In Photos: 2010 Excavations vs. 2015 Restoration of Ancient Serdica Ruins in Bulgaria’s Capital Sofia

On October 13, 2015, Bulgaria’s Minister of Culture Vezhdi Rashidov put on hold the almost completed archaeological restoration of the ruins of the Ancient Thracian and Roman city of Serdica in the downtown of the Bulgarian capital Sofia after media publications expressed concern over the materials used for the restoration and the new look of the Roman ruins.

The BGN 16 million (EUR 8 million) EU-funded project for the creation of an open-air museum of Ancient Serdica has thus been temporarily put on hold pending a decision of a new working group of experts.

As it happens, we at ArchaeologyinBulgaria.com have photos from the 2010 rescue archaeological excavations in downtown Sofia conducted during the construction of the second line of the Sofia Metro.

Below you can see first the photos of what the newly excavated ruins of Serdica looked in 2010, and then you can compare them with photos of the 2015 restorations taken on October 14, 2015.

When comparing the photos, please keep in mind that the 2010 photos show a much wider excavation site. Back then, the entire boulevard was dismantled to make way for the rescue digs. The boulevard was later rebuilt, and the restored ruins visible in the second set of photos cover about half of the area of the original excavations.

This is the open-air section of the future museum, and it is precisely what has been seen as problematic by critics. The other half of the Roman ruins are under the rebuilt boulevard, and are said to be in a better shape, with less restorative work, although this section is not accessible yet. A third section of the ruins will be exhibited under three glass domes in the nearby area among Bulgarias government buildings, and is not seen in these photos.

You can judge for yourselves as to what condition the ruins originally were in, and whether the restorations correspond to the original look of the Roman ruins in downtown Sofia keeping in mind the restorative reinforcements that are necessary to protect newly exposed ancient structures!

Here are the 2010 rescue excavation photos:

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Lear archaeologist Mario Ivanov from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences is seen here showing the excavated structures.

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And here are the 2015 restoration photos:

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Notice on the right that the boulevard which has dismantled in 2010 during the construction of the Sofia Metro and the rescue archaeological excavations has been rebuilt, and has been in operation for a couple of years now. Half of the ruins in this section have been preserved underneath it (as visible in the photos below).

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The structure on the left re-erected with nice modern-day tiles has drawn the greatest criticism.

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The restorations of the original Roman streets of Serdica, which were unearthed in 2010, are also part of the picture of the future open-air museum.

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This is the third section of the Roman ruins, the one located between the Bulgarian government buildings, where the three glass domes are to cover up the ruins exhibited in the lower level.

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The underground section of the Roman ruins which has seen less restorative work is visible under the boulevard.

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Photographed through a glass wall, the underground section of the Roman ruins of Serdica located underneath the rebuilt boulevard appears to be in a good condition with much less restorative work than the open-are section to the right.

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