Sveshtari Tomb 2013

The incipit of a brief item from Novinite:

Over the year, Bulgarian archaeologists have made important new discoveries about the Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari, announced archaeologist Prof. Diana Gergova.

Among the most amazing discoveries was the fact that a golden casket discovered last year was placed on a powerful living tree in one of the tombs.

In ancient pagan Europe, strong trees were symbols of life and growth, and links between the terrestrial realm and the realm of gods.

“This mound is really unique compared to the other mounds in the site. Within it, we found new data for animal sacrifices, too,” said Gergova, as quoted by the Focus Radio.

Gergova argued that the important findings in the area mandate the creation of a museum at the site to display some of the items and tell their story. […]

I believe the casket that is mentioned is the one mentioned in last year’s coverage (which also notes a bit of a media fury):Thracian Gold

Frigidarium from Bourgas

From the Sofia Globe:

Archaeological digs carried out this summer on the site of the Roman-era public baths in the Bulgarian city of Bourgas have found the first frigidarium – a cold-water pool – that was part of the the Aqua Calidae baths.

The digs are part of a conservation and restoration project by the Bourgas municipality, meant to turn the Aqua Calidae – Thermopolis site, which housed public baths during the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman eras, into a tourist attraction, the city hall said.

Found at a depth of about 4.6 metres underground, it has a length of 6.8 metres and is 6.4 metres wide. It had a brick floor that in some place did not stand the test of time and architectural features that have led archaeologists to believe that it was built in the second century CE, when the first public baths were built on the site by Roman authorities.

A frigidarium was the last pool that bathers would enter in the Roman baths (after the tepidarium and caldarium) and its temperature was kept cold to close skin pores.

The frigidarium in the Aqua Calidae was in the eastern part of the baths, which has been the focus of this summer’s digs under the supervision of professor Dimcho Momchilov, with archaeologists from the Bourgas and Yambol history museums joined by students from four Bulgarian universities.

The most significant finds of the season were 18 wooden combs, which appeared to have been preserved by the water in which they were found. The dig team believes that the combs date to the early medieval era, but required further study, given that construction of the Ottoman-era baths in the 16th century and the modern baths at the start of the 20th century caused some displacement.

Other finds included about 50 coins from the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman eras, a golden ear-ring and a silver medallion, as well as other well-preserved wooden items.

A photo accompanies the original article. Bourgas (Dueltum) is a very well-covered site in the Bulgarian press and, of course, at rogueclassicism … here’s a smattering of our coverage (the search facility seems to be mixing things up a bit today):

Votive Relief of Zeus from Near Starosel

This one’s interesting primarily because of the ‘omen’ involved in the different coverage and how it is dealt with by the journalists. First, here’s the coverage from Focus-Fen:

Archaeological team of Dr Ivan Hristov discovered a big votive relief of the ancient Father of Gods and men Zeus close to the archaeological excavations of Bulgaria’s National Museum of History at the Kozi Gramadi peak in Severna Gora, close to the village of Starosel.
Director of the National Museum of History, Dr Bozhidar Dimitrov, announced the news for FOCUS News Agency.
“It is bigger than the votive slabs found so far and probably it is the central icon of the ancient temple,” Dimitrov said.
A strange event took archaeologists by surprise while the votive relief was taken out. A big imperial eagle started flying over them.
In antiquity Zeus was often portrayed as an imperial eagle and the younger women archaeologists started commenting that Zeus had come to see what they were doing in his temple.
The Kozi Gramadi stronghold, built in VI-V century before Christ, was a capital of a Thracian tribe, which used to live in this part of Bulgaria during the antiquity. The popular tombs close to Starosel are in fact the necropolis of the Thracian aristocrats living in the city.

Here’s the same site, with the same coverage (and sadly, the same, uniformative photo) via Novinite/Sofia News Agency:

A team of Bulgarian archeologists led by Dr. Ivan Hristov has discovered an unusually large votive relief of the ancient Greek God Zeus near the Bulgarian village of Starosel.

The news was announced by the National History Museum for the Bulgarian News Agency Focus.

The archeological team uncovered the votive relief which was much bigger than the ordinary ones and thus it was allegedly the center part of an ancient temple.

A large rock eagle appeared flying round when the archeological team was about to uncover the artifact. As the ancient Greek god Zeus was commonly featured as a rock eagle, some of the archeologists jokingly concluded that god Zeus should have come to look over his sanctuary.

The votive relief was uncovered while the archeologists were excavating the Kozi Gramadi mount in the Sredna Gora mountain, in the village of Starosel, close to the resort town of Hissar in central Bulgaria.

The fortress, located on the Kozi Gramadi mount , was built VI-V century BC and it used to be the capital of ancient Thracian tribe living in central Bulgaria.

The archaeologists believe that the region was the power center of Ancient Thrace in the 4th century BC. It was destroyed during the rise of the Macedonian state of Philip II in 342-341 BC.

… it’s interesting the different tone one gets comparing the use of “commented” to “jokingly concluded”. Not sure if that’s just an aspect of translation or sensation (c. e.g., all the claims this past weekend about a ‘True Cross’ find presented with incredible credulity by quite a few outlets …). That said, it would have been nice to have a photo of the relief itself …

Roman Baths from Sozopol

This just in from Novinite:

A Bulgarian team of archaeologists have discovered well-preserved remains of a Roman bath in the ancient Bulgarian town of Sozopol.

The news was revealed by National Museum of History director Bozhidar Dimitrov.

“The team, led by Sozopol Archaeology Museum director Dimitar Nedev has made the discovery as part of its digs in the area in front of Sozopol’s fortress walls,” said the historian.

According to Dimitrov, the thermae building is 18 meters long and features an intricate water supply systems as well as numerous pools of various sizes.

“Except for Roman baths in Hissarya and Varna, this is the best-preserved Roman bath in Bulgarian lands,” added he.

Dimitrov expressed satisfaction at the string of discoveries made in Sozopol, which he said will make an attractive open-air exhibit once archaeological works are completed.

Sozopol, founded by Greek colonists in the 5th century BC on what is now Bulgaria’s southern Black Sea coast, is now a popular resort town.

… the article is accompanied by a photo of what is clearly a hypocaust system of some sort …

Big Bucks for Bulgarian Baths!

It isn’t often that archaeologists get more than ten times the funding they asked for … from the Sofia News Agency:

Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Simeon Djankov, has pledged the significant amount of BGN 3 M for restoration and conservation of the historical Roman Baths in the Black Sea city of Varna.

The sum came as a pleasant surprise to archaeologists who have asked for BGN 200 000.

Djankov made the pledge during a discussion organized by the Bulgarian Standard daily in Varna in the frame of the newspaper’s campaign “The Miracles of Bulgaria.”

The Minister stated the idea to provide significant funds under the Via Pontica program was not to give more money for archaeological research, but to make existing archaeological sites more attractive in order to boost tourism. He called on archaeologists to be creative in inventing names and stories around their discoveries.

The program is named after the Via Pontica bird migration flyway.

Djankov noted the Roman Baths are located in the very heart of Bulgaria’s Black Sea capital and are a great tourist attraction, thus the goal would be to make them even more interesting and accessible.

The idea was firmly backed by prominent Bulgarian archaeologist Professor Nikolay Ovcharov, nicknamed the Bulgarian Indiana Jones.

The Finance Ministry’s list of sites for funding includes several medieval fortresses and the former royal palace and now government residence “Evsinograd” near Varna.

Varna Mayor, Kiril Yordanov, noted his city had 125 years of history in tourism, and in recent years the City Hall had slated BGN 11 M of its own funds for cultural events.

The Roman Baths are one of the most valuable monuments of culture in Varna, situated in the central part of the city, on the corner of the streets San Stefano and Khan Krum. This is one of the sites of the Archaeological Museum in the city.

The Public Baths of Odessos are one of the most preserved architectural monuments of the Roman Age in Bulgaria (1st – 4th century AD). They are of the so called “small imperial style” and their construction refers to the end of the 2nd century AD. This is the largest roman bath on the Balkan Peninsula – with an area of 7000 square meters. It is the forth in size in Europe – among the baths of Karakala and Diocletian in Rome and Trevira (Trier, Germany). It was used by the end of 3rd century.

Temples (?) from Sozopol

From Novinite:

Bulgarian archeologists in the historical coastal town of Sozopol are working on unearthing two antique temples – of Gods Poseidon and Priapus.

The information was announced over the weekend by the Director of the National History Museum and former Minister for Bulgarians abroad, Bozhidar Dimitrov. He added that archaeological excavations were ongoing near the fortress wall where the entrance to the town was uncovered in the summer with well-preserved parts of two towers and the “Saint Nikolay” monastery.

According to Dimitrov, two antique temples were discovered on the left of the monastery, both about 2-meters tall. Inside one there is a stone plate with an image of God Poseidon. The altar of the second temple is well-preserved, and was made by squares of white limestone cemented with iron clamps and lead. There, the archeologists have found a ceramic phallus with Priapus inscribed on it in ancient Greek. Dimitrov says this could be a gift from an individual who might have had some reproductive problems since Priapus is the god of fertility, protector of livestock, fruit plants, gardens and male genitalia.

Digs are also continuing at the north tower, which is located on the highest elevation in Sozopol. When works are completed, the tower will offer a splendid scenery viewed from the sea. Dimitrov predicts it will become one of the symbols of the historical town.

Okay … I’m getting cranky with identifications lately; not really sure what the basis for identifying these temples with these particular divinities, although the phallus is, er, suggestive. The other thing that confuses me is the photo that accompanies this article … I’ll break my usual practice of simply linking and include it below:

BGNES photo via Novinite

This is apparently a temple of Poseidon … it’s kind of interesting that no connection is made to the find of an erotic vase fragment at/near this site earlier this year (Erotic Vase Find from Sozopol)  … previous temple finds  include one to Demeter (Another Temple of Demeter) …

Another Necropolis in Bulgaria

The finds are from various periods, but it sounds like this find might lead to more within our purview. From Novinite:

A necropolis with over 100 burials has been unearthed during archaeological excavations near the village of Marten in northern Bulgaria.

The discovery was made by the archaeologist from the Archaeology Museum in the Danube city of Ruse, Deyan Dragoev.

The necropolis is on the path of the future gas connection between Bulgaria and Romania.

The site includes tombs from the Thracian times to the times of the First Bulgarian Kingdom. The oldest ones date from the 5th – 4th centuries B.C. Some reveal very interesting rites such as the tomb of a decapitated soldier, whose head was laid on his lap, while others have been buried with gold and silver jewelry or with their dogs.

Some skeletons have deformed skulls, which have been typical for the First Bulgarian Kingdom as a sign of high position in society and of nobility. Noble children then had their heads tightened with headbands in order to change the form of the skull, experts say.

Remnants include wooden coffins, and ceramics and glass from Roman times.

The two Thracian tombs, according to archaeologists, show that a Thracian settlement, unknown until now, has been located nearby.

On Wednesday, the Ruse archaeologists sent bone material for analysis at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

Severan Era Coin Hoard from Plovdiv

From the Sofia Globe:

Archaeologists working at the Odeon site in Bulgaria’s second city of Plovdiv have found 40 silver coins said to date from the third century CE when the city was under Roman rule.

The coins were said by archaeologists to have been minted during the Severan dynasty, while ruled from 193 to 235 CE and variously feature images of four different emperors.

The Odeon site, dating from the second to fifth centuries, is the location of a Roman-era theatre, and is smaller in scale than Plovdiv’s well-known ancient theatre in the city’s Old Town.

The coins were found near the complex of administrative buildings at the northern end of the forum complex.

This archaeological season, more than 600 coins have been excavated at Plovdiv’s Odeon site. From the Hellenic era, there have been many finds of pottery.

At the Odeon site, a marble eagle was found earlier in 2012, and is estimated to date from the second to third century. Maya Martinova, head of the dig at the site, said that the eagle was of a type from the interiors of public buildings, and along with finds of marble columns and other items, was proof of the luxurious interiors of buildings in Phillipopolis, a prosperous city at the time.

The Odeon site has also seen finds of tiles depicting theatrical masks and Roman pottery. The coins include some with the images, respectively, of the emperors Geta and Caracalla, minted in ancient Sofia and in ancient Plovdiv at the end of the second and beginning of the third centuries. […]

Some previous coverage of this dig:

Thracian Gold

This is another one I’ve been sitting on because the darned story kept developing — something not normally seen with finds from Bulgaria. In any event, here’s the original notice from Novinite:

Bulgarian archaeologists have found a unique gold Thracian treasure in the famous Sveshtari tomb.

The team, led by one of the most prominent Bulgarian experts on Thracian archaeology, Prof. Diana Gergova, from the National Archaeology Institute at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, BAS, made the discovery during excavations at the so-called Omurtag mount.

The researchers found fragments of a wooden box, containing charred bones and ashes, along with a number of extremely well-preserved golden objects, dated from the end of the 4th and the beginning of the 3rd century B. C.. They include four spiral gold bracelets, and a number of intricate applications like one which shows the head of a female goddess adorned with beads, applications on horse riding gear and a forehead covering in the shape of a horse head with a base shaped like a lion head. The objects weigh 1.5 kg, but the excavations continue.

The precious find also contains a ring, buttons and beads. Gergova explains that it seemed the treasure was wrapped in a gold-woven cloth because a number of gold threads were discovered nearby.

The Professor says these were, most likely, remnants from a ritual burial, adding the team expects to discover a huge burial ground, probably related to the funeral of the Gath ruler Kotela, one of the father-in-laws of Philip II of Macedon. She notes this is a unique find, never before discovered in Bulgaria.

According to her, the Omurtag mount is the biggest one in the Gath center, which was their religious and political capital while the Gath were the tribe that influenced the most western tribes such as the Celts.

Gergova expects the treasure will entice the Culture Ministry to finally fund in full this emblematic Thracian site, part of the archaeological reserve Sboryanovo with the Sveshtari tomb, which is on the world cultural-historical heritage list of UNESCO.

The Professor says the Omurtag mount must be turned into a museum where the excavated segment could become an exhibit hall.

… and I initially found the connection to Philip II interesting, and planned on mentioning that and moving on. Then, for reasons unknown, this story caught on. Art Daily, Greek Reporter, and the Telegraph, to name but three, were giving the find some attention.  Al Jazeera gave a nice video report as well:

And shortly after this media frenzy, the story seems to have taken a different turn. Novinite then was telling us that the Louvre ‘Eyes’ Bulgaria’s Newest Thracian Treasure and that Magnificent Bulgarian Thracian Gold ‘Outshines’ Obama’s Win. Of course, it’s only natural to follow those up with being told Bulgarians Want Unique Thracian Treasure Back in Hometown, while the Daily Mail decided to take it to it’s usual sensationalistic extreme: Golden discovery: Archaeologists discover astonishing haul ‘linked to Alexander the Great’ in network of tombs in Bulgaria … but they had some really nice photos. Things seem to have quietened down a bit over the past few days … it is a nice find.

Government v Archaeologists in Bulgaria ?

Given how often we hear of Bulgaria actively promoting archaeological finds, this story from Novinite seems somewhat strange (especially the stuff at the end):

A real archaeological treasure has popped out underneath the “Struma” highway construction works in western Bulgaria.

Archaeologists at the site have managed a last-minute rescue operation, pulling “under the nose” of waiting construction workers and machinery gold soldier breastplates, gold earrings and hairpins, and a number of silver and amber items, the Bulgarian Standard daily writes Friday.

The finds came from an unseen so far in size Thracian necropolis in the vicinity of the village of Dren, near the town of Radomir. They have been unearthed in the spring of 2012, after flooding in the area, but were kept secret in order to prevent their pillage from illegal treasure hunters.

Now, after the necropolis is buried underneath highway asphalt, the treasure will be on display for the first time Friday in the western city of Pernik on the occasion of its official day, according to Standard.

The unique necropolis dates from 7-8th century BC. It includes an area of 5 825 square meters, and is over 300-meter long. Bulgarian archaeologists are quoted saying it has no analogue worldwide and it belonged to local Thracian aristocrats since they were the only ones allowed to wear gold.

At the beginning of the year, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov treated local archaeologists in a surprisingly offensive fashion with respect to an archaeological site found during the construction of the southwestern highway “Struma”.

Borisov and his Cabinet have reiterated a number of times their discontent over the fact that the very recent discoveries of Thracian archaeological sites along the route of the Struma Highway might delay its construction. In December 2011, Borisov accused the archaeologists of “racketeering” the state.