Bulgaria’s Plovdiv Set to Complete Archaeological Excavations of Ancient Forum’s Gateway, Mulls Restoration Options
The archaeological excavations of the Western Propilaea, i.e. monumental gateway, of the Ancient Forum in the Southern Bulgarian city of Plovdiv are due to be completed by the end of November 2015.
The means that the archaeological structures from the Antiquity Period located there will be exposed.
Respectively, the national and local authorities will need to come up with a way to exhibit them, says Bulgaria’s Deputy Minister of Culture Stoyan Stoyanov, as cited by local news site Plovdiv24.
The excavations of the Western Propilaea of the Ancient Forum of Plovdiv, which was known as Philipopolis in the Hellenistic Period (after it was conquered by King Phillip II of Macedon in 342 AD), and as Trimontium in the Ancient Roman period (after all of Ancient Thrace was annexed by the Romans in 46 AD), were resumed in June 2015.
The archaeological site is located next to the Central Post Office in the downtown of the city of Plovdiv.
In the summer of 2014, the local archaeologists discovered there a male marble statue and a female marble bust on a pedestal dating to the height of the Roman Empire – the 2nd-3rd century AD.
In their digs so far, the archaeologists led by Elena Kisyakova have unearthed artifacts dating from the 1st until the 12th century AD because the location of the Ancient Forum harbored a residential quarter in the Middle Ages.
The homes there were destroyed in the Late Middle Ages, likely as a result of the Ottoman invasion of the medieval Bulgarian Empire and the entire Balkan Peninsula, and residential life there was resumed in the 17th-18th century AD.
Bulgaria’s Deputy Minister of Culture Stoyan Stoyanov says once the excavations of Plovdiv’s Ancient Forum are completed, a group of experts is likely to draft a project for the archaeological restoration and exhibition in situ of the newly exposed ruins.
In his words, the next archaeological site for excavations and restoration will probably be the Ancient Roman kilns in a downtown Plovdiv park known as Tsar Simeon’s Garden.
The southern Bulgarian city of Plovdiv is also known as Europe’s oldest city.
The history of the southern Bulgarian city of Plovdiv – often dubbed the oldest city in Europe – began with the human settlement on the ancient hill of Nebet Tepe (“tepe” is the Turkish word for “hill”) is one of the seven historic hills where today’s Bulgarian city of Plovdiv was founded and developed in prehistoric and ancient times.
The hills, or “tepeta”, are still known today by their Turkish names from the Ottoman period. Out of all of them, Nebet Tepe has the earliest traces of civilized life dating back to the 6th millennium BC, which makes Plovdiv 8,000 years old, and allegedly the oldest city in Europe. Around 1200 BC, the prehistoric settlement on Nebet Tepe was transformed into the Ancient Thracian city of Eumolpia, also known as Pulpudeva, inhabited by the powerful Ancient Thracian tribe Bessi.
During the Early Antiquity period Eumolpia / Pulpudeva grew to encompass the two nearby hills (Dzhambaz Tepe and Taxim Tepe known together with Nebet Tepe as “The Three Hills”) as well, with the oldest settlement on Nebet Tepe becoming the citadel of the city acropolis.
In 342 BC, the Thracian city of Eumolpia / Pulpudeva was conquered by King Philip II of Macedon renaming the city to Philippopolis. Philippopolis developed further as a major urban center during the Hellenistic period after the collapse of Alexander the Great’s Empire.
In the 1st century AD, more precisely in 46 AD, Ancient Thrace was annexed by the Roman Empire making Philippopolis the major city in the Ancient Roman province of Thrace. This is the period when the city expanded further into the plain around The Three Hills which is why it was also known as Trimontium (“the three hills”).
Because of the large scale public construction works during the period of Ancient Rome’s Flavian Dynasty (69-96 AD, including Emperor Vespasian (r. 69-79 AD), Emperor Titus (r. 79-81 AD), Emperor Domitian (r. 81-96 AD)), Plovdiv was also known as Flavia Philippopolis.
Later emerging as a major Early Byzantine city, Plovdiv was conquered for the First Bulgarian Empire (632/680 – 1018 AD) by Khan (or Kanas) Krum (r. 803-814 AD) in 812 AD but was permanently incorporated into Bulgaria under Khan (or Kanas) Malamir (r. 831-836 AD) in 834 AD.
In Old Bulgarian (also known today as Church Slavonic), the city’s name was recorded as Papaldin, Paldin, and Pladin, and later Plavdiv from which today’s name Plovdiv originated. The Nebet Tepe fortress continued to be an important part of the city’s fortifications until the 14th century when the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD) was conquered by the Ottoman Turks. During the period the Ottoman yoke (1396-1878/1912) when Bulgaria was part of the Ottoman Empire, Plovdiv was called Filibe in Turkish.
Today the prehistoric, ancient, and medieval settlement on Nebet Tepe has been recognized as the Nebet Tepe Archaeological Preserve. Some of the unique archaeological finds from Nebet Tepe include an ancient secret tunnel which, according to legends, was used by Apostle Paul (even though it has been dated to the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I the Great (r. 527-565 AD)) and large scale water storage reservoirs used during sieges, one of them with an impressive volume of 300,000 liters. Still preserved today are parts of the western fortress wall with a rectangular tower from the Antiquity period.