An Ancient Roman villa dating back to the reign of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (r. 306-337 AD) has been discovered by Bulgarian archaeologists during rescue excavations along the projected route of the Struma Highway near the town of Mursalevo, Kocherinovo Municipality, in Southwest Bulgaria.
The Ancient Roman villa is the 18th archaeological site excavated along the planned route of Lot 1 of the Struma Highway, which is supposed to connect the Bulgarian capital Sofia with Greece by 2018-2020.
Just nearby, again at Mursalevo, Bulgarian archaeologists from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences have discovered an 8,000-year-old Early Neolithic proto-city, which also features Ancient Thracian burial pits from the 6th-1st century BC.
The newly discovered Roman villa near Mursalevo is located on a plot with an area of 3 decares (app. 0.75 acres), reports private channel Nova TV.
The archaeologists have dug up the ruins of 7 rooms and a large guest hall as well as four storage facilities used for keeping agricultural produce and residential buildings for the agricultural workers.
The Ancient Roman villa was the property of a Roman landlord who led a rich life judging by the coins discovered there, reports news site Blitz, citing an unnamed witness of its discovery.
The anonymous and unconfirmed report says many more archaeological structures from the same complex might be located on private properties nearby but it is unclear if and when they can be excavated.
Unfortunately, once the rescue excavations of the 4th century AD Roman villa near Mursalevo are completed, the unique archaeological structure will remain under the soon-to-be-built Struma Highway.
“It would be hard to preserve this [Roman] villa since the way the highway is designed it will pass on both sides of the villa,” explains Assoc. Prof. Dr. Zdravko Dimitrov from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences .
“What can be done here is to exhibit the villa somewhere else. For example, Kocherinovo Municipality has a project for creating a museum by the highway where all finds discovered in the rescue excavations along the highway route will be put on display,” he adds.
The fate of the archaeological sites discovered in rescue excavations as a result of Bulgaria’s highway construction has become a matter of a public controversy because of the need for greater flexibility over their exploration and potential development as cultural tourism sites.
The present Bulgarian government prioritizes the building of highways funded with EU money which is oftentimes carried out by large and well connected construction companies, Bulgarian and foreign alike.
Tight EU deadlines with regard to funding absorption are another matter that Bulgarian archaeologists conducting rescue excavations for infrastructure projects have to comply with.
The Early Neolithic settlement near Mursalevo, Blagoevgrad District, in Southwest Bulgaria was discovered in May 2015 (even though the spot has been known as an archaeological site since the 1930s) by a team of Bulgarian archaeologists led by Prof. Vasil Nikolov from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. It is dated to about 5,800 BC. The Bulgarian archaeologists found there at least 20 prehistoric buildings with perfect alignment whose walls are 20 cm wide and made of plant stalks and clay. They believe that the buildings were burned down deliberately in arson after firewood was stocked inside them. On the same spot near Mursalevo, the archaeologists have found a Late Neolithic grave with a skeleton in fetal position, artifacts such as tools, figurines, and ceramic vessels, as well as dozens of Ancient Thracian sanctuary pits for rituals and sacrifices from the 5th-1st century BC; it is thought that the Thracians deemed the spot of the former prehistoric settlement a sacred place.