Archaeologists Discover 1,600-Year-Old Roman Mosaics from Ancient Serdica in Bulgaria’s Capital Sofia

Archaeologists Discover 1,600-Year-Old Roman Mosaics from Ancient Serdica in Bulgaria’s Capital Sofia

The frieze of a 4th century AD Roman floor mosaic from the ancient city of Serdica has been found by archaeologists excavating the downtown of the Bulgarian capital Sofia. Photo: bTV

The frieze of a 4th century AD Roman floor mosaic from the ancient city of Serdica has been found by archaeologists excavating the downtown of the Bulgarian capital Sofia. Photo: bTV

A floor mosaic from the 4th century AD has been discovered by archaeologists in the downtown of the Bulgarian capital Sofia during excavations of the ruins of the Ancient Thracian and Roman city of Serdica.

The 1,600-year-old mosaic has been found under a concrete structure under the Dondukov Boulevard, in the area of the so called Sofia Largo, an ensemble of the main buildings of the Bulgarian government, reports the private TV channel bTV.

The archaeologists believe that the newly found Roman floor mosaic, which is made of natural materials featuring six different colors, decorated the residence of rich citizens of ancient Serdica.

Underneath the mosaic they have found a hypocaust, i.e. a Roman underfloor heating system, consisting of pipes which were filled with hot air warmed up in a special kiln.

However, for the time being the Bulgarian archaeologists have unearthed only the edge of the mosaic, and are yet to reveal the images in its center.

“This is a frieze that frames up a central part which may contain figures, or geometric forms. We can’t say how the mosaic continues until we have unearthed at least 50-60 cm more of it," says archaeologist Assist. Prof. Dr. Mario Ivanov from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

The archaeologists are concerned that the moisture underneath the concrete structure where the 4th century AD Roman mosaic has been found might affect its preservation.

The archaeologists are yet to unearth the central part of the newly found Roman floor mosaic in Sofia. Photos: TV grabs from bTV

The archaeologists are yet to unearth the central part of the newly found Roman floor mosaic in Sofia. Photos: TV grabs from bTV

Serdica Mosaic 3 Serdica Mosaic 2 Serdica Mosaic 6Earlier in August 2015, the archaeologists found a massive Roman building in another section of Sofia’s downtown, on the square near the St. Nedelya (“Holy Sunday) Cathedral and the Hotel Balkan (formerly the Sofia Sheraton).

The authorities in the Bulgarian capital have recently been working on expanding the archaeological excavations and on the completion of the reconstruction project for the so called Sofia Largo expected in the fall of 2015.

Check out some of our recent stories about other ancient mosaics found during archaeological excavations in Bulgaria:

Bulgaria’s Stara Zagora Unveils Restored Ancient Mosaics from Roman City Augusta Traiana Showing ‘Silenus with Bacchanals’

Bulgarian Archaeologists Uncover Further Older Layer of Beautiful Early Christian Mosaics at Plovdiv’s Great Basilica

Bulgarian Archaeologists Uncover Further Lower Layer of Early Christian Mosaics at Plovdiv’s Great Basilica

Bulgarian Archaeologists Discover Lower Layer of Early Christian Mosaics, Murals, Roman Building in Plovdiv’s Great Basilica

Background Infonotes:

The Ancient Thracian and Roman city of Serdica is the precursor of the contemporary Bulgarian capital Sofia. The oldest traces of civilized life in Sofia are from a Neolithic settlement dated back to 5000 BC located in today’s Slatina Quarter. There are also traces of life from the Charcolithic (also known as Aeneolithic or Copper Age) and the Bronze Age. After the Bronze Age the Sofia Valley was inhabited by the Ancient Thracian tribe serdi (some believe them to have been a Celtic tribe) which gave the name to the Ancient Thracian settlement called Serdica or Sardica. The city of Serdica was conquered briefly in the 4th century BC by Philip II of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great. Around 29 BC, Sofia was conquered by the Romans and renamed Ulpia Serdica. It became a municipium, the center of an administrative region, during the reign of Emperor Trajan (r. 98-117), and saw extensive development with many new buildings. It is known to have been the favorite place of Roman Emperor Constantine I the Great who used to say, “Serdica is my Rome". In 343 AD, the Council of Serdica was held in the city, in the 4th century church that preceded the current 6th century St. Sofia Basilica. In 447 AD, the city was destroyed by the Huns. During the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I (r. 527-565 AD), a new fortress wall was built whose remains have been excavated and can be seen today. This is when it was renamed Triaditsa. It became part of the First Bulgarian Empire (632/680 – 1018 AD) in 809 AD when it was conquered by Bulgaria’s Khan Krum, and was known by its Slavic-Bulgarian name Sredets until the 14th century when it took the name of the St. Sofia Basilica.

The Sofia Largo is the architectural complex of government buildings in downtown Sofia erected in the 1950s, in the early years of the former communist regime. Regardless of their Communist Era architecture, today the buildings house the most important Bulgarian government institutions and are one of the most famous parts of Sofia’s cityscape. Parts of the ancient city of Serdica, which have been excavated, can be seen in the underpasses and the Serdica Metro Station right next to the Sofia Largo.