Ancient Roman ‘Refrigerator’ Discovered With Preserved Bones Inside

by Lauren Boisvert
(Photo by Peng Song/Getty Images)

Polish archeologists found an ancient “refrigerator” in Bulgaria this week while doing excavation work on Roman barracks. The barracks were part of the legion camp at Novae, which was a significant camp on the edge of the empire’s border in around 69 CE. It formed part of the defenses on the Danube in northern Bulgaria and was later turned into a city. A majority of Novae has been excavated and is open to the public.

But, while recent excavation efforts were underway, archeologists found a food storage unit in sector XII of Novae. According to Professor Piotr Dyczek from the University of Warsaw, lead archeologist on the site, they found pieces of dishes and animal bones inside the storage unit. Ceramic plates made up the shell of the “fridge” itself.

Dyczek also reported that the bones had “traces of thermal treatment.” This means that someone baked them, most likely before storage in the container. There were also charcoal particles and the remains of a small bowl. Dyczek posited that this could have been a censer to repel insects and keep them away from the meat.

These “refrigerators” rarely survive building restorations, said Dyczek, and so they are incredibly important and interesting finds. This one shows what Roman soldiers ate and how they stored uneaten food for later. Though I doubt it was as good as even an early 19th-century icebox, these storage containers still preserved food for at least a little while.

Ancient Roman ‘Fridge’ Discovered in Bulgaria, While In Syria Archeologists Uncover Roman-Era Mosaic

In the Syrian city of Rastan, archeologists recently uncovered an incredible mosaic depicting scenes from the Trojan War. The war occurred more than 2,000 years ago, and this Roman-era mosaic features various warriors, all with corresponding names. It also depicts the Amazon warriors fighting alongside the Trojan people, Hercules slaying the Amazon queen Hippolyta, and a scene featuring Neptune, god of the sea.

Dr. Humam Saad, the associate director of Excavation and Archaeological Research at Syria’s General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums, announced the find on Wednesday, Oct. 12. “What is in front of us is a discovery that is rare on a global scale,” he said. “We can’t identify the type of the building, whether it’s a public bathhouse or something else, because we have not finished excavating yet.”

The mosaic only sits at about 5% excavated, with 65 feet out of a possible total of 1,300 currently uncovered. The piece is about 1,600 years old and potentially set in the floor of a bathhouse.

Rastan, in Syria’s Homs district, was seized by the government in 2018 from rebels. The Nabu Museum, an organization of Lebanese and Syrian businessmen, recently bought and donated the property where experts uncovered the mosaic to the Syrian state. It’s definitely possible that there are more of these heritage sites in the country, and Nabu Museum shareholders hope that the organization will do its part to uncover these relics.