Archaeologists Find 5 Archaeological Sites in Rescue Digs for Highway Construction near Bulgarian Capital Sofia

Archaeologists Find 5 Archaeological Sites in Rescue Digs for Highway Construction near Bulgarian Capital Sofia

A view of the rescue archaeological excavations along the route of the Northern Tangent of the Sofia Ring Road. Photo: Bulgarian National Television

A view of the rescue archaeological excavations along the route of the Northern Tangent of the Sofia Ring Road. Photo: Bulgarian National Television

A total of five archaeological sites from all major time periods – the Prehistory, Antiquity, Late Antiquity, and Middle Ages – have been discovered during the construction of the so called Northern Tangent of the ring road of the Bulgarian capital Sofia.

“The archaeological sites are diverse in terms of chronology, we have settlements from the Prehistory, the Middle Ages, the Roman period and the Late Antiquity. These sites cover the entire chronological portfolio of archaeology," Assoc. Prof. Dr. Lyudmil Vagalinski, Director of the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, has told the Focus news agency.

Back in April, the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology won the tender of Bulgaria’s Road Infrastructure Agency to conduct the rescue excavations of a future section of the Sofia Ring Road.

However, as the archaeologists have worked on the rescue excavations along the route of the Northern Tangent of the Sofia ring road for several weeks now, Vagalinski notes that their work is focused on comply with the needs of the road construction project.

“[The excavations of] these sites have been made possible and have been funded because of the construction. In spite of the tight deadlines and the weather, we are doing everything we can to get our job done so that the construction of the Northern Tangent does not suffer," says the archaeologist.

Without going into further detail about the specific archaeological sites, Vagalinksi has explained that two out of the five newly found sites in the northern part of the Sofia Valley have been fully researched, and the Bulgarian Road Infrastructure Agency can now go ahead with the construction there.

Two of the other archaeological sites along the new section of the Sofia Ring Road are supposed to be fully excavated by the beginning of the November 2015.

“We also have one large settlement whose excavations need to be completed around November 20, 2015," says Vagalinski.

Prof. Dr. Ventsislav Dinchev, also from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology, spoke earlier in an interview for the Bulgarian National Television about three of the archaeological sites unearthed along the route of Sofia’s Northern Tangenta Late Antiquity necropolis, Ancient Thracian burial pits from the Late Iron Age, and a medieval settlement.

The Late Antiquity necropolis is dated to the 4th-5th century AD based on the funeral inventories found in four of the excavated graves.

Inside them, the archaeologists have discovered coins and decorations. The buried people were young men.

They were not Thracians but, rather, representatives of the barbarian peoples that invaded and settled in the Roman and later Byzantine provinces during the Late Antiquity mixing with the local population.

The remains from the Late Iron Age Thracian burial pits and the medieval settlement are located not far from the Late Antiquity necropolis in Sofia’s Benkovski Quarter.

The medieval settlement from the time of the Bulgarian Empire has urban planning. The medieval dugouts found in it have kilns in their northeastern corners.

The discovered Late Iron Age pits are said to be typical for the period of Ancient Thrace. In them, the Thracians would place various sacrificial gifts for the afterlife such as ceramic vessels, bones, bone items, beads, and iron items.

“What’s interesting about the pits is that the ceramic vessels [found] in them is rather unknown to us because [our] excavations in this region [of Western Bulgaria] have been scarce. We would rather look for parallels [from finds] in neighboring Serbia," Dinchev explains.

The Director of the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology Lyudmil Vagalinski has stressed that the archaeologists are working on weekends as well in order to make up for any delays caused by the weather.

He has requested from the Bulgarian Road Infrastructure Agency that it point to the sections where the rescue excavations need to be completed the soonest so that the archaeologists can focus on them. However, no such guidelines have been provided yet.

“We have done that [sort of rescue excavations] on other sites. It is not easy for the archaeologists but it is doable," Vagalinski concludes.

A map showing the planned location (in red) of the 16.5 km Northern Tangent of the ring road of the Bulgarian capital Sofia. Photo: TV grab from BNT

A map showing the planned location (in red) of the 16.5 km Northern Tangent of the ring road of the Bulgarian capital Sofia. Photo: TV grab from BNT

The so called Northern Tangent is a crucial 16.5 km section of the Sofia Ring Road that will connect four highways whose starting point is the Bulgarian capital.

The tender for the archaeological excavations of Sofia’s Northern Tangent listed an indicative price of BGN 620,000 (app. EUR 317,000).

Bulgaria’s road agency has pledged about BGN 5 million (app. EUR 2.55 million) for rescue excavations preceding the construction of the respective sections of the Struma Highway, the Maritsa Highway, and the Southern Arc and Northern Tangent of the Sofia Ring Road.

Most of this funding is slated for excavations of the proposed route of the Struma Highway.

In 2014, it provided a total of BGN 5.35 million (app. EUR 2.73 million) for rescue archaeological excavations that yielded some of Bulgaria’s most important 2014 discoveries such as the discovery of the Early Neolithic city near the southwestern town of Mursalevo, on the proposed route of the Struma Highway.