Field survey on the area of the canabae and late Roman suburbium

The legionary fortress in Novae, the same as other military bases, was surrounded by the civilian settlement (canabae) which constituted with its camp a specific settlement structure. Topography and planning of settlements of this kind is not well-recognized, since only a few have been excavated so far, mailny in the western part of the Empire.


The canabae in Novae is an extraordinary case among the legionary camps of the lower Danubian provinces which can be investigated on its whole area. Nevertheless, the site is not easy, for the prsence of the numerous private parcels and vegetation. Additional problems are caused by the looters activity. The last reason was a main cause for starting the research on the area of the canabae.


A very difficult task of documenting the remains of civilian settlement around Novae needs a well-planned strategy and choice of proper methods. The large area of the site and a need for quick survey made us to choose remote sensing methods as a main ones. Apart from the geophysical survey which is the basic method, the site has been photographed from the air, investigated with metal detectors, and measured in details in order to obtain data for the 3D terrain model. In the meantime, the archive and museum query have been completed, to create a catalogue of finds which may have been erected in the civilian settlements surrounding the camp as well as to give a picture of the every day life of the local society. These data will be enriched by the palynological analyses which will help us to reconstruct the environment in the past. Our aim is to reconstruct the landscape a settlement complex which in fact is Novae, as well as its topography, environment, material culture and, to the certain extent, social structure of its inhabitants.


The project has been undertaken by the young team of archaeologist from the Institute of Archaeology, University of Warsaw and their professional co-operators. In August 2011, the team conducted a series of tests, which aim was to choose proper methods and devices. The remote sensing survey has been done by M. Jaworski and P. Wroniecki. The aerial photographs have been taken by J. and M. Pisz (IAUW). The survey with metal detectors and elaboration of metal finds has been done by P. Jaworski (IAUW). The team leader is A. Tomas (IAUW), who has also conducted a query financed by the Foundation for Polish Science. The field survey has started in March 2012 and will last to the 2014 at least.

The project is fits into a trend of landscape archaeology conducted as a interdisciplinary reasearch on the Roman frontier zone. Similar surveys have been done in Netherlands, Germany and Austria. We hope to find the answer for the conditions of life and service in the lower Danubian frontier zone; the perception of the place where this specific society lived. This difficult task needs a closely co-operating team of specialists, which will be able to work effectively on big sites.

Agnieszka Tomas

 Survey in 2012

The survey covered the area of 2,07 ha placed on a high plateau located in the south-eastern part of Novae. The magnetic survey has been conducted on the eastern annex of late Roman fortress, as well as beyond its walls. Apart from the magnetic survey the photographs from the helium balloon have been taken to create orthophotomaps of the site. The integrated data (both from the excavations, and the remothe sensing surveys) will be collected in the GIS database. The intensive field survey of metal finds completes the picture obtained from the geophysical surveys. Preliminary results show the use of the annex continuously from the 1st to the 6th c. AD. Building materials and elements of military equipment point at the military character of this part of Novae in the late Antiquity.

 Survey in 2013

In 2013 the research in the eastern annexe was completed. Several places in the area of the western canabae were chosen for earth resistivity surveys. One of the places, rich in finds visible on the surface, appeared to be very severly eroded, but the finds, including pottery and glass, as well as human bones, may suggest the presence of a cemetery there. The main part of the survey was concentrated on the Ostrite Mogili site situated ca. 2.5 km to the east of Novae. The whole area was photographed by a remote controlled drone and hexacopter. Field survey covered its eastern part. The finds visible on the ground suggest that the eastern end of the site was inhabited only in the early Medieval period (Slavic). Numerous paleolithical tools have been found there, as well. The Roman site covers the area of ca. 12 ha. Magnetic survey has been conducted on the large part of the site. Some areas have been investigated with metal detectors.

The site has been destroyed by illigal digs. In one of the trenches we have found a wide wall constructed from the secondarily used material, including architectural elements and fragments of inscription. This monument is of special importance: this is the first inscription on this site found in situ.

The field survey is supplemented by the query made in the Bulgarian museums and archives SEE MORE
Present research is being continued in the area of the annex of Novae SEE MORE
Agnieszka Tomas, Marcin Jaworski, Piotr Jaworski, Joanna & Michał Pisz, Piotr Wroniecki



A. Tomas (with P. Vladkova), Extramural area [in] Novae. An archaeological Guide (T. Sarnowski ed., A.B. Biernacki, P. Vladkova, M. Lemke), Warszawa 2012, 77-92.

A. Tomas, Canabae legionis I Italicae: state of research on civil settlements accompanying the legionary camp in Novae (Lower Moesia) compared to relevant Lower Danubian sites, Swiatowit L/A, 2011-2012 (2013), 155-168.

A. Tomas, Non-destructive investigations in canabae of Novae (Lower Moesia), Swiatowit LI/A, 2012 (2013), in printing.

A. Tomas et al., Non-destructive survey in Novae (Lower Moesia), Proceedings of XXII Limes Congress Ruse, Bulgaria, 2013, in printing

A. Tomas, P. Wroniecki, Roman legion and attached civilian settlement as a factor of Romanisation and landscape changes: a case of Novae (northern Bulgaria), in: Landscape as a Factor of Creating identity. International Conference in Jarosław, Poland, 2012, in printing

Posters: A. Tomas, K. Misiewicz, P. Wroniecki, W. Małkowski, M. Jaworski, M. Pisz, J. Pisz, Remote sensing techniques in the study of civil settlement near Novae (Moesia inferior), XXII Limes Congress, Ruse, Bulgaria - 2013.

A. Tomas, P. Wroniecki, M. Jaworski, M. Pisz, S. Rzeznik, Remote sensing techniques in the study of civil settlement near Novae, 10th International Conference on Archaeological Prospection, Vienna - 2013

The project has been financed from the grant of the Polish National Center for the Science, decision No.

© Department of Archaeology of the Roman Provinces