Bulgarian Archaeologists Find Roman Temple, Apollo Statuette in Excavations of Ancient Rock City Perperikon
A Late Antiquity Roman temple and a bronze statuette of Ancient Greek god Apollo holding a bow have been discovered by the team of Bulgarian archaeologist Prof. Nikolay Ovcharov on the second day of the 2015 summer excavations on the prehistoric, ancient, and medieval rock city and fortress of Perperikon, also known as Perperik.
The bronze statuette of Apollo is dated to the 3rd century AD, and is a very sophisticated work, says Ovcharov, as cited by the Bulgarian state news agency BTA. No statues or statuettes of Apollo had been found in Perperikon before.
It was found just meters away from a newly discovered Ancient Roman temple, also from the 3rd century AD, the second Roman temple to be found in the rock city of Perperikon located near the city of Kardzhali in the Rhodope Mountains.
“This is the second Roman temple found in Perperikon. The first one was discovered 5-6 years ago, and in it we found a clay altar and an icon of the Thracian Horseman (the supreme deity of the Ancient Thracians, also known as Heros). This proves once again that Perperikon is not all about the Middle Ages, as some claim. We can now speak for sure about a pagan period of Perperikon from the Roman Age,” Ovcharov comments.
“The Apollo statuette is a cult figurine, part of the interior of the temple, one more confirmation about the pagan period of Perperikon during the Roman Age,” adds the archaeologist, who has been excavating the rock city of Perperikon since 2000.
Ovcharov points out that his team is starting the most large-scale research campaign in the 16-year history of the archaeological excavations of Perperikon. It is funded with a total of BGN 220,000 (app. EUR 112,000) from the Bulgarian government, of which BGN 180,000 (app. EUR 92,000) are for archaeological excavations, and BGN 40,000 (app. EUR 20,000) – for conservation works.
“In exchange for these funds we are supposed to complete the studying of the acropolis of Perperikon – something that was supposed to happen last year but couldn’t because of the political situation and the problems in the country. This is not just about scientific research but also about the all-out exhibition of the most famous Bulgarian archaeological site at present,” says Ovcharov, adding that 2015 is a crucial year for his work in Perperikon.
“In order to be able to complete the acropolis with the palace-shrine we need to remove the last piece of land in the center of the rock city this year,” he elaborates.
The 2015 summer excavations of the rock city of Perperikon will last for four months, and will employ about 80-90 local workers for the digs in addition to the archaeological team.
Ovcharov reminds that in September 2014, the local authorities in Kardzhali completed an EU funded project for excavations and improvement of the tourist infrastructure of the prehistoric, ancient, and medieval rock city of Perperikon which was worth a total of BGN 3.7 million (app. EUR 1.9 million).
In addition to the Bulgarian government funding for Ovcharov’s 2015 summer excavations of Perperikon additional funding will be invested in the archaeological site from the EEA and Norway development mechanism. Kardzhali Municipality recently won an EEA/Norway grant for the partial restoration of Perperikon, which is worth EUR 748,203.
The project entitled “Perperikon – Past for the Future” provides for the restoration and exhibition of a total of 11 structures: 3 altars, 4 residential buildings, a water tank, the fortress wall of the Perperikon acropolis with 2 bastions, a polygonal fortress tower, and streets in the ancient and medieval city.
Ovcharov has announced that on June 27, 2015, Perperikon is expected to be visited by foreign diplomats based in Sofia who will be on a tour of Bulgaria’s Haskovo and Kardzhali Districts.
During his meeting with reporters, the archaeologists has also talked about his intention to explore allegedly Ancient Bulgar petroglyphs (rock engravings) together with experts from Mongolia.
Perperikon (also called Perperek or Perperik) is an ancient rock city located in the Rhodope Mountains in Southern Bulgaria, 15 km away from the city of Kardzhali. It is a large-scale archaeological complex including historical monuments from different ages. Those include a megalithic sanctuary dating back to the Neolithic Age, the 6th millennium BC, a Bronze Age settlement, and a holy rock city established by the Ancient Thracians later taken over by the Romans, Goths, and Byzantines, respectively. In the Middle Ages, especially during the time of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD), it was the site of a strong fortress and a royal palace that Bulgaria and Byzantium fought over numerous times. Perperikon has been excavated since 2000 by Bulgarian archaeologist Nikolay Ovcharov who has found evidence that the mythical ancient Temple of Dionysius was located there. The rock city and fortress at Perperikon, not unlike the vast majority of the medieval Bulgarian fortresses, were destroyed by the invading Ottoman Turks in the 14th century.