Museum of Sofia History Shows Latest Finds from Bulgaria’s Capital in 4th Annual ‘Archaeology of Sofia Region’ Exhibition

Todor Chobanov (middle), Deputy Mayor of Sofia in charge of culture, who also has a degree in archaeology, speaks at the opening of the Archaeology of Sofia and the Sofia Region 2017 exhibition at the Museum of Sofia History. Photo: Museum of Sofia History

The Museum of Sofia History, a municipal cultural institute of the Bulgarian capital Sofia, also formally known as the Sofia Regional Museum of History, has unveiled its 4th annual exhibition presenting the latest archaeological from the city and its urban region from the past archaeological season.

The exhibition entitled “Archaeology of Sofia and Sofia Region 2017” was unveiled in a formal ceremony on Thursday, May 3, 2018, at 6 pm in the 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 opening was attended by Todor Chobanov, Deputy Mayor of Sofia in charge of culture, a lawyer who also has a degree in archaeology.

This Roman bronze figurine of Cupid was discovered during the 2017 excavations of Serdica in downtown Sofia together with figurines of Eros and Dionysus. Photo: Museum of Sofia History

The 2017 Archaeology of Sofia and the Sofia Region exhibition has presented to the public for the first time the newest finds from various sites and historical periods:

Prehistory:

Roman Empire and Late Antiquity (Early Byzantine Empire):

Medieval Bulgarian Empire:

  • The Urvich Fortress southeast of Sofia (also known as Kokalyanski Urvich);

Ottoman period:

  • Finds from the Kremikovtsi Monastery and necropolises at the Tsvetan Minkov Street and Positano Street in Sofia.

The opening of the 4th annual Archaeology of Sofia and the Sofia Region exhibition at the Museum of Sofia History. Photo: Museum of Sofia History

Among the most intriguing archaeological items to be exhibited in the 2017 Archaeology of Sofia and the Sofia Region exhibition is the collective find of Roman bronze statuettes discovered on the St. Nedelya Square in downtown Sofia, which include bronze figurines of deities Dionysus, Cupid, and Eros.

The annual exhibition Archaeology of Sofia and the Sofia Region of the Museum of Sofia History traditionally follows the annual Bulgarian Archaeology exhibition of the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia, which showcases the top finds from all over Bulgaria discovered during the past archaeological season.

Learn more about the Slatina Neolithic Settlement and the ancient city of Serdica in the Background Infonotes below!

The Museum of Sofia History is housed in the building of the Sofia Central Mineral Baths built in 1913. Photo: Museum of Sofia History

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Relevant Books on Amazon.com:

Sofia in 3 Days (Travel Guide 2018): Best Things to Do in Sofia, Bulgaria: What to See and Do, Where to Stay, Shop, Go out. Local Tips to Save Money and Time. Includes Google Maps to all Spots.

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Bulgaria

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volumes 1 to 6 (Everyman’s Library)

The Early Development of Canon Law and the Council of Serdica (Oxford Early Christian Studies)

Dionysus: Myth and Cult

Cupid and Psyche

Eros: The God of Love in Legend and Art

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Background Infonotes:

The 8,000-year-old Slatina Neolithic Settlement is located in the Slatina Quarter in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia.

It was discovered by accident in 1950 by construction workers near the Shipchenski Prohod Blvd. During the first archaeological excavations of the site in 1958, the archaeologists found remains from prehistoric homes, including clay-plastered poles, hearths, and ceramic vessels.

The prehistoric settlement mound was found to be located on the left bank of the Slatinska River. At first, the settlement was dated back to the 3rd millennium BC.

However, new rescue excavations starting in 1985 revealed additional information, and based on the new data and more modern dating methods, in 1987, the settlement was dated to about 6000 BC, i.e. the Early Neolithic. Back then, the archaeologists excavated nine homes and discovered dozens of axes and claw hammers, flint knives, sickles, handmills, loom weights, as well as funerals of Neolithic people.

Since 1985, the prehistoric settlement in Slatina has been excavated and studied by Prof. Vasil Nikolov, from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia.

Thus, the Slatina Neolithic Settlement is the earliest human settlement on the territory of the Bulgarian capital city of Sofia. It was settled in the Early Neolithic by people who came from Asia Minor.

The Slatina Neolithic Settlement had a total territory of 80 decares (app. 20 acres). Unfortunately, during urban construction in the 1970s, most of it was destroyed, and today only 8 decares (app. 2 acres), have been preserved.

The Neolithic homes in Slatina were built of wattle plastered with clay. The ceilings were made of wood, and covered with straw or reed. The prehistoric people’s main food was wheat grown nearby; the archaeologists also found there 8,000-year-old lentils. The livestock was kept outside of the settlement.

The Slatina Neolithic homes had granaries inside them as well as kilns, cult (religious) hearths, and wooden beds. The materials used by the prehistoric people there include wood, clay, stone, flint, bone, and horns. Some of the clay vessels feature geometric motifs. One of the most interesting finds has been a part of a marble figure of the Mother Goddess used for fertility rituals.

The Slatina Neolithic Settlement in Bulgaria’s Sofia belongs to the first phase of the Neolithic period when the first agriculturalists and livestock breeders settled down in today’s Bulgaria. They came from Asia Minor to the Balkan Peninsula, gradually advancing from the south and southeast to the north, deeper into Europe.

Thus, similar Neolithic settlements found in the Struma Valley in Southwest Bulgaria such as the Mursalevo Neolithic Settlement are about 50-100 years older than the Slatina settlement in Sofia.

The Slatina Neolithic Settlement was a large one and had contacts with all neighboring regions – it is believed that some ceramic vessels and other items were brought from today’s regions of Southern Bulgaria (Thrace), Southwest Bulgaria (the Struma Valley), Serbia, and Northwest Bulgaria.

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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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