Archaeologists Find Statue of Egyptian Goddess Isis, Satyr's Head at Roman Villa, Nymphaeum in Bulgaria's Kasnakovo
A 2nd century AD marble statue of the Ancient Egyptian goddess Isis, who was also worshipped in the wider Greco-Roman world, and a marble head of a satyr, a male companion of ancient wine god Dionysus, have been discovered by archaeologists at a Roman villa and nymphaeum near the town of Kasnakovo in Southern Bulgaria.
The discovery of the ancient marble statues has been announced at the Dimitrovgrad Museum of History by archaeologist Assist. Prof. Veselka Katsarova from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia.
Katsarova has excavated the Antiquity archaeological site near Kasnakovo in the past decade. In 2015, her team found intact decorative mosaics in one of Roman villa buildings.
The Ancient Roman villa estate near the town of Kasnakovo, Dimitrovgrad Municipality, in Southern Bulgaria, existed from the middle of the 2nd century AD until the middle of the 4th century AD.
It is known for its nymphaeum, i.e. a shrine dedicated to the nymphs and Aphrodite by a Thracian veteran from the Roman military known as the Shrine of the Nymphs and Aphrodite. The nymphaeum consists of three architecturally decorated mineral water springs.
The place originally became an Ancient Thracian rock shrine in the Early Iron Age. It is known especially for the still surviving inscription in Ancient Greek left by the founder and owner of the Roman villa. Learn more about the inscription in the Background Infonotes below.
The newly discovered statue of Ancient Egyptian goddess Isis, whose cult later spread throughout the Roman Empire and the wider Greco-Roman world, is the first statue of Isis to have ever been found in Bulgaria, lead archaeologist Katsarova notes.
In her words, only parts of statues which are believed to have been of Isis have been discovered in Bulgaria so far but none of them is certain to have depicted that particular ancient deity.
The newly found statue from the Roman villa and nymphaeum (the Shrine of the Nymphs and Aphrodite) near Kasnakovo has been identified as depicting Isis through comparison with similar sculptures kept in museums in Rome, Italy, and Vienna, Austria – as well as by the depiction of the so called "knot of Isis", the tyet, i.e. the Ancient Egyptian herophyph of the goddess, found on the statue's chest.
A similar statue of Isis has been found in an Isis temple in Bulgaria's neighbor to the southwest, the Republic of Macedonia.
"The marble statue [of Isis] is 80 cm tall, and lacks arms and a head. Regardless of that, it is a wonderful work [of sculpture], and is perfectly preserved," Katsarova says, as cited by BTA.
"The statue has been found in a large room with a mosaic floor, part of a residential building," she explains.
A marble head of a satyr, a male companion of ancient wine god Dionysus with horse-like features, has also been found a month ago during the latest excavations at the Roman villa and the Shrine of the Nymphs and Aphrodite at Bulgaria's Kasnakovo. In 2015, a satyr mask was discovered at emporium Pistiros, also in Southern Bulgaria.
Katsarova says her team at first thought that the satyr head had been part of a stone pedestal. However, subsequently, they have found evidence that it had been part of a life-sized statue, probably about 165 centimeters tall.
Both the Isis statue and the satyr statue are hypothesized to have been used as decorations – the Isis statue in the middle of possibly the most important room of the estate, and the satyr statue in an inner yard.
"When the villa was destroyed, the statue fell on the floor. It used to stand in the center of one of the most monumental rooms in the building which is decorated with floor mosaics," the archaeologist says.Both finds are dated to the middle of the 2nd century AD, and, more specifically, to the period between 138
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