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.