An 1,800-year-old iron mask from the ancient city of Hadrianopouli, Greece was discovered by archaeologists working a dig there this past Summer.
Announced on Monday, the discovery of the iron mask was a revelation to the archaeologists, who have been excavating the site since 2003.
The ancient City of Hadrianaupolis, which is located in what is now Karabük, Turkey, is estimated to have been inhabited from the 1st century BC to the 8th century AD.
It was named after the Roman emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD. The city also once was called Caesarea or Kaisareia (Καισάρεια) and Proseilemmene.
Hadrianopolis was at the very edge of the Roman Empire
Hadrianopolis was inhabited during the late Hellenistic, Roman and early Byzantine periods.
When Emperor Theodosius I (347–395) made parts of Paphlagonia and Bithynia into a new province called Honorias, Hadrianopolis became known as “Hadrianopolis in Honoriade.”
The archaeological dig there is still ongoing, all year round, under the direction of Karabük University Archeology Department’s Ersin Çelikbaş.
This year’s efforts have focused on a square structure whose function is currently unknown, although the researchers believe that, considering its fortifications, it may have served as a military building.
The iron mask dating back to approximately the year 200 AD was found in this structure.
Dr. Çelikbaş told reporters definitively that “This mask belongs to a Roman soldier,” clarifying that it was “a Roman cavalry face mask, a piece of the helmet” that a soldier once wore.
Adding that the long history of the inner Western Black Sea Region has not been fully clarified yet, the head of the excavation stated that “We continue to illuminate the history of the region with our works. During our excavations, we found important data showing the existence of the Roman Empire in the region.”
Iron masks may have been worn in battle
Stating that there could have been a Roman garrison and military base in Hadrianopolis, Çelikbaş said, “Rome has planned to make its defense at the far end (of the Empire) by building bases against all kinds of dangers that may come from the Black Sea Region to its own geography.
“We think that one of these defensive military cities was Hadrianopolis. The mask fragment is from the imperial period. It most likely belongs to the 3rd century when we look at similar examples and stratification history.”
The mask is through to have had a browband to secure it around the wearer’s head, as well as pieces that would have protected the ears.
Once thought to have been purely ceremonial, such masks, which have extremely lifelike depictions of facial features, were said to have been used in sports-related contests and possibly military parades.
But now, with the recent discoveries in Germany of similar masks, historians believe that they may actually have been worn in battle by “highly accomplished and decorated warriors,” the university says.
An iron ring that also dates back 1,800 years was found inside rock-cut tombs in the ancient city during excavations carried out in the southern necropolis last October. Incredibly, an image of the god Pan, the god of shepherds in Greek mythology, was carved into the agate stone of the ring.
The movable findings discovered in the ancient city were transported to museums in the surrounding provinces of Turkey, while immovables are being preserved in place.
So far, two baths, two churches, a villa, a theater and other religious structures have also been unearthed at the site.