The research program began in 2001 with archaeological fieldwork that had as a goal to determine the character and importance of the Archar River valley situated in contemporary North-West Bulgaria. In the ancient times, this region was a part of the Roman province Moesia Superior.
The project has concentrated on location end afterwards excavation of some of the most important Roman towns known from the written sources. During the last tree years, it has been especially committed with investigation of locality "Aniste" where a roman villa rustica was discovered.
The site is located 7 km southwest from the town of Belogradchik. It is situated directly on the bank of the river - a position that probably shows it to be the main point on the Roman road between major towns in the Roman province at Pannonia and Dacia Mediteranea.
The Roman villa was first discovered by archaeologists in 2002 and further buildings excavated during 2003 and 2004 in the north-west part of the site. Recent excavations conducted by Dr Sara Tatarova (Historical Museum - Belogradchik) have traced out the measurements of the site. New foundations of rectangular premises were discovered including the remains of a Roman bath. A rich array of finds, including bronze and copper coins, has enabled the archaeologists to identify two periods of habitation: from 1st - 2nd centuries AD and from the 3rd century to the end of the 4th century AD. Traces of an extensive fire mark the demolition of the buildings and the end of habitation at the site.
Roman villas in the present-day Bulgarian lands
Detached estate centers in the present-day Bulgarian lands of Roman and Late Roman times (lst - 4th century AD) were usually designated in the respective written sources by the term villa, and more rarely by other terms, for example - casa agrestis. The wider term villa rustica has been set up in Bulgarian and foreign literature under the influence of the works of the Roman authors from the time of the Republic and the Early Empire.
According to the resources of the owner, the villa could vary from a single building to a huge building complex and facilities of elaborate spatial design. An unified structure of housing and economic units, whose main body was the owner's dwelling is the common characteristic of the villae. The owner's presence, permanent or provisional, is the major trait of the organization of the villa as an independent production entity. The existence of the owner's house is the specific feature of the structure and the design of the villa as a detached settlement unit.
The progressive development of the villas in contemporary Bulgarian land is clearly attested for the period from the end of the 1st to the mid - 4th century. All the objective indices show that the Late Roman Imperial Age was just the most prosperous period of its development in the present-day Bulgarian territory. Further more, the analysis displays an inclination to reduction of the estates of moderate size that were represented by the villae without imposing living quarters. At the same time the enlargement and the prosperity of most of the villae with imposing housing buildings, villae-residences included, testify to the strengthening and to the greater resources of the big estates of provincial or imperial importance. The undoubted flourishing and the above characteristics in the villae development at the end of the 3rd - first half of the 4th century AD are by no means unique for the present-day Bulgarian territory. Similar evolution and analogous trends were attested for the villae in other regions of the Empire as well: in Roman Britain, Roman Span, Southwestern Gaul, Northern Africa, etc.
The growing interest both of Bulgarian and foreign scholars in Roman villae from Bulgarian lands confirms their importance in the social, economic, settlement and cultural development of the respective Roman and Late Roman provinces.