The ancient Roman coins, dating to the 1st century AD alongside the clay vessel in which they were found; the owner’s name is inscribed on the vessel.

Nearly 3,000 Roman silver coins dating to 1st century AD found in Bulgaria

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A trove of 2,976 silver Roman coins stamped with emperors and their family members has been unearthed in Sofia, Bulgaria, at an ancient Roman and Thracian city inside the city’s borders. Archaeologists say the name of the apparent owner of the hoard was inscribed on the clay vessel in which they were stored.

The coins were minted over a period of 100 years, says the blog Archaeology in Bulgaria . The earliest coins are of Emperor Vespasian, who ruled from 69 to 79 AD, and the latest are from the reign of Commodus, 177 to 192 AD. The hoard has other coins between those years with various emperors and relatives depicted on them. The coins were cached in a ceramic vessel with lid.

“It is a very emotional moment to see that what you have found is not anonymous but was owned by a specific person who has a name and history. According to our colleague  [Nikolay] Sharankov, the name of this treasure’s owner was  Selvius Calistus.  It is also possible that the owner may have been a woman because some parts of the inscription are missing,” said Snezhana Goryanova, an archaeologist on the project.

While the coins and their container were found in a layer that dates to the 3 rd to 5 th centuries AD, they were almost certainly collected in the 1 st century, she said.

The silver coins and their container and an ancient clay lamp, also found during excavations, were turned over to the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Experts are at work studying them and restoring them. After the experts are finished restoring the items, they will be on exhibit in the Museum of Sofia History, which opens September 17, 2015. The museum is in a former public bath building near the site of the excavations of Serdica.

An ancient part of Serdica fortress alongside some modern architectural features

An ancient part of Serdica fortress alongside some modern architectural features (Photo by Apostoloff/ Wikimedia Commons )

The part of Serdica where the artifacts were found lies under a square near the St. Nedelya Cathedral and the Hotel Balkan. The ancient city will be partially restored.

This is the second-largest coin hoard found in Serdica since excavations began.

The blog calls Serdica the precursor of Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. There are traces of habitation at the site that date back to the Neolithic era of 5,000 years ago in what is now the Slatina Quarter. There is also archaeological evidence of habitation from the Copper and Bronze ages, after which a Thracian or Celtic tribe called “serdi” moved in. The town derived its name from them.

A photo of the coins before they were cleaned

A photo of the coins before they were cleaned (Credit: Facebook page of Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova)

Philip II of Macedon and his son Alexander conquered Serdica briefly in the 4 th century BC. Then the Romans conquered in 29 BC. They renamed Serdica as Ulpia Serdica, and during Trajan’s reign it became the center of a Roman administrative region. It was the favorite haunt of Roman Emperor Constantine I, who said, “Serdica is my Rome.”

Huns invaded and destroyed Serdica in 447 AD. Under the Byzantines, Emperor Justinian I built a defensive wall in the 6 th century. This wall has been excavated and is visible now. Trajan renamed the town Triaditsa.

In the 7 th century it became part of the First Bulgarian Empire, and then in 809 AD Khan Krum, also Bulgarian, conquered it. It was then known by its Slavic-Bulgarian name of Sredets. In the 14 th century it was renamed the St. Sofia Basilica.

Featured image: The ancient Roman coins, dating to the 1 st century AD alongside the clay vessel in which they were found; the owner’s name is inscribed on the vessel. (BGNES photo)

By Mark Miller

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