Bulgarian Archaeologist Discovers Ancient Spear Tip Cast in Plovdiv’s Old Town Rescue Excavations

Archaeologist Elena Bozhinova shows the partially preserved stone cast used by the ancient inhabitants of Bulgaria's Plovdiv for the production of bronze spear tips. Photo: Pod Tepeto

Archaeologist Elena Bozhinova shows the partially preserved stone cast used by the ancient inhabitants of Bulgaria’s Plovdiv for the production of bronze spear tips. Photo: Pod Tepeto

The team of Bulgarian archaeologist Elena Bozhinova has discovered a stone cast for the casting of metal spear tips from the Antiquity period during rescue excavations in the Old Town of the southern city of Plovdiv.

Archaeologist Elena Bozhinova and her team from the Plovdiv Museum of Archaeology are wrapping up the rescue excavations of a plot formerly occupied by a home on the Saborna Str. in the famous Old Town Architectural and Historical Preserve.

The 100-year-old house occupying the property was torn down several months ago by the local authorities because it was decided that it posed a public safety hazard, reports local news site Pod Tepeto.

The rescue excavations of the plot, however, are now yielding interesting archaeological discoveries such as the partially preserved stone cast designed for casting bronze spear tips. This is the first discovery of spear tip casting instrument in Southern Bulgaria.

Archaeologist Elena Bozhinova has explained that the stone cast for the production of spear tips originally consisted of two parts which fit perfectly after they were tied together with a rope.

Once they were tied together, melted bronze was poured into the opening of the cast in order to produce a spear tip.

Other Antiquity finds discovered by Bozhinova’s team include a wide range of ceramic vessels and several fragments from inscriptions as well as well preserved bone needles similar to modern-day hairpins, which were used by the ancient women as accessories and decorations. The Plovdiv archaeologists have also found rammers from the 4th century AD.

Unfortunately, the site’s archaeological layers from the Antiquity have been found to be rather damaged because the plot was inhabited during the period of the Ottoman Empire.

Archaeologist Elena Bozhinova shows the partially preserved stone cast used by the ancient inhabitants of Bulgaria's Plovdiv for the production of bronze spear tips. The two halves of the cast were tied together with a rope, and melted bronze was poured in the opening to make the spear tip. Photo: Pod Tepeto

Archaeologist Elena Bozhinova shows the partially preserved stone cast used by the ancient inhabitants of Bulgaria’s Plovdiv for the production of bronze spear tips. The two halves of the cast were tied together with a rope, and melted bronze was poured in the opening to make the spear tip. Photo: Pod Tepeto

Archaeologist Elena Bozhinova and her team have excavated the plot of a former home in the Old Town of Bulgaria's Plovdiv. Photo: Pod Tepeto

Archaeologist Elena Bozhinova and her team have excavated the plot of a former home in the Old Town of Bulgaria’s Plovdiv. Photo: Pod Tepeto

The Antiquity archaeological layers of the former home plot in the Old Town of Bulgaria's Plovdiv by archaeologist Elena Bozhinova have been damaged by the place's inhabitants in the Ottoman period. Photo: Pod Tepeto

The Antiquity archaeological layers of the former home plot in the Old Town of Bulgaria’s Plovdiv by archaeologist Elena Bozhinova have been damaged by the place’s inhabitants in the Ottoman period. Photo: Pod Tepeto

Background Infonotes:

The history of today’s Bulgarian city of Plovdiv began on the ancient hill of Nebet Tepe (“tepe” is the Turkish word for “hill”), one of the seven historic hills where it was founded and developed in prehistoric and ancient times. The hills, or “tepeta”, are still known today by their Turkish names from the Ottoman period. Out of all of them, Nebet Tepe has the earliest traces of civilized life dating back to the 6th millennium BC, which makes Plovdiv 8,000 years old, and allegedly the oldest city in Europe. Around 1200 BC, the prehistoric settlement on Nebet Tepe was transformed into the Ancient Thracian city of Eumolpia, also known as Pulpudeva, inhabited by the powerful Ancient Thracian tribe Bessi. During the Early Antiquity period Eumolpia / Pulpudeva grew to encompass the two nearby hills (Dzhambaz Tepe and Taxim Tepe known together with Nebet Tepe as “The Three Hills”) as well, with the oldest settlement on Nebet Tepe becoming the citadel of the city acropolis.

In 342 BC, the Thracian city of Eumolpia / Pulpudeva was conquered by King Philip II of Macedon renaming the city to Philippopolis. Philippopolis developed further as a major urban center during the Hellenistic period after the collapse of Alexander the Great’s Empire. In the 1st century AD, more precisely in 46 AD, Ancient Thrace was annexed by the Roman Empire making Philippopolis the major city in the Ancient Roman province of Thrace. This is the period when the city expanded further into the plain around The Three Hills. Because of the large scale public construction works during the period of Ancient Rome’s Flavian Dynasty (69-96 AD, including Emperor Vespasian (r. 69-79 AD), Emperor Titus (r. 79-81 AD), Emperor Domitian (r. 81-96 AD)), Plovdiv was also known as Flavia Philippopolis. Later emerging as a major Early Byzantine city, Plovdiv was conquered for the First Bulgarian Empire (632/680 – 1018 AD) by Khan (or Kanas) Krum (r. 803-814 AD) in 812 AD but was permanently incorporated into Bulgaria under Khan (or Kanas) Malamir (r. 831-836 AD) in 834 AD. In Old Bulgarian (also known today as Church Slavonic), the city’s name was recorded as Papaldin, Paldin, and Pladin, and later Plavdiv from which today’s name Plovdiv originated. The Nebet Tepe fortress continued to be an important part of the city’s fortifications until the 14th century when the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD) was conquered by the Ottoman Turks. During the period the Ottoman yoke (1396-1878/1912) when Bulgaria was part of the Ottoman Empire, Plovdiv was called Filibe in Turkish.

Today the prehistoric, ancient, and medieval settlement on Nebet Tepe has been recognized as the Nebet Tepe Archaeological Preserve. Some of the unique archaeological finds from Nebet Tepe include an ancient secret tunnel which, according to legends, was used by Apostle Paul (even though it has been dated to the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I the Great (r. 527-565 AD)) and large scale water storage reservoirs used during sieges, one of them with an impressive volume of 300,000 liters. Still preserved today are parts of the western fortress wall with a rectangular tower from the Antiquity period.

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