Bulgarian Archaeologist Finds Skull of Human Sacrifice Victim, Roman Military Diploma at Ancient Thracian Sites

Some of the ancient finds from archaeologist Varbin Varbanov's excavations in Batin and Brestovitsa exhibited in the Ruse Regional Museum of History. Photo by Top Novini

Some of the ancient finds from archaeologist Varbin Varbanov’s excavations in Batin and Brestovitsa exhibited in the Ruse Regional Museum of History. Photo by Top Novini

The skull of what is most probably a human sacrifice victim, and a Roman military diploma are some of the most interesting finds discovered at Ancient Thracians sites in the towns of Batin and Bretovitsa by Varbin Varbanov, an archaeologist from the Regional Museum of History in Bulgaria’s Danube city of Ruse.

Varbanov has presented from the finds from his excavations at Batin and Brestovitsa, both of which are located in Bulgaria’s Borovo Municipaltiy, Ruse District, at a public presentation in the Ruse Regional Museum of Archaeology.

Near the town of Batin, his team excavated three pits in the Scaidava Fortress which throughout the ages was an Ancient Thracian settlement, a Late Antiquity Roman fortress, and a medieval fortress from the period of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD).

In one of the pits at Scaidava, Varbanov’s team has found a skull of a 20-year-old man. The archaeologist belives that this must have been a case of a human sacrifice, as cited by Top Novini.

The other pits have revealed ceramic vessels which have already been restored and exhibited at the Ruse Museum of History.

These ancient finds from Scaidava have been dated back to the 1st century BC – 1st century AD, with the exception of a part of a Roman military veteran’s diploma dated back to the 2nd century. Those diplomas were handed to Roman legionaries after their dismissal from the armed forces. (There has recently been another discovery of a Roman military veteran’s diploma in Bulgaria.)

A view of the Danube from the location of the Scaidava Fortress near Batin. Photo by Borovo Municipality

A view of the Danube from the location of the Scaidava Fortress near Batin. Photo by Borovo Municipality

“[The excavations] were [conducted] with little funding, it was mostly just drilling. However, at Scaidava we have achieved significant results. We have established its chronology in Thracian times, Roman times, and during the Second Bulgarian State thanks to the nice finds some of which are exhibited," Varbanov says, as cited by RuseInfo.

Near the town of Brestovitsa, his team excavated a burial mound (tumulus) dated back to the 1st century BC which contains the remains of at least five people – an old man, a woman aged 35-40, other young men and children.

The artifacts discovered in it include a Thracian knife, a handle for it, parts from a chain-armor, decorations, and ceramic vessels. These finds are dated back to the 1st century BC.

In the collections of the Ruse Museum, they have been added to other items such as weapons, a fibula, and ear tabs, discovered in another burial mound near Brestovitsa back in 2013.

“The interesting thing about [this burial mound] was that few of its kind have been excavated, and every single new one provides additional information. Even though the bodies were buried after they had been burned, there still are some interesting finds which are worth seeing, and can be exhibited after some restoration work," Varbanov elaborates.

His excavations near Brestovitsa have been completed and are to be described in academic publications, while his explorations of the Scaidava Fortress near Batin will continue in the summer of 2015 if funding is provided.

Archaeologist Varbin Varbanov looking at some of his finds from Batin and Brestovitsa in the Ruse Regional Museum of History. Photo by Ruseinfo

Archaeologist Varbin Varbanov looking at some of his finds from Batin and Brestovitsa in the Ruse Regional Museum of History. Photo by Ruseinfo

Background Infonotes:

The Scaidava Fortress is located on a hill overlooking the southern bank of the Danube near the town of Batin, Borovo Municipality, Ruse District, Northern Bulgaria. Throughout the ages Scaidava was an Ancient Thracian settlement, a Late Antiquity Roman fortress, and a medieval fortress from the period of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD). It has a territory of 25 decares (app. 6 acres), with a fortress wall going along the edge of the cliff. The eastern wall of the Scaidava Fortress is best preserved. 19th-century Czech-Bulgarian archaeologist Karel Skorpil believed that the fortress near Batin is identical with the castle of Sakidava/Scaidava mentioned in the so called Antonine Itinerary (Itinerarium Antonini Augusti, “The Itinerary of Emperor Antoninus"), an Ancient Roman register of road stations, between the town of Novae and the road station of Trimammium.