Bulgarian Archaeologists to Excavate Early Christian Basilica, Roman Forum at Ancient City Heraclea Sintica

The Ancient Thracian, Greek, and Roman city of Heraclea Sintica near Petrich, close to Bulgaria's border with Greece, has still been only partly excavated in spite of years of exploration and research. Photo: Petrich Museum of History

The Ancient Thracian, Greek, and Roman city of Heraclea Sintica near Petrich, close to Bulgaria’s border with Greece, has still been only partly excavated in spite of years of exploration and research. Photo: Petrich Museum of History

Bulgarian archaeologists are set to resume their excavations of the Ancient Thracian, Greek, and Roman city of Heraclea Sintica located near the town of Petrich in Southwest Bulgaria.

They plan to excavate further Heraclea Sintica’s city basilica which has been unearthed only half way, says Sotir Ivanov, Director of the Petrich Museum of History, as cited by the Bulgarian daily Standart. The 3rd century AD church is long 22 meters, and wide 16 meters.

The Bulgarian archaeologists are also going to excavate a building from the 4th century BC, which has not been explored so far, as well as a large staircase in the northern section of Heraclea Sintica’s Roman Forum.

In their recent excavations, the archaeologists have found hundreds of ancient artifacts at Heraclea Sintica located just 1 km away from the town of Rupite, which is famous as the hometown of Bulgarian clairvoyant Baba Vanga (Vangeliya Gushterova) (1911-1996); it lies at the foot of the 200-meter tall extinct volcano Kozhuh. Heraclea Sintica has been partly conserved and exhibited in situ.

The conserved part features remains of the city infrastructure and Early Christian graves. The movable finds have been exhibited at the Petrich Museum of History. Those include a votive tablet with an image of Nemesis, the Ancient Greek goddess of retribution and revenge, and a coin with the image of Emperor Marcian, Emperor of the Eastern Roman (Byznatine) Empire (r. 450-457 AD).

The Director of the Petrich Museum of History says the archaeologists working on Heraclea Sintica are hoping to receive between BGN 50,000 (EUR 25,500) and BGN 100,000 (EUR 51,100) from the Bulgarian government for their excavations.

For the first time in recent years, the excavations of Heraclea Sintica in the summer of 2015 will not be funded by the American Research Center in Sofia, and no U.S. experts and students will be involved in the digs.

“Our project with them has expired. Until now the American Research Center funded our work. This year, however, we will have to rely solely on government funding. The duration of the excavations of this valuable historical monument will depend on the sum that we will get,” concludes Sotir Ivanov.

In January 2015, the Petrich Museum of History installed CCTV cameras at the Ancient Thracian, Greek, and Roman city of Heraclea Sintica as a measure against treasure hunters, while also announcing a rising number of tourists visiting the site. In March 2015, the National Institute of Archaeology with Museum at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, and the American Research Center in Sofia published an English-language digest of the excavations there.

Background Infonotes:

Heraclea Sintica is an Ancient Thracian, Greek, and Roman city located near the town of Petrich in Southwest Bulgaria, and just 1 km away from the town of Rupite, which is famous as the hometown of Bulgarian clairvoyant Baba Vanga (Vangeliya Gushterova) (1911-1996), at the foot of the 200-meter tall extinct volcano Kozhuh. It was the center of the ancient region of Sintica along the Struma River, which was inhabited by the Thracian tribe of the Sintians. The ancient city of Heraclea Sintica was mentioned by Homer, Herodotos, and Thycudides in their works. It was founded around 300 BC by Cassander, King of the Kingdom of Macedon (r. 305-297 BC), who also founded Thessaloniki. In the not so distant past, the location of the ancient city of Heraclea Sintica was a matter of contention between archaeologists from Bulgaria and Greece. In 2002, Bulgarian archaeologists managed to identify the city for sure after they found a Latin inscription dated back to 308 AD, in which Roman Emperor Galerius (r. 293-305 AD as Caesar, 305-311 AD as Augustus) addressed the local urban citizens of Heraclea Sintica responding to a plea to restore their lost civil rights. In the late Antiquity, the city of Heraclea Sintica gradualy waned and was replaced by nearby Sveti Vrach (today’s town of Sandanski) as a regional center. In recent years, Heraclea Sintica has been excavated by Ass. Prof. Dr. Lyudmil Vagalinski, director of Bulgaria’s National Institute of Archaeology with Museum at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, and Sotir Ivanov, director of the Petrich Museum of History.