Bulgarian Archaeologists Find Roman Navy Veteran’s Diploma in Ancient Settlement

Pictured excavations of an ancient necropolis near the town of Boyanovo by Yambol Museum archaeologists in 2010. Photo by Yambol Regional Museum of History

Pictured: Excavations of an ancient necropolis near the town of Boyanovo by Yambol Museum archaeologists in 2010. Photo: Yambol Regional Museum of History

A fragment from a Roman Navy veteran’s diploma is one of the exciting finds uncovered by Bulgarian archaeologists during the 2014 excavations of ancient necropolises, Stefan Bakardzhiev, director of the Yambol Regional Museum of History, has announced.

The Roman Navy veteran’s diploma has been found during explorations of necropolises near the towns of Stroyno, Borisovo, and Boyanovo in Bulgaria’s southeastern District of Yambol, Bakardzhiev has explained, speaking at a news conference in the city of Yambol, as cited by the local daily Delnik. He presented to the media the results from the local archaeological excavations conducted in 2014.

The necropolises have been excavated by a team led by renowned archaeologist Daniela Agre. They are connected with an Ancient Roman settlement near the town of Stroyno.

The fragment of the Roman Navy veteran’s diploma has led the archaeologists to hypothesize that the Roman town near Stroyno was settled by retired Roman military veterans of Thracian origin.

The Ancient Roman settlement located in an area known as “The Yurt" near the town of Stroyno, Elhovo Municipality, became famous to the general public back in 2007 when the team of Bulgarian archaeologist Daniela Agre discovered a stone sarcophagus with unique golden decorations, and ceramic and glass vessels.

However, in the past 10 years, it has been savagely destroyed by hordes of treasure hunters, with the local archaeologists trying to rescue whatever they can from the antique trafficking mafia.

Stefan Bakardzhiev, director of the Yambol Regional Museum of History. Photo by Delnik.net

Stefan Bakardzhiev, director of the Yambol Regional Museum of History. Photo: Delnik.net

Bakardzhiev has also revealed that in 2014 the Yambol archaeologists carried out rescue digs of a burial mound near the town of Botevo, after it had been targeted by treasure hunters. They discovered three graves with cremated human remains dating back to the middle of the 2nd century AD with parts of a Roman military belt, three early Christian graves dating back to the end of the 3rd century and the beginning of the 4th century AD as well as three graves from Bulgaria’s National Revival Period (18th-19th century).

In 2014, the archaeologists from the Yambol Regional Museum of History also excavated further the Ancient Thracian city of Kabile, the medieval “Little Fortress" near the town of Voden, and the prehistoric tumulus near the town of Veselinovo.

Bakardzhiev points out that the District of Yambol, which has a territory of 3335 square kilometers, boasts about 4000 archaeology sites, averaging more than one archaeology site per square kilometer.

Those include over 3000 burial mounds (tumuli), of which fewer than 2%, or about 60, have been excavated and research; over 300 prehistoric settlements and settlement mounds; about 50 fortified towns from the Antiquity period (including the Late Iron Age, Ancient Thrace and Ancient Rome, and the Late Antiquity); and about 50 fortified towns from the Middle Ages (Bulgaria and Byzantium). In addition to the 60 excavated burial mounds, only about 20 of the rest of the archaeological sites have been excavated and studied, Bakardziev explains.

Speaking in a media interview later in March, he has made it clear that a total of 87 new archaeological sites were discovered in Bulgaria’s Yambol District in 2014 alone.

Pictured: Excavations in the southeastern Bulgarian District of Yambol, unspecified location. Photo by Delnik.net

Pictured: Excavations in the southeastern Bulgarian District of Yambol, unspecified location. Photo: Delnik.net

Background Infonotes:

Bulgaria’s Yambol District, which has a territory of 3335 square kilometers, boasts about 4000 archaeology sites, averaging more than one archaeology site per square kilometer. Those include over 3000 burial mounds (tumuli) of which fewer than 2%, or about 60, have been excavated and researched; over 300 prehistoric settlements and settlement mounds; about 50 fortified towns from the Antiquity period (including the Late Iron Age, Ancient Thrace and Ancient Rome, and the Late Antiquity); and about 50 fortified towns from the Middle Ages (Bulgaria and Byzantium). In addition to the 60 excavated burial mounds, only about 20 of the rest of the archaeological sites have been excavated and studied. A total of 87 new archaeological sites, mostly burial mounds but also a dolmen, were discovered in Bulgaria’s Yambol District in 2014 alone.

The Ancient Thracian city of Kabile is a nowadays Archaeological Preserve located 10 km away for the southeastern Bulgarian city of Yambol. The city of Kabile was founded around 2000 BC, and was one of the most important cities of Ancient Thrace. In fact, it is believed to have been one of the royal residences of the kings from the Odryssian Kingdom, the most powerful state of the Ancient Thracians. In 341 BC, Kabile was conquered by Philip II of Macedon. The Ancient Thracian city is mentioned by 14 ancient authors, the first of whom describes its conquest by Philip II of Macedon. After the collapse of Alexander the Great’s empire, in the 3rd century BC, Kabile was ruled once again by the Ancient Thracians. It was conquered by the Roman Empire in 71 BC, and later was incorporated into the Roman province of Thrace. It was an important regional center in the Late Antiquity as well. The city of Kabile was modeled after the Ancient Greek cities at the time. It boasts a stone acropolis with a unique rock relief of the ancient goddess of Cybele, a protector of the city. In the 4th century AD, Kabile was conquered by the Goths, and was later destroyed for good by the Avars. The Kabile Archaeological Reserve was established in 1965 on a territory of 650 decares (160 acres). It features ancient structures such as the agora (a central square), Roman barracks, Roman thermae, a bishop’s basilica, among others. Kabile is excavated every year by archaeological teams from Bulgaria and abroad.

The “Little Fortress" near the town of Voden is located in Yambol District, close to Bulgaria’s border with Turkey. The medieval Bulgarian / Byzantine fortress near Voden dates back to the 12th-13th century. It was excavated for the first time with government funding in 2014.

The Ancient Roman city near Stroyno, Yambol District, Southeast Bulgaria, is located in an area known as The Yurt". It became famous to the general public back in 2007 when the team of Bulgarian archaeologist Daniela Agre discovered there a stone sarcophagus with unique golden decorations, and ceramic and glass vessels. Several ancient necropolises studied by Daniela Agre near Stroino, Borisovo, and Boyanovo are connected with this Roman settlement. After the discovery of a fragment of a Roman Navy veteran’s diploma in 2014, the Bulgarian archaeologists have hypothesized that the Roman town near Stroyno was settled by retired Roman military veterans of Thracian origin. In the past decade, the Roman town has been savagely destroyed by treasure hunters. According to the director of the Yambol Regional Museum of History, Stefan Bakardzhiev, the one-time Roman settlement looks like a battlefield, with over 200 pits dug up by treasure hunters in an area of 200 decares (app. 50 acres).

Treasure hunting and illegal trafficking of antiques have been rampant in Bulgaria after the collapse of the communist regime in 1989 (and allegedly before that). Estimates vary but some consider this the second most profitable activity for the Bulgarian mafia after drug trafficking. One recent estimate suggests its annual turnover amounts to BGN 500 million (app. EUR 260 million), and estimates of the number of those involved vary range from 5 000 to 200 000 – 300 000, the vast majority of whom are low-level impoverished diggers.