Bulgarian Archaeologists Find Marble God in Ancient Roman Sewer

By Reuters
July 8, 2024Science & Tech
Bulgarian Archaeologists Find Marble God in Ancient Roman Sewer
A view shows a marble statue, uncovered by archaeologists at the site of the remains of the ancient city of Heraclea Sinitica, near the village of Rupite, Bulgaria, on July 5, 2024. (Spasiyana Sergieva/Reuters)

RUPITE, Bulgaria—Bulgarian archaeologists stumbled upon unexpected treasure this week during a dig in an ancient Roman sewer—a well-preserved, marble statue depicting the Greek god Hermes.

The discovery of the 6.8-foot-tall statue was made during excavation work at the site of the ancient city of Heraclea Sintica in southwestern Bulgaria, which lies close to the Greek border.

Archaeologists leading the work said that after an earthquake devastated the sprawling city in about A.D. 388, the statue had been carefully placed in the sewers and covered with soil, explaining its good condition.

“Its head is preserved. (It’s in a) very good condition. There are a few fractures on the hands,” said Lyudmil Vagalinski, who led the team of archaeologists, adding that the statue was a Roman copy of an ancient Greek original.

Heraclea Sintica was a sprawling city founded by the ancient Macedonian king Philip II of Macedon, between 356 B.C. and 339 B.C. in what is now the Bulgarian region of Pirin Macedonia.

Archaeologists say that the people of the Heraclea Sintica likely attempted to preserve the statue, even after Christianity was adopted as the official religion in the Roman Empire.

“Everything pagan was forbidden, and they have joined the new ideology, but apparently they took care of their old deities,” he said.

After the earthquake, the Heraclea Sintica fell into a rapid decline and was abandoned by around A.D. 500.