Bulgarian Archaeologists Discover Gate of Ancient Roman City Almus in Danube Town of Lom

Bulgarian Archaeologists Discover Gate of Ancient Roman City Almus in Danube Town of Lom

A "brand-new" section of the fortifications of the Ancient Thracian, Roman, Early Byzantine, and medieval Bulgarian city of Almus, including a gate, has been unearthed by the archaeologists in Bulgaria's Lom. Photo: Mont-Press

A “brand-new” section of the fortifications of the Ancient Thracian, Roman, Early Byzantine, and medieval Bulgarian city of Almus, including a gate, has been unearthed by the archaeologists in Bulgaria’s Lom. Photo: Mont-Press

Bulgarian archaeologists carrying out rescue excavations in the Ancient Thracian and Roman, early Byzanine, and medieval Bulgarian city of Almus, whose ruins are located in today’s Danube town of Lom, have discovered one of its gates.

The rescue excavations at Almus have been staged after part of its fortifications, more specifically, part its of western fortress wall, has been stumbled upon during construction works for the rehabilitation of Lom’s water supply and sewerage system.

Almus, originally a Thracian settlement, was a Roman city in the 1st-5th century AD, and was later an important settlement in Early Byzantium, the medieval Bulgarian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire. It has been excavated only partly, and none of its archaeological structures have been restored.

The Ancient Roman city Almus was last excavated in 1990, some 25 years ago, and the present rescue digs are seen as a major event for the archaeologists who are active in Northwest Bulgaria raising hopes that the archaeological structures could be studied in-depth and restored as a cultural tourism site.

The archaeologists, who have been working in Almus for a couple of weeks now, have discovered one of the gates of the ancient and medieval fortress, reports local news site Mont-Press.

The rescue excavations of Almus are conducted by archaeologists from the Lom Museum of History led by Valeri Stoichkov; they are funded by Lom Municipality, and are observed by the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

“We are revealing at least two construction levels, that is, two construction periods from the building of the western part of the fortification system [of Almus]," Stoichkov is quoted as saying, adding that the present excavations are only part of the overall objective – to complete the exploration of Almus in full.

According to the report, the “dream" of the local archaeologists is to be able to link the newly unearthed sections from the archaeological structures of Almus with the sections, also from its western wall, which were excavated in the 1980s, in order to built them into the modern-day urban environment, and turn them into a place for cultural tourism.

“It is also important that last year Almus was included in the list of the 27 important Ancient Roman fortifications of the Empire along the Lower Danube, the so called Limes Moesiae, which are expected to apply for recognition by UNESCO as a collective monument of culture," archaeologist Valeri Stoichkov points out.

One of the members of the archaeological team in Lom is the young archaeologist Kristina Ilieva who has developed a methodology for 3D modeling during her studies in Sweden, and is now applying it during the excavations of Almus.

“The model gets generated in the evening after the excavations, and every day we get something new, a 3D model of the excavations from the previous day. In many cases, it is a model preserving something that is now gone, and will never come back," she explains.

The total area of the Almus Fortress is about 41 decares (app. 10.1 acres), and it is shaped like a pentagon with round fortress towers at its angles; however, much of the archaeological structures have been destroyed over the past few decades during the construction of the modern-day infrastructure of Bulgaria’s Danube town of Lom.

Background Infonotes:

The ruins of the Ancient Thracian, Roman, Early Byzantine, medieval Bulgarian and Ottoman city of Almus (Artanes) are located in the Kaletata Quarter of today’s Bulgarian Danube town of Lom. The Roman fort and road station of Almus was built at the location of an Ancient Thracian settlement around 29 AD, while the fortress itself was built at the beginning of the 2nd century AD, when it was part of the district of the nearby Roman city and colony Colonia Ulpia Traiana Ratiaria (today’s Archar) in the province of Moesia Superior. Almus is believed to have been the ancient name of the Lom River. The Roman city of Almus is located on the Via Istrum, the Roman road going along the Danube, whose construction started during the reign of Emperor Tiberius (r. 19-37 AD). Almus was also the starting point of a Roman road leading from the Danube to Serdica (today’s Sofia). It is believed that in Roman times the Danube port of Almus served both military and commercial vessels. In the middle of the 5th century AD, Almus was captured and ransacked in the barbarian invasions of the Huns. It was later an important city in Early Byzantium, the medieval Bulgarian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire. During the Ottoman period the settlement was protected with a rectangular rampart.

Almus was mentioned in the 4th century AD Tabula Peutingeriana (the Peutinger Map showing cursus publicus, the road network in the Roman Empire, covering Europe, North Africa and parts of Asia), and was mentioned in the so called Antonine Itinerary (Itinerarium Antonini Augusti, “The Itinerary of Emperor Antoninus"), an Ancient Roman register of road stations. Almus was marked on some Western European maps from the 16th-17th century. The name of Almus has been found in Latin inscriptions on epigraphic monuments explored by 19th and early 20th century archaeologists such as Bogdan Filov, Gavril Katsarov, Vaclav Dobruski, Felix Kanitz, and Konstantin Josef Jirecek.

The archaeological excavations of Almus have explored a 70-meter section from its western fortress wall, which is 2.2 meters wide, and was 200 meters long. The total area of the Almus Fortress is about 41 decares (app. 10.1 acres), and is shaped like a pentagon with round fortress towers at its angles. The discovered archaeological artifacts are stored in the Lom Museum of History. The Almus Fortress has not been restored even though it harbors great potential as a cultural tourism site. The fortress walls are made from river stones, and the city had two water pipelines – one made of clay, and another one made of lead. It is believed that Almus did not develop crafts because of its proximity to Colonia Ulpia Ratiaria. The necropolis of Almus contains masonry graves, and sarcophagi.

Almus was discovered for modern-day archaeology in 1864 by Austro-Hungarian geographer and archaeologist Felix Kanitz. At the end of the 19th century it was explored by Dimitar Marinov and Czech-Bulgarian historian Konstantin Josef Jirecek. In 1925, an archaeological society called Almus was founded in the town of Lom. Almus was granted the status of a “monument of culture of national importance" by the Bulgarian government in 1971. It was excavated in 1986-1990 by a team of the Lom Museum of History and the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.