Archaeologists Investigate Roman Reservoir in Bulgaria

Archaeologists Investigate Roman Reservoir in Bulgaria

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Archaeologists Investigate Roman Reservoir in Bulgaria:

The Ancient Roman water catchment reservoir near Bulgaria’s Musina which gave the start of the western aqueduct of the major Roman city Nicopolis ad Istrum.
The Ancient Roman water catchment reservoir near Bulgaria’s Musina which gave the start of the western aqueduct of the major Roman city Nicopolis ad Istrum. 

An archaeological team has explored for the 1st time the water catchment reservoir which fed water to a 20-kilometer-long (12.4 miles) aqueduct of the large Ancient Roman city of Nicopolis ad Istrum in today’s Central North Bulgaria.

The second century AD water catchment reservoir of Nicopolis ad Istrum is located near the town of Musina, Pavlikeni Municipality, to the west of the important city in the Roman Empire.

It used to catch the water coming from the karst springs inside the Musina Cave, feeding it to the western aqueduct of Nicopolis ad Istrum.

The ruins of Nicopolis ad Istrum, whose name means “Victory City on the Danube River”, are situated near today’s town of Nikyup, Veliko Tarnovo Municipality, 18 km northwest of the city of Veliko Tarnovo.

The major city was discovered by Roman Emperor Trajan (Marcus Ulpius Traianus) (r. 98-117 AD) to honor his victories over the Dacian tribes between 101 and 106 AD (most probably in 102 AD) north of the Danube.

Nicopolis ad Istrum stood at the intersection of the 2 main roads of the Danubian Roman provinces – the road from Odessus (Odessos) on the Black Sea (today’s Varna) to the western parts of the Balkan Peninsula, and the road from the Roman military camp Novae (today’s Svishtov) on the Danube to the southern parts of the Balkan Peninsula.

Nicopolis ad Istrum is some times described as the birthplace of Germanic literary tradition because in the fourth century AD Gothic bishop Ulfilas (Wulfila) (ca. 311-383 AD) received permission from Roman Emperor Constantius II (r. 324-361 AD) to settle with his flock of Christian converts near Nicopolis ad Istrum in the province of Moesia, in 347-8 AD.

There Ulfilas invented the Gothic alphabet and translated the Bible from Greek into Gothic.

The barbarian forces of Attila the Hun destroyed the ancient Roman city in 447 AD, although its residents could have abandoned it even before that.

It was partly rebuilt as a fortified post of the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) in the sixth century AD which in turn was destroyed at the end of the sixth century AD by an Avar invasion. Later, it was settled as a medieval city in the Bulgarian Empire between the Tenth and the Fourteenth century.

The archaeological exploration of Nicopolis ad Istrum 1st  started in 1900, while the presently ongoing excavation efforts were restarted in 2007.

The Ancient Roman water catchment reservoir at the Musina Cave has been explored by the team of archaeologist Kalin Chakarov from the Pavlikeni Museum of History who also specializes in the research of the Ancient Roman ceramics factory and villa estate in the town of Pavlikeni and the Ancient Roman mausoleum near the town of Lesicheri, which is known for its still standing 14-meter-tall obelisk.

“Some 2,000 years prior the Romans appreciated the qualities of the karst springs in the Musina Cave and decided that it was worth building a costly 20-kilometer water pipeline allowing them to always enjoy fresh and quality water in their public and private spaces [in Nicopolis ad Istrum],” Chakarov explains. In his words, the water catchment reservoir feeding water to the western aqueduct of the large Roman city is an almost fully preserved octagonal facility built with large stone blocks, each of which weighs over half a metric ton.

The archaeologist points out that 4 rows of the building stone blocks from the structure of the Roman water catchment reservoir near Bulgaria’s Musina have been preserved.

The rows alternate, with one row of pentagonal stone blocks followed by a row of trapezoid-shaped stone blocks.

At some spots, the blocks are pieced together with cramp irons covered with lead.“The water catchment reservoir has 2 openings – 1 in its northern end and one in its western end, giving the start to 2 canals.

The first one is the one sending water to Nicopolis ad Istrum, while the other 1 is a spillway sending the excess water to the main canal,” Charakov explains.“The western aqueduct of Nicopolis ad Istrum was probably built at the time when the Roman city was established following the 2nd Dacian Wars of Emperor Trajan at the beginning of the second century,” he adds.

The water from the Musina Cave karst springs, which has a constant temperature of 14 degrees Celsius was brought to the city with a system of underground and overhead canals and arches.“In at least 4 locations, the aqueduct is formed as an arcade known from many better-preserved aqueducts in France, Spain, and North Africa.

The largest and most impressive arcade is in the Rositsa River valley. The reason for its construction is the difference in the levels along the route because the slope of the water flow is very important for its proper use,” the lead archaeologist stated.

The western aqueduct of Nicopolis ad Istrum went through fields, forests, and valleys reaching a water distribution reservoir (Lat. castellum divisiorum) in front of the city’s western fortress wall from where the water was distributed to its users.“The aqueduct of the Roman city is one of the largest infrastructure facilities built for 1000’s of years in the region of Pavlikeni and its water catchment reservoir in Musina impresses with the fact that the water is still running,” Chakarov concludes.

Archaeologist Kalin Chakarov is seen here during the exploration of the Ancient Roman water catchment reservoir which collected water from the karst springs inside the Musina Cave.
Archaeologist Kalin Chakarov is seen here during the exploration of the Ancient Roman water catchment reservoir which collected water from the karst springs inside the Musina Cave. 
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Jessica Saraceni has been a part of Histecho Since 2018, drawn to the site for its quirky character and through Articles about the Mysteries of earth and human behavior. previously, she was an assistant editor and Research fellow at Archaeology magazine, where she gained an appreciation for the field work. A master's degree in biogeochemistry and environmental science from the Center for Archaeological Research, the University of Texas at San Antonio. She enjoys all forms of exercise; reading works by her favorite author, Haruki Murakami; and playing with her sons.

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