Construction Workers Stumble Upon Ancient Roman Wall in Bulgaria’s Plovdiv
Construction workers laying water supply and sewage pipes in the southern Bulgarian city of Plovdiv have stumbled upon an Ancient Roman wall, possibly the western wall of the Forum of ancient Philipopolis, and have even managed to damage it.
The construction and rehabilitation works by water utility workers in Plovdiv have been carried out in violation of Bulgaria’s Cultural Heritage Act because there were no archaeologists supervising their work, says archaeologist Maya Marinova from the Plovdiv Museum of Archaeology, as cited by local news site Top Novini Plovdiv.
Reports say the workers first noticed the previously unknown Roman wall the night before but failed to notify the local museum authority. The find was also noticed by local archaeologists who alerted the media.
Marinova says she herself warned the workers the previous day that they might come across an archaeological structure and damage it but neither they, nor the director of Plovdiv’s water utility Spartak Nikolov took any notice., reports local news site Plovdiv24.
The construction excavations were made in order to lay water and sewage pipes for a developing private property.
Local media have reported an outrageous attitude on part of the construction workers who said they did not care about any archaeological finds, and that their work could not be stopped.
Nikolov, the head of city water utility, has shown up on the site, and ordered a termination of the construction digs.
“We don’t employ any archaeologists,” he is quoted as responding to media questions as to why the digs in an area known for its archaeological monuments have not been supervised by the museum authority.
In a similar incident in March 2015, water utility workers in another Bulgarian city, Varna, flooded the site of rescue excavations with the newly revealed Late Antiquity fortress wall, and cracked a 5th century earthen jar (pithos).
Meanwhile, the Mayor of Plovdiv’s Central District Georgi Tityukov issued an order stopping the construction digs so that the newly uncovered ancient wall can be inspected by the archaeologists from the Plovdiv Museum of Archaeology.
It is still unclear exactly what kind of a structure from ancient Philipopolis, as Plovdiv was known in the Antiquity period, has been uncovered. However, local archaeologists have surmised that it might be western wall of the Forum of Philipopolis; they are yet to explore the site.
The history of today’s Bulgarian city of Plovdiv began on the ancient hill of Nebet Tepe (“tepe” is the Turkish word for “hill”), one of the seven historic hills where it was founded and developed in prehistoric and ancient times. The hills, or “tepeta”, are still known today by their Turkish names from the Ottoman period. Out of all of them, Nebet Tepe has the earliest traces of civilized life dating back to the 6th millennium BC, which makes Plovdiv 8,000 years old, and allegedly the oldest city in Europe. Around 1200 BC, the prehistoric settlement on Nebet Tepe was transformed into the Ancient Thracian city of Eumolpia, also known as Pulpudeva, inhabited by the powerful Ancient Thracian tribe Bessi. During the Early Antiquity period Eumolpia / Pulpudeva grew to encompass the two nearby hills (Dzhambaz Tepe and Taxim Tepe known together with Nebet Tepe as “The Three Hills”) as well, with the oldest settlement on Nebet Tepe becoming the citadel of the city acropolis.
In 342 BC, the Thracian city of Eumolpia / Pulpudeva was conquered by King Philip II of Macedon renaming the city to Philippopolis. Philippopolis developed further as a major urban center during the Hellenistic period after the collapse of Alexander the Great’s Empire. In the 1st century AD, more precisely in 46 AD, Ancient Thrace was annexed by the Roman Empire making Philippopolis the major city in the Ancient Roman province of Thrace. This is the period when the city expanded further into the plain around The Three Hills. Because of the large scale public construction works during the period of Ancient Rome’s Flavian Dynasty (69-96 AD, including Emperor Vespasian (r. 69-79 AD), Emperor Titus (r. 79-81 AD), Emperor Domitian (r. 81-96 AD)), Plovdiv was also known as Flavia Philippopolis. Later emerging as a major Early Byzantine city, Plovdiv was conquered for the First Bulgarian Empire (632/680 – 1018 AD) by Khan (or Kanas) Krum (r. 803-814 AD) in 812 AD but was permanently incorporated into Bulgaria under Khan (or Kanas) Malamir (r. 831-836 AD) in 834 AD. In Old Bulgarian (also known today as Church Slavonic), the city’s name was recorded as Papaldin, Paldin, and Pladin, and later Plavdiv from which today’s name Plovdiv originated. The Nebet Tepe fortress continued to be an important part of the city’s fortifications until the 14th century when the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD) was conquered by the Ottoman Turks. During the period the Ottoman yoke (1396-1878/1912) when Bulgaria was part of the Ottoman Empire, Plovdiv was called Filibe in Turkish.
Today the prehistoric, ancient, and medieval settlement on Nebet Tepe has been recognized as the Nebet Tepe Archaeological Preserve. Some of the unique archaeological finds from Nebet Tepe include an ancient secret tunnel which, according to legends, was used by Apostle Paul (even though it has been dated to the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I the Great (r. 527-565 AD)) and large scale water storage reservoirs used during sieges, one of them with an impressive volume of 300,000 liters. Still preserved today are parts of the western fortress wall with a rectangular tower from the Antiquity period.