Museum of Sofia History Opens 2nd Annual ‘Archaeology of Sofia Region’ Exhibition in Bulgarian Capital

The Archaeology of Sofia and Sofia Region 2015 exhibition draws from the excavations of a record number of sites. Photo: Museum of Sofia History

The Archaeology of Sofia and Sofia Region 2015 exhibition draws from the excavations of a record number of sites. Photo: Museum of Sofia History

The Museum of Sofia History, a municipal cultural institute of the Bulgarian capital Sofia, has opened its 2nd annual exhibition dedicated to the latest archaeological discoveries in the city and its wider urban region.

The exhibit entitled “Archaeology of Sofia and Sofia Region 2015” was formally opened on April 19, 2016, at the new building of the Museum of Sofia History (formerly the building of the Sofia Central Mineral Baths built in 1913) in the very heart of the city where the Museum was moved in the fall of 2015.

The exhibition will be opened for visitors at the Museum of Sofia History (also called Sofia Regional Museum of History) until May 29, 2016.

“The main goal [of the exhibition] is to present the latest discoveries but also to stimulate the interest in the rich cultural and historical heritage of the [Bulgarian] capital,” the Museum has said in a release.

The exhibition on the archaeology of Sofia’s region draws from a wide range of archaeological sites which were explored through both regular and rescue excavations last year.

Part as a result of the large-scale infrastructure projects in progress in the Bulgarian capital, a total of 21 archaeological sites were excavated in 2015 which is a record number for the city.

These include the excavations of the Early Neolithic settlement in the Slatina Quarter where the archaeologists found a nephrite frog-like swastika, among numerous other prehistoric artifacts; the excavations of the downtown of the Ancient Roman city of Serdica on the square near the St. Nedelya (“Holy Sunday”) Cathedral where the archaeologists have found a huge Roman building and a treasure of silver coins; the excavations of more Roman structures from Serdica in the Sofia Largo Project; the excavations of an Early Christian basilica in the yard of the St. Mary Magdalene Monastery in the town of Buhovo; the excavations of an Ancient Thracian necropolis at the town of Chukovezer, near the town of Dragoman, to the northwest of Sofia, among others.

Some of the most intriguing archaeological finds from the Sofia region include clay anthropomorphic figures, ceramic lamps, bone needles, fragments from a Roman military diploma, stone projectiles, loom weights, a bronze amulet in the form of a human head with Asian features, golden adornments, and, of course, the Roman coin treasure from the St. Nedelya Square as well as another coin treasure from the 3rd-4th century found near the town of Chukovezer.

The annual Sofia Archaeology exhibition is not unlike the annual Bulgarian Archaeology exhibition (whose 9th edition was wrapped up recently), in which the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia displays the most interesting finds from all of Bulgaria discovered during the last archaeological season. Some of the artifacts found in 2015 have been featured in both exhibits.

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The new building of the Museum of Sofia History in downtown Sofia; formerly the Sofia Central Mineral Baths built in 1913 and in use as public baths until 1986. Photos: Museum of Sofia History

The building of the Museum of Sofia History in downtown Sofia, formerly the Sofia Central Mineral Baths built in 1913 and in use as public baths until 1986. The Museum was moved there in the fall of 2015 after it had been revamped. Photos: Museum of Sofia History

Museum of Sofia History 3

Museum of Sofia HistoryBackground Infonotes:

The Ancient Thracian and Roman city of Serdica is the precursor of the contemporary Bulgarian capital Sofia. The oldest traces of civilized life in Sofia are from a Neolithic settlement dated back to 5000 BC located in today’s Slatina Quarter. There are also traces of life from the Charcolithic (also known as Aeneolithic or Copper Age) and the Bronze Age.

After the Bronze Age, the Sofia Valley was inhabited by the Ancient Serdi who are believed to have been a Celtic tribe (some Bulgarian scholars hypothesize that the Serdi were a Thracian tribe, or a Thracian tribe which assimilated a smaller Celtic tribe while keeping its original name).

The name of the Serdi tribe gave the name to the Ancient Thracian settlement called Serdica or Sardica. The city of Serdica was conquered briefly in the 4th century BC by Philip II of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great.

Around 29 BC, Sofia was conquered by the Romans and renamed Ulpia Serdica. It became a municipium, the center of an administrative region, during the reign of Emperor Trajan (r. 98-117), and saw extensive development with many new buildings. It is known to have been the favorite place of Roman Emperor Constantine I the Great who used to say, “Serdica is my Rome”.

In 343 AD, the Council of Serdica was held in the city, in the 4th century church that preceded the current 6th century St. Sofia Basilica. In 447 AD, the city was destroyed by the Huns. During the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I (r. 527-565 AD), a new fortress wall was built whose remains have been excavated and can be seen today. This is when it was renamed Triaditsa.

It became part of the First Bulgarian Empire (632/680 – 1018 AD) in 809 AD when it was conquered by Bulgaria’s Khan Krum, and was known by its Slavic-Bulgarian name Sredets until the 14th century when it took the name of the St. Sofia Basilica.

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The Sofia Largo is the architectural complex of government buildings in downtown Sofia erected in the 1950s, in the early years of the former communist regime. Regardless of their Communist Era architecture, today the buildings house the most important Bulgarian government institutions  and are one of the most famous parts of Sofia’s cityscape. Parts of the ancient city of Serdica, which have been excavated, can be seen in the underpasses and the Serdica Metro Station right next to the Sofia Largo.

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