Archaeologists Find Roman Fortress Almus in Bulgaria's Lom Had Reconstructions in Late Ottoman Period

Archaeologists Find Roman Fortress Almus in Bulgaria’s Lom Had Reconstructions in Late Ottoman Period

A photo from the ongoing rescue excavations in the Bulgarian Danube town of Lom which have discovered the western gate of the Ancient Roman city of Almus, and have found that the fortifications were reconstructed by the Ottomans in the Late Ottoman period. Photo: archaeologist Valeri Stoichkov

A photo from the ongoing rescue excavations in the Bulgarian Danube town of Lom which have discovered the western gate of the Ancient Roman city of Almus, and have found that the fortifications were reconstructed by the Ottomans in the Late Ottoman period. Photo: archaeologist Valeri Stoichkov

Archaeologists working on the rescue excavations in the Roman fortress of Almus in the Bulgarian Danube town of Lom, who recently discovered the western gate of the ancient city, have now found evidence that the fortifications underwent reconstructions during the Late Ottoman period.

The rescue excavations in Lom have been going on for a month now. They began after in March 2015 local construction workers came across an archaeological structure from the Roman city of Almus.

The archaeologists have already unearthed the northern façade of the western gate of Almus, and have discovered that the fortifications bear traces of reconstruction during the later centuries of the Ottoman Empire. Bulgaria was part of the Ottoman Empire between 1396 and 1878/1912, a period known as the Ottoman Yoke because of the destruction of the Bulgarian state and the subjugation and rampant abuses that the Bulgarians suffered.

“This was a very interesting period in Lom’s history because of the presence of Ottoman forces defeated at Vienna and Budapest," explains lead archaeologist Valeri Stoichkov from the Lom Museum of History, as cited by Radio Focus Vidin.

He adds that Ottoman troops routed in Central Europe by the defenders of Vienna in the 17th century settled in old fortresses in today’s Northwest Bulgaria.

“They chose fortresses as a place to settle and remained for a couple of centuries. We are finding traces of their life in our excavations from the later, uppermost [archaeological] layer," Stoichkov says.

His team has discovered bricks with seals testifying that the Ancient Roman fortress Almus was built during the reigns of Roman Emperors Diocletian (r. 284-305 AD) and Constantine the Great (r. 306-337 AD), i.e. the end of the 3rd and the beginning of the 4th century AD.

The new excavations in Lom confirm that the Ancient Roman city of Almus was a major settlement in the classical Roman Age and in the Late Antiquity.

They also reveal that in the 6th-7th century AD, the area was settled by the Slavs. Traces from the medieval Bulgarian Empire are also said to be visible, and during the Bulgarian Middle Ages Lom was one of the most important city fortresses on the Danube together with the city of Bdin / Badin (today’s Vidin) located to the west.

Based on his participation in the exploration of the Almus Fortress now and in the late 1980s, Stoichkov says the town of Lom was inhabited throughout all historical periods since the Antiquity.

“I would like to stress that these explorations are especially important from the point of view of the future restoration, conservation, and promotion of the excavated sections of the ancient Almus," adds the archaeologist hoping that the Roman ruins in Rome will be made into a cultural tourism site.

He says the present rescue excavations of the Almus Fortress are to be completed in a week. In order to promote the historical and archaeological heritage of Lom and its cultural tourism potential, the archaeologists from the Lom Museum of History have opened a new exhibition showing both new finds from the ongoing excavations, and artifacts discovered during the first digs at Almus between 1986 and 1990.

Stoichkov reminds that Almus (Lom) together with the Ancient Roman fortresses of Bononia (Vidin) and Ratiaria (Archar) has recently been 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.

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.