Roman Fortress Ad Putea in Northern Bulgaria Was Burned Down Twice during Goth Invasions, Archaeologists Find

This photo shows the 2015 summer excavations of the ruins of the Ancient Roman fortress and road station Ad Putea in Riben in Northern Bulgaria. Photo: Pleven Regional Museum of History Facebook Page

This photo shows the 2015 summer excavations of the ruins of the Ancient Roman fortress and road station Ad Putea in Riben in Northern Bulgaria. Photo: Pleven Regional Museum of History Facebook Page

The Ancient Roman fortress and road station Ad Putea, which is located near the town of Riben, Dolna Mitropoliya Municipality, Pleven District, in Northern Bulgaria, was burned down twice by the invading Goths, archaeologists have found during their 2015 summer excavations.

Ad Putea was a major road station which later grew into a fortress on the Via Traiana – the road used for Roman Emperor Trajan’s wars for conquering the Dacians, the resisting Thracian tribes north of the Lower Danube, in today’s Romania. It linked the Ancient Roman city of Philipopolis (today’s Plovdiv in Southern Bulgaria) in the Roman province of Thrace, with two major Roman outposts on the Lower Danube frontier, the so called Limes Moesiae – Ulpia Oescus near today’s town of Gigen, and Novae near today’s town Svishtov, in the Roman province of Moesia Inferior.

The archaeologists from the Pleven Regional Museum of History who have excavated Ad Putea since 2013 have not found evidence that the fortress was attacked twice by the Goths at least in the 3rd-4th century AD, lead archaeologist Petar Banov has told the Bulgarian private news agency Focus after the wrapping up of the 2015 summer excavations.

“This season we worked mainly on the layer of the two Goth invasions. One occurred in 270 AD, and the other in 376 AD. It is well known that after 250 AD, the Goths would constantly cross the Danube and raid these lands. [So] there were two large fires. Apparently, the fortress was attacked by the invading tribes. It was of importance as a road station and a fortress guarding the road from Ulpia Oescus to Philipopolis,” Banov says.

He adds that his team has discovered a large amount of coins dating back to the period from ca. 270 AD until the beginning of the 4th century, plus individual coins from later periods.

“In one of the sections which used to be a large public building, on an area of 1 square meter we found some 50 Late Antiquity coins, some of them stuck together. Apparently, they were placed together in a purse. They date to the time of the reign of Roman Emperor Valentian (r. 364-375 AD), and his successors. Because they are very close chronologically, and probably came from the same Roman mints, we tend to think they belonged to a soldier who received his pay but because of some of the barbarian invasions was unable to spend it,” elaborates the archaeologist.

During the 2015 excavations of Ad Putea, the researchers from the Pleven Museum continued to excavate the Roman public building with hypocaust (underfloor heating) which was first unearthed in 2014.

What is more, the archaeologists have found a wide range of artifact from the Early Middle Ages indicating that the Roman fortress was also inhabited during the period of the First Bulgarian Empire (632/680-1018 AD).

Those include a reliquary cross, a Byzantine coin from the 10th-11th century, bronze belt decorations, arrow tips, and household pottery. The finds are taken as exciting because the archaeological sites from the period of the First Bulgarian Empire in today’s Central North Bulgaria have not been explored in-depth.

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This photo shows the 2015 summer excavations of the ruins of the Ancient Roman fortress and road station Ad Putea in Riben in Northern Bulgaria. Photo: Pleven Regional Museum of History Facebook Page

This photo shows the 2015 summer excavations of the ruins of the Ancient Roman fortress and road station Ad Putea in Riben in Northern Bulgaria. Photo: Pleven Regional Museum of History Facebook Page

The wide range of cult items from the 1st-3rd century AD found in Ad Putea over the past three archaeological seasons have led the local archaeologists to believe that the Roman fortress had a temple dedicated to an ancient deity. However, the ruins of the supposed temple have not been located yet.

“We suppose that this question will find its answer during the next archaeological season,” says lead archaeologist Petar Banov.

Last year, during their 2014 excavations of the Roman fortress and road station of Ad Putea, Banov’s team found a sacrificial altar dedicated to the mysterious ancient deity Porobonus.

Background Infonotes:

The ruins of the Ancient Roman fortress and road station Ad Putea are located on the right bank of the Vit River near the town of Riben, Dolna Mitropoliya Municipality, Pleven District, in Northern Bulgaria. It was a road station on the Via Traiana, a road used by Roman Emperor Trajan (r. 98-117 AD).

Via Traiana, which runs through the Troyan Pass of the Balkan Mountains, was vital in Roman Emperor Trajan’s wars for conquering the Dacians, the resisting Thracian tribes north of the Lower Danube, in today’s Romania.

It linked the Ancient Roman city of Philipopolis (Trimontium) (today’s Plovdiv in Southern Bulgaria) in the Roman province of Thrace, with two major Roman outposts on the Lower Danube frontier, the so called Limes Moesiae – Ulpia Oescus near today’s town of Gigen, and Novae near today’s town of Svishtov, in the Roman province of Moesia Inferior.

The Ad Putea Fortress and road station is located about 22 km south of Ulpia Oescus and 10.5 km north of the ruins of the Ancient Roman fortress of Storgozia in today’s city of Pleven.

The Ad Putea Fortress, which has an area of about 10 decares (app. 2.5 acres), has been excavated by archaeologist Petar Banov from the Pleven Regional Museum of History since the excavations started in 2013, and later by Assoc. Prof. Sergey Torbatov from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology.

Archaeological artifacts and structures from the 1st-3rd century AD have indicated that the site might have been an Ancient Thracian shrine before it was taken over by the Romans. The fortress and ancient buildings are only partly preserved, with some of the structures still reaching a height of up to 2.2 meters.

In 2014, the archaeologists discovered an altar dedicated to little known deity Porobonus (which according to some hypotheses is of Celtic or Thracian / Dacian origin), only the third such find after altars from Abritus (Razgrad) and Ratiaria (Archar), as well as the hypocaust (underfloor heating) of a large public Roman building, among a number of other finds.

In 2015, the archaeologists found that the Roman fortress of Ad Putea was burned down twice during Goth invasions.

The 2016 excavations of Ad Putea brought the rather exciting discovery that the Roman fort had been built on top of a Chalcolithic (Aeneolithic, Copper Age) settlement dating back to ca. 5,000 BC, with the most intriguing find being a ceramic vessel fragment with what appear to be signs of pre-alphabetic writing.

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