Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Latest finds from Sozopol in Bulgaria, ancient Apollonia Pontica.


I previously reported on the excavations taking place at ancient Apollonia Pontica, modern Sozopol in Bulgaria. Recent developments include the arrival of a French team (in particular ceramics specialists) to work alongside the locals on excavations in the city, including contexts from the founding of Apollonia in the 7th century, through its development as a city important for maritime trade, to a Christian centre. 
Teams at work by ancient city walls. Photo by DarikNews.bg
On 2nd April Dimitar Nedev, Director of the National History Museum announced some interesting finds from the excavation at the ancient fortress gate of Sozopol (see my post of 29 December 2011). The finds include a gold ring with a semi precious stone, and a gold leaf from a wreath.
The ring is thought to date from the Roman era (1st – 4th century AD) according to Professor Dimitrov. Evidence for the dating has not yet been announced, but the stone may give a clue. The Romans liked to include gem stones or even coloured glass in their jewellery, introducing decoration via the gems, whereas in previous periods it was the workmanship of the gold itself that was important, with methods such as the use of granulation and filigree, and the occasional use of enamel to provide colour. The Hellenistic period sees the use of some gem stones, but they become the staple decorative element of Roman jewellery.
Typical Roman ring with coloured glass
 The gold leaf, from a crown or wreath, is dated to the 4th – 3rd century BC. During the late classical and Hellenistic period, gold wreaths of varying size and splendour were made for both funerary and celebratory use.  The most famous such wreath is the one that was discovered in the tomb of Philip II, a beautiful rendering of oak leaves, acorns and even insects so delicate that it quivers as one passes it in its display case at the wonderful museum. It seems to have graced the head of the deceased king Philip as he was cremated, and was placed in the gold larnax with his burnt bones. 
Gold wreath from Tomb II at Vergina
Other, more robust and less intricate, were clearly made to be worn during the life time of the owners, but as a prized possession found their way into the tomb of their owners. The presence of the wreath in the royal tombs at Vergina shows that they were, on occasions, worn as the modern equivalent of crowns, but we know from both archaeological and literary sources that ownership of such ‘crowns’ were not restricted to royalty. They may, for example, have been awarded for services to the city.
One of the most famous speeches of the Athenian orator Demosthenes, known as ‘The Crown’ was a result of a proposal, in 336BC, that the city of Athens honour him for his services to the city by presenting him, according to custom, with a golden crown, and an ensuing political wrangle.
We may never know to whom the fragment of the gold wreath belonged, but it is at least an indicator of the wealth and sophistication of Apollonia Pontica in the late Classical/Hellenistic period.

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