Archaeologists Discover Hand from Huge Roman Statue at Early Christian Site in Bulgaria’s Sandanski
Archaeologists have discovered the hand of a huge Roman marble statue while excavating the Early Christian monuments in the Ancient Thracian and Roman city of Parthicopolis in the southwestern Bulgarian town of Sandanski.
The large fragment from the Ancient Roman statue was discovered on April 1, 2015, as the local archaeologists are continuing the excavations of two Late Antiquity basilicas (out of a total of four basilicas found there), including the so called Bishop John’s Basilica, and an “Early Christian Complex”, Vladimir Petkov, Director of the Sandanski Museum of Archaeology has announced, as cited by the Bulgarian daily standart.
“We have strumbled upon one more find dating back to the 1st-3rd century AD – part of the arm of a marble statue. Only the hand and the wrist have survived but even just [this fragment is] is long 50 cm. The hand is holding fruit. The statue must have been at least three meters tall,” Petkov says.
In his words, the local archaeologists are now conducting research in order to try to find out more about the huge Roman marble statue whose fragment they have discovered. (No photos of the fruit-holding hand from the Ancient Roman statue have been released yet.)
The ongoing excavations of the Early Christian monuments in Bulgaria’s Sandanski, which is a spa resort, are part of a two-year EU funded project for the excavation of the Ancient Thracian and Roman city of Parthicopolis whose remains are located in today’s downtown.
The rehabilitation and conservation of the two Early Christian basilicas and the adjacent ancient buildings will be lead to a permanent in situ exhibit in order to boost Sandanski’s appeal as a destination for cultural tourism. The Sandanski Museum of Archaeology itself is integrated with the remains of the ancient structures of Parthicopolis.
“Our discoveries here truly deserve the attention not only of the tourists, but also of the experts,” Sandanski Mayor Andon Totev is quoted as saying.
He adds that all of the Ancient Roman and other artifacts discovered during the excavations of the Early Christian buildings in Sandanski over the past two years will be exhibited as part of the new cultural tourism attraction.
These include the recently found large Early Christian bronze cross (56 cm in length and 30 cm in width) which was stuck on top of a wooden pole and was thus carried at the front of religious processions, and an altar marble slab with motifs from “The Last Supper”, with the human figures carved into the marble, which is considered an extremely rare find.
“These two artifacts are among our most valuable finds in the Early Christian complex. They will certainly grab the attention of our visitors,” says museum chief Vladimir Petkov.
Part of the Early Christian complex in ancient Parthicopolis includes a recently discovered martyrium – a structure complementing a Christian temple where holy relics were kept together with altar tables, murals, and marble floors.
Ancient Parthicopolis was an Early Christian religious center and the seat of a bishop.
The project for the restoration of the Late Antiquity and Early Christian bof Bulgaria’s Sandaski is worth BGN 6.16 million (app. EUR 3 million), with Sandanski Municipality’s co-funding being almost BGN 160,000 of the total sum. It is expected to be completed, and to be opened for tourists by the fall of 2015.
Parthicopolis was an Ancient Roman city located in the Roman province of Macedonia; its ruins can be found in the downtown of today’s Sandanski in Southwestern Bulgaria. It is known to have been an important center of early Christianity, having been located just some 100 km away from the Ancient Greek town of Philippi where Apostle Paul established the first Christian community in Europe. A testimony for the significance of Parthicopolis as an Early Christian center is the fact that it was mentioned during the Nicaea Council. The town of Parthicopolis was destroyed in barbarian invasions, possibly by the Slavs who tried to capture Thessaloniki in the second half of the 6th century.
The Bishop’s Basilica is the largest of four ancient basilicas found in Parthicopolis, today’s Sandanski in Southwestern Bulgaria. It consists of an entire complex of early Christian buildings, and was the seat of a bishopric in the late Antiquity. It was first discovered in 1989 by Vladimir Petkov, then and current director of the Sandanski Museum of Archaeology, and has been excavated ever since. Towering at 16 m and with a length of 30 m and width of 22 m, the basilica is unique for its Early Christian mosaics and murals, including depictions of fish and birds.
The Bishop’s Basilica must not be confused with Bishop John’s Basilica, which is also one of the four ancient basilicas in Parthicopolis in today’s Sandanski in Southwestern Bulgaria. It is especially known for a mosaic inscription found in the center of its narthex stating that it was built by a “Bishop John”; hence, it has also become famous as Bishop John’s Basilica. In 2013, the Sandanski Municipality started the partial restoration of the two basilicas, the Bishop’s Basilica and Bishop John’s Basilica, and the Early Christian complex in Parthicopolis with an EU grant of BGN 6.1 million (app. EUR 3.1 million) under Operational Program “Regional Development”. The basilicas and the adjacent buildings were destroyed by arson during barbarian invasions, possibly by the Slavs who tried to capture Thessaloniki in the second half of the 6th century.
The Sandanski Museum of Archaeology was founded in 1936, and is one of the five archaeological museums in Bulgaria specializing in ancient archaeology. It is situated over the foundations of Bishop John’s Basilica. Its exhibits feature a unique collection of later Roman marble gravestones and tablets and Early Christian mosaics.