Bulgaria’s Pavlikeni Launches Delayed Restoration of Ancient Roman Ceramics Factory, Villa with Norway, EEA Money

The ground-breaking ceremony for the Norway / EEA Grants-funded project for the restoration of the Ancient Roman ceramics factory in Bulgaria's Pavlikeni. Photo: Pavlikeni Municipality

The ground-breaking ceremony for the Norway / EEA Grants-funded project for the restoration of the Ancient Roman ceramics factory in Bulgaria’s Pavlikeni. Photo: Pavlikeni Municipality

A project for the restoration of the only known Ancient Roman ceramics factory in Southeast Europe, which is located near the northern Bulgarian town of Pavlikeni, has finally been launched after nearly a year of delays.

The Ancient Roman ceramics production center near Pavlikeni has an area 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 beginning of the 2nd century AD. It 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.

Seeking to develop and promote the site as a cultural tourism landmark, back in 2015, Pavlikeni Municipality won a grant for the conservation and restoration of the ancient pottery making center from the Norway Grants / European Economic Area (EEA) Grants, a development aid mechanism of the governments of Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein amounting to EUR 740,000.

The execution of the project got delayed after in February 2016, Bulgaria’s competition watchdog annulled the tender for the selection of a construction firm to execute it. It argued that the picked firmed, Vodstroy VT, had no experience in the restoration of archaeological sites whereas the tender rules clearly stated that the winner was supposed to have completed at least one such project in the past 5 years.

This led Pavlikeni Municipality to hold a new tender in June 2016 selecting as a result a firm called DZZD “Antika" Sofia, which itself is a consortium of Vodstroy 98, Politrade Construction Single Person Ltd, and Restoration Jsc, with Modul H Stingle Person Ltd as the builder and Vedipema Ltd as the supervisor for the project.

Thus, on Thursday, October 13, 2016, Pavlikeni Municipality formally gave the start of the restoration of the Ancient Roman ceramics factory, the Municipality has announced.

“The Antiquity ceramics center is the most important site about the cultural and historical heritage of Pavlikeni Municipality. With this project, we are making one more step towards the revitalization of this archaeological asset of ours," Pavlikeni Mayor Emanuil Manolov has stated at the ground-breaking ceremony, thanking the donors from the Norway and EEA Grants mechanism.

“This project is focusing the public attention on our important site… We are inviting the public to visit Pavlikeni and the Antiquity ceramic center in order to experience a landmark like no other. We are doing all that in order to revive this place turning it into a center for cultural and creative tourism, a place with opportunities for open-air cultural entertainment, and, most importantly, a place reminding us of the thousands of years of glorious history on our land," Manolov has added.

The Ancient Roman ceramics factory and villa estate was discovered in 1971 by archaeologist Bogdan Sultov, and was excavated until 1982, with the archaeologists discovering various ceramic vessels, tools, jewelry, and even Ancient Roman child toys.

Pavlikeni Municipality restored the digs with its own funding in 2014, after a 32-year-long pause.

Archaeologist Kalin Chakarov from the Pavlikeni Museum of History, which is Pavlikeni Municipality’s partner institution for the project, has pointed out that in the decades since the discovery and excavations of the Roman ceramics center, the local authorities and the community have been working to improve and promote the cultural landmark.

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Pavlikeni Municipality informs that the restoration project is also going to provide for 3D mapping, hologram projections, and a mobile phone application for the visitors of the Ancient Roman site.

The construction works will be focused on the restoration of Roman pottery making kilns for both construction and household ceramics, revamping of an existing pottery making workshop, building a smaller workshop for children, a Roman-style water fountain.

Other activities under the Norway / EEA funded project provide for the introduction of a tour guide system, information signs, and facilities for archaeological and student seminars.

The annulled tender for the restoration of the Roman ceramic plant has not been the only case of administrative trouble for Pavlikeni Municipality with respect to the local archaeological heritage, after in April 2016, it was fined over the destruction of Ancient Roman ceramics during an infrastructure project.

The Pavlikeni Museum of History recently opened an exhibition showcasing its finds from the 2015 archaeological excavations of the Ancient Roman factory and villa estate, and also established a lapidarium with a rich collection of Roman stone slabs.

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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