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Head and shoulders of the remarkably preserved Hermes statue at Heraclea Sintica. (Archaeologia Bulgarica)

SCIENCE & TECH: Remarkable Discovery of Complete Hermes Statue in Heraclea Sintica

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Archaeologists working in the ancient city of Heraclea Sintica have unearthed a marvelously preserved marble statue from the Grand Canal of the district. This find is a first in the region, where statues are typically discovered in incomplete states, often missing heads or other significant parts.

Unearthing an Ancient Treasure

A team of archaeologists led by Professor Dr. Lyudmil Vagalinski discovered the exceptionally well-preserved Roman era statue during work cleaning the ‘Cloaca Maxima’ canal of the ancient city. Standing over two meters (6.6 feet) tall, the statue is believed to represent Hermes, a deity revered in this region, explains an Archaeologia Bulgarica post revealing the find.

 Dr. Vagalinski expressed his excitement, noting the rarity and significance of the find:

“It is more than two meters and probably depicts Hermes, one of the most popular deities in this area…. I can say that this ancient statue is not only the best preserved among those discovered here, but also in the territory of Bulgaria in general.”

Head and shoulders of the remarkably preserved Hermes statue at Heraclea Sintica. (Archaeologia Bulgarica)

A Glimpse into an Important Ancient City

Heraclea Sintica, is situated in what is now south-western Bulgaria. It was first founded between 356 and 339 BC by Philip II of Macedon with Macedonian settlers from Heraclea in Mygdonia. It likely replaced a Thracian tribal center called Sintia, suggests the Roman historian Livy.

The Thracian Sintoi were driven out of the region, evidenced by the absence of Thracian names in inscriptions found there. A powerful earthquake around 425 AD destroyed much of the city, and by 500 AD, it was no longer permanently inhabited.

The site was identified by Assoc. Prof. Georgi Mitrev in 2002 after discovering a Latin inscription. Archaeological excavations led by Assoc. Prof. Lyudmil Vagalinski have been ongoing since 2007, revealing structures such as tunnels, an arch, and a large studio for producing ceramic masks.

 

Ruins of ancient city of Heraclea Sintica, Bulgaria. (Stoyan Haytov/Adobe Stock)

Ruins of ancient city of Heraclea Sintica, Bulgaria. (Stoyan Haytov/Adobe Stock)

The statue’s remarkable condition suggests it was intentionally buried after the major earthquake in the 5th century AD. This hypothesis is supported by the historical context: as Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, pagan artifacts were often hidden or repurposed. Dr. Vagalinski speculates that the statue was buried to preserve it during a time of religious transition.

Part of the excavation process. (Archaeologia Bulgarica)

Part of the excavation process. (Archaeologia Bulgarica)

The Journey to Preservation

Following its extraction, the statue will be transported to the Petrich Museum. There, it will undergo meticulous restoration and conservation to prepare it for public display.

The Heraclea Sintica excavation continues to offer new insights into the region’s history and cultural transformations. This latest find, a testament to the artistry and reverence of the ancient city’s inhabitants, is a significant addition to Bulgaria’s archaeological heritage.

Top image: Statue of Hermes in situ at Heraclea Sintica.            Source: Archaeologia Bulgarica

By Gary Manners





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