Archaeologists Discover Main Aqueduct of Ancient Odessos during Rescue Excavations in Bulgaria’s Varna
Bulgarian archaeologists have discovered the main aqueduct which brought water into the Ancient Thracian, Greek, and Roman city of Odessos (Odessus), the predecessor of today’s Black Sea city of Varna, during the Late Antiquity period.
Rescue excavations conducted on the construction site of a residential building in today’s downtown have allowed the archaeologists from the Varna Museum of Archaeology, Assist. Prof. Dr. Hristo Kuzov and Dr. Mihail Hristov, to discover the exact spot where the aqueduct enters the fortress wall of the ancient Black Sea city of Odessos (known in Roman times as Odessus).
“Because of the construction of a residential building we started rescue excavations during which we unearthed the main aqueduct of the Late Antiquity city of Odessos exactly at the point where it goes through the fortress wall,” Kuzov has told the Bulgarian state news agency BTA.
“The aqueduct is preserved in the northern direction from the fortress wall. [The preserved section] is 17 meters long. It was disrupted right where an arch has been unearthed, most likely during the Ottoman period.”
The archaeologist from the Varna Museum of Archaeology has also revealed that the aqueduct of Late Antiquity Odessos was built in three construction periods between the 4th and the 6th century AD.
“The first period of construction was in the 4th century AD when the aqueduct was first built together with the [Late Antiquity] fortress wall. The second period was at the end of the 4th and the beginning of the 5th century AD when a pipeline was laid inside the initial masonry aqueduct. The third period was in the 6th century AD when one more pipeline was added parallel to the original one to west of it, and entered the city through a restructuring of the fortress wall,” Kuzov elaborates.
The revealed section of the fortress wall is made of framed stone blocks bound with mortar, and reaches 3.6 meters in height.
It is hypothesized that the aqueduct brought water to Odessos from several catchment basins on the plateau about the city. It was built of stone blocks covered with up to 13 layers of bricks bound with mortar from large pieces of construction ceramics. The uncovered ceramic pipes have a diameter of about 25 cm.
All elements of the main Late Antiquity aqueduct of Odessos are well preserved and allow the archaeologists to trace the way water was brought into the ancient city.
Kuzov says that this is the first time the archaeologists in Bulgaria’s Varna have discovered a facility of this kind, and that their initial excavation results are still not final. The finds are still to be studied in order to come up with a more precise chronology and stratigraphy of the Late Antiquity aqueduct and the respective fortress wall section of Odessos.
The Varna archaeologist hopes that the newly discovered archaeological structures will be preserved as much as possible. A commission from Bulgaria’s Ministry of Culture is expected to inspect the site and issue a recommendation.
However, since the archaeological structures have been found on a privately owned property where a residential building is to be constructed, much depends on the goodwill of the investors. Presently, the investors are said to be considering setting up a bar or restaurant on the ground floor of the building and incorporating the aqueduct and fortress wall remains of the ancient city into the interior of the respective establishment.
Check out also the stories about the March 2015 rescue excavations of the Ancient Thracian, Greek, and Roman city of Odessos in Bulgaria’s Varna SO FAR (in reverse chronological order):
The dawn of Varna‘s history dates back to the dawn of human civilization, the Eneolithic Varna Necropolis being especially well known with the discovery of the world’s oldest find of gold artifacts dating back to the 5th millenium BC.
Ancient Odessos is considered the precursor of the Bulgarian Black Sea city of Varna. It was founded by Miletian Greek colonists at the end of 7th century BC, the earliest Greek archaeological material dating back to 600-575 BC. However, the Greek colony was established within an earlier Ancient Thracian settlement, and the name Odessos had existed before the arrival of the Miletian Greeks and might have been of Carian origin. Odessos as the Roman city of Odessus became part of the Roman Empire in 15 AD when it was incorporated in the Roman province Moesia. Roman Odessos is especially known today for its well preserved public baths, or thermae, the largest Roman single structure remains in Bulgaria, and the fourth largest Roman public baths known in Europe.
The First Bulgarian Empire (680-1018 AD) conquered Odessos (Varna) from Rome‘s successor, the Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantium, in the late 7th century. It is even believed that the peace treaty in which the Byzantine Empire recognized the ceding of its northern territories along the Danube to Bulgaria was signed in Odessos. The v(val) that the first ruler of Danube Bulgaria, Khan (or kanas) Asparuh built at the time as a defense against future Byzantine incursions is still standing. Numerous Ancient Bulgar settlements around Varna have been excavated, and the First Bulgarian Empire had its first two capitals Pliska (681-893 AD) and Veliki (Great) Preslav (893-970 AD) just 70-80 km to the west of Varna. It is suggested that the name of Varna itself is of Bulgar origin. In the Middle Ages, as a coastal city, Varna changed hands between Bulgaria and Byzantium several times. It was reconquered for the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD) by Tsar Kaloyan (r. 1197-1207 AD) in 1201 AD.