Bulgaria’s Plovdiv Launches Norway/EEA-Funded ‘Digitization’ of Its Archaeological, Historical, and Cultural Monuments

The stage of the Antiquity Amphitheater in Bulgaria's Plovdiv. Photo: Tourbillion, Wikipedia

The stage of the Antiquity Amphitheater in Bulgaria’s Plovdiv. Photo: Tourbillion, Wikipedia

The city of Plovdiv in Southern Bulgaria has formally given the start of a Norway/EEA-funded project for the “digitization", i.e. filming, photographing, 3D presentation, and web publication of Plovdiv’s archaeological and historical heritage.

Bulgaria’s Plovdiv boasts a myriad of archaeological, historical, and cultural monuments. For example, thanks to the prehistoric, ancient, and medieval settlement and fortress of Nebet Tepe, Plovdiv hold the title of “Europe’s oldest city" (and that of the world’s six oldest city, according to a Daily Telegraph ranking).

Plovdiv Municipality won a grant of EUR 587,000 for the “digitization" of some 50,000 archaeological and historical monuments and individual artifacts back in April 2015. Co-funding brings the total sum for the project to EUR 740,000.

The grant is provided from the EEA/Norway Grants mechanism under a measure for the restoration, rehabilitation, and preservation of cultural heritage.

The digital database to be created with the funding will feature Plovdiv’s archaeological sites and excavations, historical monuments, books, sculptures and art works, and artifacts.

The EEA/Norway-funded cultural heritage project will be completed in 13 months by Plovdiv Municipality in cooperation with Regional National Library “Ivan Vazov" in Plovdiv, Plovdiv Regional Museum of History, Plovdiv Regional Museum of Archaeology, Plovdiv Regional Museum of Ethnography, the Ancient Plovdiv Municipal Institute, and the Plovdiv City Gallery of Art.

A total of 30 archaeological monuments from the city of Plovdiv will be “digitized", including the Antiquity Amphitheater, the Great Basilica, the Small Basilica, the Antiquity Synagogue, among others.

Other cultural monuments such as the emblematic homes from Bulgaria’s National Revival Period (18th-19th century) in Plovdiv’s Old Town will also be included, project manager Plamen Panov has revealed, as cited by local news site Plovdiv24.

The project also provides for the purchasing of 3D scanners and other relevant equipment for digitization which will be based at two digital centers and four mobile digital stations.

The project team will employ a total of 7 experts on cultural and historical heritage who will be selecting the monuments and artifacts for the digitization, and another 7 experts who will be dealing with the technical process.

As per the funding requirements, a total of 10% of the cultural heritage monuments and artifacts to be “digitized" must refer to the culture of the Roma minority.

To achieve this goal, the project team will send an ethnographic expedition inside Plovdiv’s Roma-populated quarters.

“This is a qualitatively new type of project. It is important because it will serve to preserve Plovdiv’s cultural and historical heritage, and the completed product could be used as a great means for advertising the city," Plovdiv Mayor Ivan Totev has stated.

In addition to Plovdiv, the northern Bulgarian town of Tutrakan has also won an EEA/Norway grant of EUR 250,000 for the “digitization" of its archaeological heritage, including the Ancient Roman fortress Transmarisca on the Danube.

Also check out our other recent stories about the archaeological heritage and discoveries in Bulgaria’s Plovdiv:

Newly Restored Floor Mosaics from Antiquity Synagogue in Bulgaria’s Plovdiv Unveiled for the First Time

Bulgaria’s Plovdiv to Restore Marble Seats during Reconstruction of Antiquity Odeon

Bulgaria’s Plovdiv Granted Permission for Restoration of Antiquity Odeon after Year-Long Delay

Ancient Tomb from Thracian-Roman Period Discovered during Construction Works in Bulgaria’s Plovdiv

Bulgaria’s Plovdiv Nominated Among Top 20 ‘European Best Destinations’ 2016

Background Infonotes:

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 Turkishword for “hill"), one of the seven historic hills where Plovdiv was founded and developed in prehistoric and ancient times.

Thanks to the prehistoric, ancient, and medieval settlement and fortress of Nebet Tepe, Plovdiv hold the title of “Europe’s oldest city" (and that of the world’s six oldest city, according to a Daily Telegraph ranking).

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 periodEumolpia / 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.