Burned skeletons found in an ancient city in what is now modern Bulgaria offers rare evidence of a destructive invasion by Goths approximately 1,700 years ago. Researcher Elena Bozhinova of the Plovdiv Museum of Archaeology led a team of archaeologist who found the remains at the site of an ancient city called Philippopolis the lies within modern-day Plovdiv. Even though evidence of Gothic invasions have been found in the past, Bozhinova said that skeletal remains are a rare find.

According to the team, each of the skeletons exhibits of death by fire. One of the skeletons was a woman who was wearing two bronze bracelets at the time of death, while the other adult skeleton was found with a bronze figurine depicting the nude goddess Venus wearing a gold necklace. Also found that that skeleton were six coins. In contrast, the child’s skeleton was found with an arrow head, thus suggesting a violent death. “The stratigraphic position of the burnt house and the artifacts suggest that the fire happened around the middle of the third century, when the city was conquered by the Goths,” said Bozhinova, according to National Geographic.

Greek and Latin inscriptions found at Philippopolis

A Germanic people, the Goths became prominent by the end of the first millenium after Christ. However, they are best known for attacking the flagging Roman empire in the third century A.D. and then sacking the city of Rome itself in A.D. 410. The nomadic and bellicose Goths ranged throughout much of Europe from France and Spain and to the Crimea. It was not until a dispute between Gothic princes in Spain in A.D. 711, which opened the door to nearly 800 years of Muslim control of Spain, that their dominance was challenged. Until then, Goths established kingdoms throughout Europe, dividing into the Visigoths of the West and the Ostrogoths of the East. The discovery at Philippopolis offers a rare glimpse into their peripatetic and warring history. 

Gothic invaders sacked and burned the city of Philippopolis in A.D. 251. The city was one of the oldest inhabited cities in Europe, having existed for hundreds of years before it came under the aegis of Rome. Philippoplis -- which was named for Philipp II of Macedonia, the father of Alexander the Great -- was well laid out and had sewers and a water supply. Following the Muslim invasions at the end of first millenium, it became part of the Ottoman Empire. Researchers continue to examine and document the many layers of history at the site. Little is known about the battle that destroyed Philippopolis. In the sacking of the city, the Goths were led by their chieftain Cniva. According to an account by Ammianus Marcellinus, 100,000 citizens of Philippolis were either killed or enslaved. Even while the city would again prosper in the following century, it was destroyed once again by Atilla's Huns in A.D. 441. In A.D. 471, Goths would again invade the city, led this time by Teodoric Strabo in A.D. 471.

Bozhinova’s team is excavating stone-brick structures that were built between the second and the 14th centuries A.D. The team has found evidence of a main street lined with residences and shops. An arch was found that may have served as a monument.  Hundreds of coins have also been found at the site.



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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