Sunday, October 9, 2011

Farmers found buried with their animals in Macedonia

An excavation in north Macedonia has brought to light a group of graves where the farmers were buried with their livestock.  The burials, near the town of Mavropigi, and 21km from Kozani, date from the late 6th or early 5th century.

Individuals have been found buried with horses before, but these types of burials are usually associated with prominent citizens or warriors. In the case of Mavropigi it seems that “these were simple people, farmers, who were buried with their horse, their buffalo, deer, dogs and pigs," according to the Head of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, archaeologist Georgia Karamitrou-Mentesidi.

 At least 11 burials associated with 16 animals have been found at the side of the cemetery, and it is the extent of the occurrence of the animals, and the range of them, that marks it from other similar burials. There have been examples of people buried with their horses in Doxipara Evros which seems to be linked to the high esteem in which the individuals were held, and Rhodes has yielded examples of children buried with their dogs. What makes Mavropigi different is that these are ordinary people buried with the animals they worked and lived with.

The cemetery has been excavated over the past season and extends over 100 metres. It consists of nine pit burials with eight animals (five horses and three dogs) and the other two burials have eight animals (two horses, three dogs, two cattle and one pig). The animals were placed around the burials and within walking distance, from about 0.5 to 1.3 metres.

Some of the burials were at a shallow depth and were initially disturbed by tillage and later from the roots of trees planted in more recent years.  The pits include pottery vessels, copper earrings, bracelets, anklets and pins. Iron blades and spearheads were found in the male burials.

The area of Kozani has been inhabited since the Neolithic era, and a number of sites have been identified in recent years. In
2005/6 the Neolithic settlement of Fyllotsairi was excavated, which is among the most ancient in the Balkans. The area was important for early agriculture, and also as a crossroads between the North-South and East -West.

Nowadays the area is extensively mined for lignite by the Public Power Corporation, and this has led to the identification of a number of sites, like the one at Mavropigi.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Dionysiac mosaic found in Bulgaria

Yet more exciting finds are coming to light in Bulgaria this season. Dimitar Yankov, chief curator of the Museum of Stara Zagora, recently revealed the discovery of a beautiful mosaic depicting dancing Bacchantes.
The mosaic was discovered during excavations made in advance of the construction of a new apartment block just outside the northern gate of the ancient Roman settlement of Augusta Traiana, modern day Stara Zagora.
There has been a settlement in the vicinity of Stara Zagora since at least the 6th millennium BC, thanks partly due to the fact that copper was mined just to the east of the city and traded across the continent. The history of the Roman city dates back to around106 AD when it was founded by the Emperor Trajan (98-117 AD). Augusta Traiana was the second largest city in the Roman province of Thrace during the 2nd to 3rd centuries AD. The city occupied an area of 38 hectares and was strongly fortified.

Roman Forum of Augusta Traiana
The mosaic has been dated to the late 2nd or  early 3rd century AD, when the town was flourishing.  The archaeologists, led by Dimitar Yankov, are still unsure of the exact nature of the building in which the mosaic was found. It may have been either a private building or perhaps a temple. If a temple, it would seem to be that of Dionysus, since the mosaic depicts one male and two female followers of the god. The location may also be key, since the building is 30 meters away from the walls of the forum of the ancient Roman city. The mosaic is in a fragmentary state, measuring seven by three metres, but it is hoped that further excavation will reveal more images, including a figure of the god Dionysus himself.
Yankov expects to find a representation of Dionysus, one of the most popular Thracian deities, in a part of the mosaic to the north.  Unfortunately there is a problem with the land adjacent to the current excavation with regard to permission to dig, but Yankov hopes to resolve this shortly.

Община Стара Загора
The part of the mosaic that has been excavated depicts two dancing maenads following a satyr, perhaps processing in a Dionysiac ritual. The women hold musical instruments including finger cymbals.
The mosaic shows a degree sophistication in terms of colour range. The clothes have varying shades of blue and red, and there is an attempt to show shade. The mosaic is constructed from small stone cubes but glass tesserae have also been used for the finer parts of the figures, for example the chaplets and girdles of the two dancing maenads. This is the first mosaic of this type to be found in Bulgaria.
The mosaic will now be dismantled, since it cannot remain on the ground during the winter. After conservation and restoration, it will be exhibited in the new museum building in Stara Zagora.