Buried under a Serbian cornfield, Roman military headquarters slowly sheds its secrets

KOSTOLAC, Serbia (Reuters) - Buried under a Serbian grain field near a coal mine, the well-preserved remains of the headquarters of a Roman legion are unearthed by archaeologists, who say its rural location makes it unique.
The headquarters - or Principium - belonged to the VII Claudia Legion on an estimated area of ​​3,500 square meters. Its location was determined in the spring during a survey.
There are over 100 registered principiums throughout the territory of the Roman Empire, but almost all of them are buried under modern cities, said Miomir Korac, senior archaeologist of the excavations there and in the Roman provincial capital, Viminacium, who served the site.
"A very small number of Principiums are fully explored (and) ... so we can say (conservation) that this is unique in that it is undisturbed."
The site, which is east of Belgrade and about one meter below the surface, had 40 rooms with heated walls, a treasury, a shrine, a parade ground and a fountain.
So far only a quarter have been examined. The excavations are scheduled to resume next spring.
In one room, archaeologists found 120 silver coins that "must have been lost during an emergency such as an invasion or a natural disaster," said Principium's chief archaeologist, Nemanja Mrdjic.
"The distribution of the coins from one corner to the door ... suggests that they (coins) were spilled while someone was escaping."
The VII Claudia Legion was active between the 2nd and 5th centuries AD, and its walled camp and principium were separated from the rest of Viminacium, which had its own fortifications.
Viminacium excavations have been carried out since 1882. There is a Roman ship, golden tiles, jade sculptures, mosaics and frescoes as well as 14,000 graves and the remains of three mammoths.
Archaeologists estimate they exposed only 4% of the site, which they believe is larger than New York's Central Park.
(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by John Stonestreet)

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