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Archaeologists Discover a 1,800-Year-Old Roman Soldier's Face Mask in Hadrianopolis

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The iron face mask was discovered within the ruins of a fortified fortification from Ancient Rome's imperial period. It strongly implied that Hadrianopolis was a significant, distant military garrison.

It's no surprise that Hadrianopolis, named after Roman emperor Hadrian, has become a treasure mine of Roman antiquities. While archaeologists have previously discovered priceless relics there, they have just discovered a 1,800-year-old iron face mask once worn by a Roman cavalry trooper.

The excavation site is in the northern Karabük province's Eskipazar district, near Paphlagonia. While this was in the remote reaches of the Roman Empire, archaeological investigations that have been ongoing since 2003 have already unearthed 14 structures indicating Hadrianopolus was once a military station.

According to Ancient Origins, the discovery of an iron mask by Karabük University academics only adds to that theory. It was unearthed within the ruins of an ancient fortified fortification that researchers believe was a Roman garrison in the early third century A.D.

"The Roman military presence in this inner geography of the Western Black Sea was unknown," stated lead archaeologist Ersin elikbas. "However, it is most likely that the Roman Empire erected a military base here to obtain a frontal defence region against all kinds of eastward and Black Sea hazards."

"As a result, we can argue that Hadrianapolis was an important Roman defense city."

Hadrianopolis, also known as Caesarea or Proseilemmene, was inhabited from the first century B.C. through the seventh century A.D. Since 2003, specialists have discovered two baths, two churches, a theatre, rock tombs, a city square, one palace, a niche formerly housing a monument, and a fortified building here, according to The Daily Mail.

"For six months, we maintained the excavation of what we call a square designed construction," elikbas told The Hürriyet Daily News. "Although we are unable to determine the purpose of this structure, we have gathered enough knowledge to make some predictions." It indicates that this square structure was a military structure."

"We also discovered minor fragments, such as the iron mask." The iron mask was a protective item worn by Roman cavalrymen. It dates back 1,800 years."

According to elikbas, he and his colleagues dated the mask to the third century A.D. by comparing it to similar masks found elsewhere. Its discovery in a fortified structure from Rome's imperial period suggested the same thing. In terms of Hadrianopolis, elikbas considered it to be of critical strategic importance to the Romans.

"Rome wanted to defend itself at the end [of its empire] by creating bases against all types of perils that might come from the Black Sea Region to its territory," elikbas explained. "Hadrianopolis, we believe, is one of these defensive military cities."

In the previous year, Hadrianopolis has also delivered a slew of Roman Christian floor mosaics. The artistic treasures, which range from images of horses and elephants to panthers, deer, and gryphons, have earned Hadrianopolis the unofficial moniker of "Zeugma of the Black Sea."

By the second century B.C., ancient Anatolia had basically devolved into a blaze of autonomous kingdoms, with modern-day Istanbul (then Byzantium) serving as an integral metropolis for the Roman Empire's distant influence. Moreover, ancient documents appear to confirm the idea of Hadrianopolis being a military base.

"The history of the Western Black Sea Region's inner regions has not yet been thoroughly explored," elikbas added. "Our research continues to shed light on the region's history." During our excavations, we discovered vital evidence of the Roman Empire's presence in the region." 

Surprisingly, the face mask was discovered only after officials fought to increase tourism. Following the discovery of mosaics last year, Turkey's Ministry of Culture and Tourism petitioned for Hadrianopolis to be "converted into ruins and opened to tourism," prompting 43 professionals and academics to resume excavations.

For the time being, excavations at Hadrianopolis will continue. Smaller antiquities discovered at the site will be safely stored at regional museums, while larger finds will be conserved and kept where they were discovered. Hopefully, elikbas and his colleagues will continue to discover fascinating relics of a long-gone civilization.