Archaeologist Finds Marble Head from Ancient Roman Female Statue during Rescue Digs in Bulgaria’s Stara Zagora
A marble head from an Ancient Roman statue of a woman has been discovered during rescue excavations of ruins of the Roman city of Augusta Traiana in the southern Bulgarian city of Stara Zagora.
The Roman statue head has been found during digs on private property, just about 10-15 cm below the modern-day pavement, its finder Atanas Atanasov has told bTV.
Atanasov is the curator of the Ancient Archaeology section at the Stara Zagora Regional Museum of History.
The female statue head is 15 cm tall, and was probably part of a life-size statue that was about 150-160 cm (app. 5 feet) tall.
The artifact most probably dates back to the 2nd-3rd century AD, a time when the Ancient Roman city of Augusta Traiana, the predecessor of Bulgaria’s Stara Zagora. However, it is yet to be dated more precisely.
“We don’t know if it was a statue of a goddess or a resident of Augusta Traiana. We are going to enlist an expert on marble plastic arts who will help us with the precise dating,” Atanasov says.
“In those times, hairstyles were very specific. In the 1st century AD, there were certain hairstyles, in the 2nd century there were others, etc. So the hairstyle will also help us for the dating,” he adds.
“[The Ancient Roman city of] Augusta Traiana probably had sculptors who made statues. Since this was expensive, if the marble head belonged to a resident of the ancient city, she probably came from a wealthy family. Of course, it is also possible that the head depicts a deity,” the archaeologist has told local news site InfoZ.
No other parts of the statue have been found during the rescue excavations of the privately-owned plot slated for residential development which is located on the Vasil Levski Street in section A of the Augusta Traiana – Vereia Archaeological Preserve in Bulgaria’s Stara Zagora.
Atanasov notes that statue heads are not that common among archaeological discoveries because, just like the limbs of the statues, they are more fragile; that is why archaeologists most often discover torsos.
This is actually the second Ancient Roman marble statue head found in Bulgaria’s Stara Zagora in 2015, after the discovery of a gladiator head during regularly scheduled digs in Augusta Traiana in August.
“A marble head is not that unique a find but I am happy that we found it and saved it. It will be added to the rich collection of the Stara Zagora Regional Museum of History for future generations to enjoy,” he states.
The female statue head has been discovered inside an Ancient Roman structure from a later period which also complicates the dating of the artifact.
So far the Stara Zagora archaeologists have excavated the structure’s thick walls, up to a meter wide and about 70 cm tall, of what might have been a public building in Augusta Traiana. They have revealed two large rooms and a corridor.
The substructure, i.e. the underlying foundation of the building, was built of crushed stones and mortar, while the walls were made of both stone and bricks.
The rescue excavations in section A of the Augusta Traiana – Vereia Archaeological Preserve have been completed for the time being but are due to be resumed in March 2016.
Unfortunately, part of the section cannot be excavated at present because it lies under modern-day buildings.
Also check out our other recent stories about discoveries and restorations from the Ancient Roman city of Augusta Traiana in Bulgaria’s Stara Zagora:
The Augusta Traiana – Vereia Archaeological Preserve in Bulgaria’s Stara Zagora features the remains of the Ancient Roman city of Ulpia Augusta Traiana founded by Roman Emperor Trajan (r. 98-117 AD) (after whom it was named) on the site of a previously existing Ancient Thracian settlement called Beroe. It saw its greatest urban development later under Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (r. 161-180 AD).
In the late Antiquity (4th-6th century) the city of Augusta Traiana was once again known under its original Thracian name of Beroe. Much of it was destroyed by barbarian invasions – by the Goths in the 4th century, the Huns in the 5th century, and later by the Avars, Slavs, and Bulgars.
The invasions of the Bulgars and Slavs in the late 7th century, around the time of the two peoples formed the First Bulgarian Empire (680-1018 AD), effectively ended the life of the Ancient Thracian and Roman city of Beroe / Augustra Traiana as it was.
It became part of Bulgaria under Khan Tervel (r. 700-718 AD), who called it Boruy. The city was a major bone of contention during the numerous wars between Bulgaria and Byzantium and became known as Vereia after Byzantium conquered the eastern parts of the First Bulgarian Empire in the late 10th century. Bulgaria reconquered it during the early years of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD).
In addition to its Neolithic, Ancient Roman, Byzantine, and medieval Bulgarian heritage, the territory of the city of Stara Zagora is dotted with Ancient Thracian archaeological sites, including more than 30 known temples of the main god according to Thracian mythology, the Thracian Horseman.