Gold necklace found in Roman baths in Bulgaria

A gold chain necklace with three beads has been discovered in the Deultum National Archaeological Reserve in southeastern Bulgaria. The chain is broken and may have had more beads on it originally.

Founded in 69 A.D. by the Emperor Vespasian to the veterans of Legio VIII Augusta who had played a key role in securing the throne for him during the Year of Four Emperors, Deultum was the second Roman colony on the Balkan Peninsula and the first Roman city in what is now Bulgaria. It was strategically located on a major river with Black Sea access the ancient Thracian town of Develt. The port town prospered from trade and copper mining, growing into a large, well-planned city with numerous temples, civic buildings, an amphitheater and large public baths.

The necklace was discovered in one of the rooms of the ancient city’s public baths. Another significant treasure was unearthed in the adjacent room last October: a 2nd century earring with tiny glass balls at the end of three gold pendants artfully made to look like pearls. The earring bears a distinct resemblance to those worn by an elegant woman in one of the Fayum mummy portraits. They are not related, not part of a scattered hoard or owned by the same individual. The necklace was in a burned layer from the 5th century.

The gold jewelry discovered in the baths illustrates the wealth of the city and its established trade relations with other parts of the Roman Empire. Women in what is now Bulgaria wore the same fashionable accessories as women in Roman Egypt and Italy.