Abritus (Razgrad), and the other is from Ratiaria. The deity is mysterious and unknown. The dedications are only in Latin. The dedicators are Roman citizens, or they might also have been locals who received Roman citizenship… From a scientific point of view, this is an extremely interesting monument," says Banov, remind that there are suppositions that Porobonus was initially a Celtic or Thracian / Dacian deity.

Archaeological artifacts discovered during the 2014 summer excavations of the Ancient Roman fortress and road station Ad Putea in Bulgaria's Riben. Photo: InfoPleven

Archaeological artifacts discovered during the 2014 summer excavations of the Ancient Roman fortress and road station Ad Putea in Bulgaria’s Riben. Photo: InfoPleven

An ancient bronze lamp discovered during the 2014 excavations of the Roman fortress and road station Ad Putea. Photo: Pleven Regional Museum of History

An ancient bronze lamp discovered during the 2014 excavations of the Roman fortress and road station Ad Putea. Photo: Pleven Regional Museum of History

He adds that about 50 interesting archaeological artifacts have been found during the 2014 excavations of the Roman fortress and road station Ad Putea, which linked the Ancient Roman city of Philipopolis (today’s Plovdiv in Southern Bulgaria) in the Roman province of Thrace, with two major Roman outposts on the Lower Danube frontier, the so called Limes Moesiae – Ulpia Oescus near today’s town of Gigen, and Novae near today’s town Svishtov.

The finds include a statue of Hercules (Heracles), a statue of Dionysus, and an altar of Roman god Jupiter.

The Pleven archaeologists have also unearthed two fortress towers, part of the fortress wall, a lot of pottery, a chest containing wheat, a gate key, hinges, and a door knob, a fishing hook, a lead smelting workshop, a ceramic making workshop, and the hypocaust (underfloor heating) of a large public building.

The 2014 summer excavations were carried out with BGN 15,000 (app. EUR 7,500) from the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture and BGN 30,000 (app. EUR 15,300) from Dolna Mitripoliya Municipality.

The Roman fortress and road station Ad Putea in Bulgaria’s Riben was first excavated in 2013 in what were rescue excavations.

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The 2014 excavations of the Roman fortress and road station Ad Putea. Photos: Pleven Regional Museum of History

The 2014 excavations of the Roman fortress and road station Ad Putea. Photos: Pleven Regional Museum of History

Ad Putea Altar 6

Background Infonotes:

The ruins of the Ancient Roman fortress and road station Ad Putea are located on the right bank of the Vit River near the town of Riben, Dolna Mitropoliya Municipality, Pleven District, in Northern Bulgaria. It was a road station on the Via Traiana, a road used by Roman Emperor Trajan (r. 98-117 AD).

Via Traiana, which runs through the Troyan Pass of the Balkan Mountains, was vital in Roman Emperor Trajan’s wars for conquering the Dacians, the resisting Thracian tribes north of the Lower Danube, in today’s Romania.

It linked the Ancient Roman city of Philipopolis (Trimontium) (today’s Plovdiv in Southern Bulgaria) in the Roman province of Thrace, with two major Roman outposts on the Lower Danube frontier, the so called Limes Moesiae – Ulpia Oescus near today’s town of Gigen, and Novae near today’s town of Svishtov, in the Roman province of Moesia Inferior.

The Ad Putea Fortress and road station is located about 22 km south of Ulpia Oescus and 10.5 km north of the ruins of the Ancient Roman fortress of Storgozia in today’s city of Pleven.

The Ad Putea Fortress, which has an area of about 10 decares (app. 2.5 acres), has been excavated by archaeologist Petar Banov from the Pleven Regional Museum of History since the excavations started in 2013, and later by Assoc. Prof. Sergey Torbatov from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology.

Archaeological artifacts and structures from the 1st-3rd century AD have indicated that the site might have been an Ancient Thracian shrine before it was taken over by the Romans. The fortress and ancient buildings are only partly preserved, with some of the structures still reaching a height of up to 2.2 meters.

In 2014, the archaeologists discovered an altar dedicated to little known deity Porobonus (which according to some hypotheses is of Celtic or Thracian / Dacian origin), only the third such find after altars from Abritus (Razgrad) and Ratiaria (Archar), as well as the hypocaust (underfloor heating) of a large public Roman building, among a number of other finds.

In 2015, the archaeologists found that the Roman fortress of Ad Putea was burned down twice during Goth invasions.

The 2016 excavations of Ad Putea brought the rather exciting discovery that the Roman fort had been built on top of a Chalcolithic (Aeneolithic, Copper Age) settlement dating back to ca. 5,000 BC, with the most intriguing find being a ceramic vessel fragment with what appear to be signs of pre-alphabetic writing.

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