Over the last few decades, archaeologists from Bulgaria and Poland have been performing excavations at the site where the Roman legionary fortress of Novae once stood. The ruins of the fortress can be found in northern Bulgaria along the Danube River, where Roman occupiers established and defended a territorial border 2,000 years ago.
The ongoing excavations there have produced a number of remarkable and enlightening finds, and the list of these unearthed marvels now includes an ancient example of a durable and popular technology – the refrigerator.
Polish archeologists unearthed a “refrigerator,” a food storage unit on Oct. 7, when they were excavating an ancient Roman military barrack in Bulgaria.
According to lead archeologist Professor Piotr Dyczek from the University of Warsaw’s Antiquity of Southeastern Europe Research Centre, this food storage was made of ceramic plates in which fragments of dishes and animals’ bones were stored.
Traces of preserved bone fragments were found hinting that meat was stored after it was cooked. Charcoal particles and a fragment of a small bowl was also found which Dyczek said could have been the remains of a censer used to repel insects.
According to archeologists, the discovery of such ‘refrigerators’ is a miracle in that they rarely survive the reconstruction of buildings.
The former military barrack was built in 1st century CE by the Romans, according to researchers.
The cleverly designed icebox or refrigerator was not the only notable find unearthed by the Polish and Bulgaria archaeologists during the latest excavation season. They also discovered a cache of several dozen coins, again from the Roman era. The coins were discovered in a strata that was traced to the third and fourth centuries AD, a period bookended by third-century Goth raids and the ascension to Roman emperor of Constantine the Great in 306.
Another interesting discovery was the remains of a Roman dwelling that was located inside the fortress’s walls. The archaeologists found a few artifacts inside this building, including several grinding stones, fishing weights, and more ceramic vessel shards. This would have been a civilian home, rather than a structure occupied by soldiers.
Defending the Empire: The Story of Novae
Archaeologists discovered the Novae fortress in an area that was once part of the Roman province of Moesia. This rugged, mountainous territory was bordered by the Danube River in the north, the Balkan Mountains to the south, and the Black Sea to the east.
No estimates have been given about how many people would have lived inside of Novae’s surrounding stone walls. But the population must have been relatively substantial, especially after the fortress walls were moved outward and rebuilt to enclose the nearby civilian settlement in the fourth century AD.
“During this time, Novae slowly developed into a civilian city,” Professor Dyczek said in the PAP article disclosing the results of the latest excavation. “Thanks to the latest finds, we have obtained enough data to be able to recreate this fragment of the history of this ancient settlement, which until now was shrouded in mystery for us.”
Professor Dyczek noted that the first-century ancient refrigerator was an especially rare find, since structures of that type don’t often survive the ravages of time.