Archaeologist Discovers Ancient Mirrors in Roman Villa Estate with Ceramics Factory in Bulgaria’s Pavlikeni

A total five lead frames from Ancient Roman mirrors have been discovered in a newly excavated 2nd-3rd century AD building near Bulgaria’s Pavlikeni. Photo: Archaeologist Kalin Chakarov

A set of five Ancient Roman mirrors, or, rather, mirror frames, have been discovered in a square building in the ever more intriguing Ancient Roman villa estate which was also a ceramics production center, near the town of Pavlikeni in Central North Bulgaria.

The discovery has been made during the 2017 archaeological excavations of the ruins of an Ancient Roman ceramics factory and villa estate led by archaeologist Kalin Chakarov, curator at the archaeology section of the Pavlikeni Museum of History.

The Ancient Roman ceramics production center near Bulgaria’s 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.

The five Ancient Roman frames of mirrors are made of lead. They and the other artifacts discovered during the 2017 digs are dated to the last decades of the 2nd century AD and the first decades of the 3rd century AD.

Three of the ancient mirrors are the same size and have the same decoration consisting of a stylized image of a krater (large wine vessel), with leaved vines coming out of it.

Each of the Ancient Roman lead mirror frames had one round mirror glass in its middle. Four of the five mirrors were discovered together at the end of the archaeological excavations.

Three of the five Roman lead mirror frames have inscriptions in Greek, reading, “A good soul”, and are decorated with depictions of a krater with vines. Photos: Archaeologist Kalin Chakarov

Three of the mirrors have one and the same inscription in Ancient Greek, originally read as “ТYXH KAΛH”, translated as a good fate wish for their owner. Subsequently, however, the researchers have read the inscriptions differently.

“Some of the mirrors have inscriptions, reading, ΨΥΧΗ ΚΑΛΗ, not ТΥΧΗ ΚΑΛΗ, as I originally thought. That means a “good soul". Mirrors are generally discovered in shrines," lead archaeologist Chakarov has told ArchaeologyinBulgaria.com.

The discovery of the lead mirror frames has added a new hypothesis about the function of the building where they have been found, namely, that it might have been a temple of some kind. The initial hypothesis, which is still being considered, is that it was a residential building.

“The find consisting of lead mirror frames points towards the possibility that the building in question might have been a temple. The earlier hypothesis that it was a residential venue still stands, though. A final hypothesis is yet to be decided upon after all discovered material has been processed," Chakarov explains.

The 2017 archaeological excavations at the Ancient Roman villa estate and ceramics factory near Bulgaria’s Pavlikeni, which were held for the fourth consecutive year after the site’s research was restored, focused on a square building situated right outside of the villa rustica (countryside villa).

The ruins of the building in question were discovered using geophysical surveying which detected the existence of construction materials used on the site by the Ancient Romans.

Those include roof tiles and basalt which was extracted from a nearby extinct volcano known today as Chatal Tepe. Much of the square building was exposed in over the previous two archaeological seasons.

In 2017, it was fully researched. The archaeological team has found that its inside was 5.65 meters wide and 6.35 meters long. Its entrance was from the east in order to avoid the western winds which still exist in the region.

Before the entrance, there was an anteroom, or a vestibule, which was supported by wooden columns of which only the stone bases have survived.

The archaeological team has discovered two hearths inside the building, one in the anteroom and another in the main room. The lead mirrors have been found at the inside hearth.

A large number of pottery fragments and Roman coins have also been found, testifying to the fact that the building was in use at the end of the 2nd and the beginning of 3rd century AD.

The original working hypothesis about the building’s function was that it was the residential quarters of workers who served in the mansion of the Roman veteran. As already noted, however, the discovery of the lead frames from ancient mirrors indicates that it may have been a temple.

An aerial photo showing the ruins of the Ancient Roman villa and ceramics factory estate near Bulgaria’s Pavlikeni. The newly excavated building where the mirrors have been found is in the lower right-hand corner. Photo: Archaeologist Iliyan Petrakiev

An aerial photo of the ruins of the newly researched building where the mirrors have been found. Photo: Archaeologist Iliyan Petrakiev

For the second year in a row, the excavations of the Roman villa and ceramics factory in Bulgaria’s Pavlikeni led by archaeologist Kalin Chakarov have been carried out only by volunteers, without any paid help.

A total of over 40 volunteers from all walks of life, including Bulgarians and citizens of four other countries, took part in the 2017 digs.

In 2017, Chakarov also initiated the first ever archaeological exploration of the water catchment reservoir which fed water to a 20-kilometer-long (12.4 miles) aqueduct of the large Ancient Roman city of Nicopolis ad Istrum in today’s Central North Bulgaria.

He also specializes in the research of the Ancient Roman mausoleum near the town of Lesicheri, which is known for its still standing 14-meter-tall obelisk.

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Relevant Books on Amazon.com:

Ancient Rome: A Complete History of the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chronicling the Story of the Most Important and Influential Civilization the World Has Ever Known

Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of An Empire

Ancient Rome: A New History (Second Edition)

Ancient Rome: From Romulus to Justinian

A Roman Villa: Inside Story

Europe on a Shoestring: Big Trips on Small Budgets (Lonely Planet)

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Bulgaria

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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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