Bulgaria’s Pavlikeni Municipality Sentenced for Destroying Ancient Roman Ceramics during Infrastructure Project

Pavlikeni Municipality in Central North Bulgaria has been sentenced to pay a fine over the destruction of Ancient Roman ceramic artifacts back in the spring of 2015 during a water supply rehabilitation project.

Pavlikeni Municipality has been sentenced to a fine of BGN 23,000 (app. EUR 12,000), first by the Pavlikeni Regional Court, after the local authority appealed the fine slapped on it by the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture.

The sentence has now been upheld by the Appellate Court in the city of Veliko Tarnovo, after it was appealed by the municipality, reports the 24 Chasa daily.

The local authorities in Pavlikeni have been punished for destroying fragments from household and construction ceramics from the Roman period.

The town of Pavlikeni is known for its Ancient Roman factory for the production of ceramic items (both household and construction artifacts) which was part from an Ancient Roman villa estate (Learn more in the Background Infonotes below).

The Roman ceramics factory from the 2nd-3rd century AD is even to be restored with funding from the Norway / EEA grants (even though for the time being, the restoration project has been delayed).

During its water supply rehabilitation project worth BGN 30 million (app. EUR 15 million) in the spring of 2015, the builders hired by Pavlikeni Municipality caused destruction of archaeological structures.

Upon inspection by experts from the Ministry of Culture in May 2015, it has been found that Pavlikeni Municipality had not coordinated the infrastructure project with the Ministry as required by the Cultural Heritage Act.

The Ministry of Culture decided to fine Pavlikeni Municipality but the local authority took its decision to court because the respective document was signed by a deputy minister, rather than by the Minister of Culture himself. However, both courts have established that the deputy had been legally authorized to sign paperwork in the absence of his superior.

The construction was temporarily delayed because of rescue excavations which led to intriguing discoveries of Ancient Roman ceramic artifacts and structures such as pottery-making kilns.

The Veliko Tarnovo Appellate Court also points out that before the start of the infrastructure project Pavlikeni Municipality had been warned by the Pavlikeni Museum of History that it was possible that archaeological structures could be stumbled upon inside the town given that had already happened during past infrastructure projects in the 20th century.

The new fine for Pavlikeni Municipality is added to another fine of BGN 12,000 (app. EUR 6,000) that it has already paid for failing to observe other regulations of the Ministry of Culture.

Background Infonotes:

The Ancient Roman ceramics factory and Roman military veteran’s villa near the town of Pavlikeni in Central Northern Bulgaria was found in 1971 by Bulgarian archaeologist Bogdan Sultov who excavated it for about a decade.

It is the best researched Ancient Roman ceramics factory in Southeast Europe. It also especially notable because today it has been turned into an open-air museum ceramics production during the Roman Era, featuring a large number of preserved ancient kilns as well as a restoration of the ancient manufacturing process housed in modern-day buildings made of ancient materials.

The Ancient Roman ceramics production center near Pavlikeni is located on a plot of 139 decares (app. 34.3 acres). It was part of the villa estate of a Roman military veteran, and is dated to the end of the 1st century AD.

The ceramic production started at the beginning of the 2nd century AD. Archaeological excavations have revealed a total of 52 kilns for baking household and construction ceramics which was traded and sold in the entire region.

The Ancient Roman villa estate with its ceramic factory was destroyed in 170 AD by the Costoboci, then rebuilt, and ultimately abandoned for good after 235 AD, possibly because of the barbarian invasion by the Goths and Carpi in 238-239 AD.

Archaeologist Bogdan Sultov’s excavations of the Roman ceramic center near Pavlikeni were terminated in the 1979 (Sultov passed away in 1982), and were resumed only in the summer of 2014 with funding from Pavlikeni Municipality. In 2015, the Municipality and the Pavlikeni Museum of History won a EUR 736,000 grant for the partial restoration and rehabilitation of the site. In addition to Ancient Roman buildings and kilns, the excavations there have revealed numerous ceramic vessels, tools, jewelry, and even Ancient Roman child toys.

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