The Bulgaria 2009 Review: Archaeology
Novinite.com Launches Special Section for Bulgarian Archaeology News
In August, following the huge interest on part of our readers from all over the world, Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency), launched a special section dedicated to archaeology news from Bulgaria. This initiative has proven extremely successful as it has increased immensely the interest of people from around the world in Bulgaria and its heritage.
Bulgaria Archaeology Gold Treasures Dazzle New Yorkers
In November, one of the oldest gold treasures in the world, unearthed at the Varna Necropolis on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, attracted enormous attention at a New York City exhibition entitled "The Lost World of Old Europe: The Danube valley, 5 000 – 3 500 BC" on display at the New York University Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. Valentin Pletnyov, Director of the Regional History Museum in Varna announced at a recent press conference that the exhibit was attracting great public attention. It was arranged through loan agreements with 20 museums in three countries (Bulgaria, Romania, and Moldova).
Archaeologists Find Prehistoric Necropolis in Northeast Bulgaria
In August, a team of Bulgarian archaeologists discovered a new prehistoric necropolis near the village of Kosharna, Ruse District. Led by Dimitar Chernakov from the Ruse Regional History Museum and Yavor Boyadzhiev from the National Archaeology Institute and Museum, the archaeologists found three graves of an adult and two children buried in a bent position dating back to the Stone-Copper Age.
Bulgaria Archaeologists Uncover Bronze Age Sanctuary
In July, a team of Bulgarian archaeologists has uncovered a Bronze Age sanctuary near the village of Kran, close to the town of Kazanlak in Central Bulgaria. The team led by Professor Vasil Nikolov from the National Archaeology Institute has discovered the sanctuary, which dates back to the 3rd millennium BC. Some 6 000 years ago there was a pre-historic settlement near Kran that was built of stone. After the village died off, it was turned into a sacred spot for sacrifice rituals.
Bulgarian Archaeologists Discover 7 000-Years-Old Settlement
In July, Bulgarian archaeologists have discovered a 7 000-years-old settlement close to the northeast city of Shumen. The village dates back to the Stone-Copper Age, and is located in the locality of Chanadzhik, near the village of Sushina and the Ticha Dam. The team was led by Stefan Chohadzhiev, an archaeology professor at the Veliko Tarnovo University, and Ivan Babadzhanov, an archaeologist from the Regional History Museum in Shumen. The most valuable find at the site is a fortification that protected the village mound from the west.
Antiquity: Ancient Thrace
Bulgaria Marks 60 Years since Finding of Top Archaeology Treasure
In December, Bulgaria marked 60 years since the discovery of its most famous archaeological treasure from Ancient Thrace – the so called Panagyurishte Gold Treasure. The anniversary was marked with the opening of a special museum dedicated to the treasure in the town of Panagyurishte, which was opened by the Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov. The Panagyurishte Treasure was found on December 8, 1949, by three brothers – Pavel, Petko and Michail Deikovi, who worked together at the region of “Merul” tile factory near the town of Panagyurishte, Bulgaria. It consists of a phial, an amphora and seven rhytons with total weight of 6,164 kg of 23-karat gold. All of the objects are richly and skilfully decorated with scenes from Thracian mythology, customs and life. It is dated to the 4th-3rd centuries BC, and is thought to have been used as a royal ceremonial set by the Thracian king Seuthes III.
Bulgaria Archaeologists Present Unique Thracian Tomb Finds
In November, a team of Bulgarian archaeologists led by Veselin Ignatov formally presented Tuesday their finds from the tomb of an aristocrat from Ancient Thrace near the southern town of Nova Zagora. In October and November 2009, Ignatov’s team found a burial tomb of dated back to the end of 1st century and beginning of 2nd century AD, located outside of the village of Karanovo, in southern Bulgaria. The aristocrat belonged to a rich family descended from the ruling strata in the Odrysian Kingdom (5-3rd century BC). The previously unknown tomb was discovered after in 2008 the archaeologists started to research area damaged by treasure hunters, and found a Thracian chariot at a nearby spot.
Bulgaria Has No Money for Sevtopolis Ancient Thrace Project
In November, Bulgaria’s Culture Minister Vezhdi Rashidov, declared that the project which envisages the restoration of the Ancient Thracian city of Sevtopolis could not proceed because of the lack of money over the economic crisis. The initiative envisages recovering Sevtopolis from the bottom of the Koprinka water reservoir near the central Bulgarian town of Kazanlak by creating an artificial underwater island. The ancient city was not taken into account in the 1950s when the Koprinka water reservoir was built. Kazanlak is close to the so called “Valley of Thracian Kings”, which features a number of Thracian tombs and is attracting greater and greater number of visitors from around the world.
Bulgarian Archaeologists Find Silver Treasure in Thracian Tomb
In November, a team of Bulgarian archaeologists discovered a new tomb of an aristocrat from Ancient Thrace near the southern town of Nova Zagora. The team led by archaeologist Veselin Ignatov found a burial tomb of 12 square meters dated back to the end of 1st century and beginning of 2nd century AD. It is located outside of the village of Karanovo.
US Ambassador Cuts Ribbon for Bulgaria Thracian Tomb Project
In October, the Chargé d’Affaires for the US Embassy in Sofia, Ambassador John Ordway, took part in the ribbon cutting ceremony for the restored 4th century B.C. Thracian tomb in the village of Kran. The tomb was discovered in 1995 and is the earliest tomb with "colored belts" painted inside. The restoration was part of a program called the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Heritage Project. The project was selected among several others competing for the funds.
Bulgaria Archaeologists Find Unique Cult Complex at Perperikon
In September, a team led by Bulgarian archaeologist Prof. Nikolay Ovcharov uncovered an enormous cult complex at the ancient Thracian city of Perperikon in the Rhodoppe Mountains. The complex consists of at least 9 altars each 2 meters in diameter located on an area of 12 square km. They are dated back to about 1 500 BC thanks to objects discovered around them, which is about the time of Ancient Egypt and the civilization of Mycenae and Minoan Crete. This is the Late Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age. On those altars, the ancient Thracians practiced fire rituals; similar rituals were practiced at about the same time in Ancient Egypt, on the island of Crete, and in the Hittites state in Asia Minor.
Bulgaria Archaeologist Finds Unique Golden Chariot from Ancient Thrace
In September, an exhibition displaying an absolutely unique golden decoration of a chariot from Ancient Thrace was opened in the Mall of Sofia, in the downtown of the Bulgarian capital. The Thracian chariot in question was technically in fact found in 1976 near the village of Karanovo but no one had realized its existence. Only at the beginning of 2009, archaeologist Veselin Ignatov, who is the head of the history museum in the town of Nova Zagora, Southeast Bulgaria, and a specialist on Thracian chariots, actually discovered it as he was inspecting earlier finds stored in the museum basement. Archaeologist Veselin Ignatov is a leading European specialist on Ancient Cars. In 2007, he found two chariots, and another one in 2008, when the US magazine "Archaeology" published an article about him.
Bulgarian Archeologists Discover New Priceless Finds in Krushare
In August, Bulgarian archeologists found two golden rings and a unique golden wreath in the mound near the village of Krushare, in the Sliven Region. The news was reported by the Director of the Sliven Regional Historic Museum, Georgi Kyupchukov. The discovery was made by the TEMP expedition led by archeologist Diana Dimitrova, wife of the late Georgi Kitov, one of the most prominent Bulgarian archeologists. The mound is a Thracian tomb, dated to the Roman Empire period.
Bulgaria Archaeologists Restart Work on Thracian Temple near Starosel
In August, Bulgarian archaeologists resumed work on the excavation of Thracian temple complex near the village of Starosel in Southern Bulgaria. The 2500-year-old site - the temple complex of the Thracian ruler Sitalk - was discovered in 2000 by the top Bulgarian archaeologist Georgi Kitov, who died of a heart attack during excavations at the same spot in September 2008. About 30 000 tourists visit Starosel per year; the continuing excavations are going to last until October aiming to complete the research on the site, and to turn it into a full-fledged tourist spot.
Nymph Sanctuary Found by Bulgaria Archaeologists
In July, a team of archaeologists has found a sanctuary in central Bulgaria where the nymph cult used to be celebrated in ancient times. The sanctuary was found by archaeologists in the vicinity of the Nicopolis ad Istrum ancient site, located near the town of Veliko Tarnovo in central Bulgaria. According to Pavlina Vladkova, leader of the archaeological team, nymph worshiping can be traced back to Ancient Greece, and Ancient Thrace where the mythical female creatures were usually part of the retinue of a god, such as Zeus, Hera and Aphrodite.
Bulgarian Archeologists Discover New Thracian Finds
In July, Bulgarian archeologists from the team of Konstantin Gospodinov, discovered new finds during excavations of a Thracian village located near the Blatnitsa River in southern Bulgaria, along the future expansion of the Trakya highway. The village dates from the VI-V century BC.
Bulgaria's Thracian Golden Treasures back in Sofia from Japan Tour
In July, Bulgaria's Thracian golden treasures finally came back to the National History Museum in Sofia after a year-and-a-half tour in Japan. The return of the Thracian gold to Sofia brought huge number of visitors to the Museum almost immediately. The record is 45 000 visitors in one day.
Bulgarian Speleologists Discover Unique Thracian Sanctuary
In July, speleologists from the city of Veliko Tarnovo have discovered an absolutely unique Thracian sanctuary in Northern Bulgaria. Evgeni Koev from the speleological club "Dervent" based in Veliko Tarnovo said the speleologists came across the Thracian sanctuary as they were studying cavern objects along the Danube. It is similar to the so called "Womb Cave" near the southern city of Kardzhali. It includes tombs, niches, and an altar.
Bulgarian Archaeologists Uncover Intact Thracian Settlement
In June, a team of Bulgarian archaeologists has uncovered a Thracian settlement close to the southeast town of Nova Zagora. The team of Konstantin Gospodinov and Veselin Ignatov explored the settlement located along the Blatnitsa River. It had a moat around it, and include large buildings rising above the ground. The archaeologists have discovered remains of stored grain, weaving looms, pottery including imported ceramics made by the ancient Greeks. The Thracian settlement in question existed in the 6th-5th century BC.
Saudi Prince Reported to Fund Bulgarian Archeological Thracian City Project
In June, it was reported that the nephew of the Saudi King Abdullah is going to take part in the project for the exposure of the Thracian city, Sevtopolis. Sevtopolis is under the waters of the dam "Koprinka" in southern Bulgaria, near the town of Kazanlak. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Alsaud is known for his interest in historical and cultural remains all over the world and has expressed his desire to fund the Bulgarian archeological project. Experts estimate there is a need of EUR 100 M to isolate the ancient dwelling from the waters.
Japan Prince Akishino Opens Museum of Thracian Art in Bulgaria
In May, Japan's Prince Akishino and his wife, Princess Kiko, together with Bulgaria's President Parvanov opened a Museum of Thracian Art in the village of Aleksandrovo near the southern Bulgarian city of Haskovo. Prince Akishino, the second son of Japanese Emperor Akihito, and his wife Princess Kiko arrived on a three-day visit to Bulgaria on May 13 as part of their two-week tour of Europe. The construction of the Museum of Thracian Art has been fully funded by the Japanese government, which has allocated almost USD 3 M for this purpose.
Antiquity: Ancient Rome
Bulgaria Archaeologists Uncover New Roman Finds in Plovdiv
In July, Bulgarian archaeologists revealed two Roman-time streets, a private home of a Roman notable, and Roman artifacts in the southern Bulgarian city of Plovdiv. The new finds were discovered close to the Roman amphitheater in Plovdiv, after the excavation work that originally started there in 1976 was resumed at the beginning of July 2009. The person in charge is archaeologist Zhenya Tankova.
Bulgaria's Roman City Nikopolis ad Istrum Sees Further Excavations
The ancient Roman city of Nikopolis ad Istrum in Central Northern Bulgaria saw further excavations in the summer of 2009 as a joint undertaking of the Veliko Tarnovo University and the Regional History Museum in Veliko Tarnovo, funded by the EU Social Fund through the Ministry of Education. The researchers uncovered the architectural remains from the time of the founding of Nikopolis ad Istrum - the beginning of 2nd century AD, during the reigns of Emperor Trajan (98-117) and Hadrian (118-136), including several public buildings located at the forum of the city.
Ancient Roman Tunnel Discovered in Bulgaria's Plovdiv
In July, municipal employees discovered a well-preserved ancient Roman tunnel in the southern Bulgarian city of Plovdiv. They were clearing up the Nebet Tepe ("Guards' Hill") fortress in order to turn into a tourist attraction when they came across the tunnel near the Maritsa River. Plovdiv's Deputy Mayor Shopov, who is a historian himself said no one had any idea about the existence of the tunnel.
Archaeologist Set to Recreate Palace of Greatest Bulgarian Tsar
In November, leading Bulgarian archaeologist Nikolay Ovcharov presented a project for creating an exact 1:10 replica (i.e. ten times smaller) of the palace of Tsar Simeon I The Great (893-927 AD) in his capital Veliki Preslav. The replica palace will be located on an area of 700 square meters, and its walls will be 3,5 meters high; it will be constructed of light materials. It is going to feature historical performances with the latest light and cinema technology. The realization of Ovcharov’s project costs BGN 6 M, and the Veliki Preslav Municipality has tabled its application to the Ministry of Regional Development for EU funding under the Regional Development Operational Program.
Archaeologists 'Strike Gold' by Finding Quarries of Greatest Bulgarian Tsar
In October, archaeologists solved a long-standing mystery by finding the limestone quarries that Bulgaria's Tsar Simeon I The Great (893-927 AD) used to build his imperial palaces. The quarries are located close to the village of Srednya, Shumen District, Northeast Bulgaria, just 15 km away from Simeon’s capital city Veliki Preslav. The spot has been found by accident by employees of the Shumensko Plato (“Shumen Plateau”) Natural Park, who were mapping the region. The discovery has been confirmed by Georgi Maystorski, Director of the Shumen Museum.
Veliko Tarnovo Boasts Permanent 2nd Bulgarian Empire Exhibit
In October, a permanent exhibit dedicated to the finds discovered in the “Saints Peter and Pavel” monastery opened doors in the Bulgarian city of Veliko Tarnovo. About 100 burials of Veliko Tarnovo noble and wealthy people have been discovered near the church. They date from the 14th to the 18th century. The archeologists discovered over 100 precious gold and silver objects in the burial sites.
Bulgaria Archaeologists Find Relics of Medieval Saint at Perperikon
In September, the team of Bulgarian archaeologist, Professor Nikolay Ovcharov, has discovered relics of a medieval saint at the fortress of Perperikon in the Rhodoppe Mountains. The remains of human bones were found inside one of two bronze crosses as the archaeologists were excavating two churches. One of the crosses is larger and has an life-like image of the crucified Jesus Christ on its front, and an image of Virgin Mary praying on its back. It is dated back to 10-11th century. The second cross is smaller, with geometrical motives, dated to 5th-7th century AD, and it is inside it that the archaeologists found the remains of human bones.
Bulgaria Archaeologists Find 14th Century Medallion with Christ
In August, Bulgarian archaeologists discovered a unique glass medallion with Christ Pantocrator at the excavated fortress of Kastritsi near Varna. The archaeological team is led by Valentin Pletnyov, head of the Varna Regional History Museum. The medallion, which is dated back to the 14th century, the later period of the Second Bulgarian State (1186-1396), was discovered in the wooden floor of one of the large buildings in the fortress Kastritsi, which is close to the Euxinograd palace on the Black Sea coast.
Bulgarian Archaeologists Discover Unique Medieval Byzantine Seal
In August, Bulgarian archaeologist, Prof. Kazimir Popkonstantinov, discovered a unique medieval seal at the site of the Knyazhevski (i.e. "Princely") Monastery near the Eastern city of Varna. The seal is dated back to the 10th century and belonged to the Byzantine dignitary Antonius, who was an imperial protospatario in Constantinople. Antonius had correspondence with a representative of the Knyazhevski Monastery, who is believed to have been the Bulgarian Knyaz (i.e. king) Boris I (r. 852-889 AD) himself.
Archaeologist Shows Precious Finds from Medieval Bulgaria
In August, Bulgaria's top archaeologist, Professor Nikolay Ovcharov, presented artifacts and jewelry that he discovered recently in Veliko Tarnovo, the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD). Ovcharov has discovered the remains of the medieval St. Peter and St. Paul Monastery and the St. Ivan of Rila Church, which both provide information about the life of the medieval Bulgarian capital that had never been available before. Ovcharov has found 20 silver rings, and a massive 23-gram male ring of 21-carat gold that he showed at a special press conference in Sofia.
Bulgarian Archaeologists Rediscover Ancient Black Sea Fortress
In August, Bulgarian archaeologists have rediscovered a Late Antiquity fortress located near the town of Byala on the St. Atanas Cape on Bulgaria's Black Sea coast. A team of archaeologists from the Varna Archaelogy Museum led by Prof. Dr. Valeri Yotov said the fortress was an early Byzantine one; it is located on an area of 38-40 decares, and is dated back to the time of the Byzantine Emperors Anastasius I (491-518 AD), and Justinian I (527-565 AD). The only previously known information about the fortress comes from a note from 1892 of the brothers Hermingild and Karel Skorpil, the founders of Bulgarian archaeology, and a short expedition in the 1970s. Ancient Greek geographer Strabo mentions in his writings of a fortress called Larisa to the south of Odessos (today's Varna) but it is still unclear whether the fortress discovered by the Bulgarian archaeologists is in fact Larisa.
Bulgaria Archeologists Find Unused Byzantine Coins
In August, Bulgarian archeologists found unused coins with picture of the Byzantine emperor Basil II, later surnamed the Bulgar-slayer. The finding was made by the team of the Dr.Krasimir Leshtakov near the village of Yabalkovo, in the Southern Dimitrovgrad municipality. The two coins had never been used, which preserved them in perfect condition. Basil the Bulgar-slayer is pictured with his son, and the coins are dated back to the first half of the eleventh century.
Bulgarian Archaeologists Start Excavation of Medieval Fortress Krakra
In August, a special archaeological expedition started to excavate the Bulgarian medieval fortress Krakra near the western city of Pernik. It was part of the expedition is part of the initiative "Preserve the Bulgarian [Heritage]" of President Georgi Parvanov, who is himself a native of Pernik. Archaeologists believe the Krakra fortress was most likely founded after 809 AD when the region was conquered by the Bulgarian Khan Krum. It was built on the spot of a small Thracian settlement. In the 10th and 11th century the fortress was very important center in the war between Bulgaria and Byzantium.
Bulgaria Archaeologists Find Solid Golden Ring with Roman Gem
In July, Bulgarian archaeologists have found a solid golden ring with an antique Roman gem during excavation of "St.Ivan Rilski" church in the Northern city of Veliko Tarnovo. The unique 25-gram ring has a fine craftsmanship, and is made of 23-carat gold. On the installed gem, there is an image of what is thought to be the god Jupiter holding a buckler, and a spear. The team of Prof. Nikolay Ovcharov and Dr. Hitko Vachev, which is working on the site for the second year, has excavated more than 100 precious objects.
Ancient Bulgaria Castle Found near Greece Border
In July, a castle of a Bulgarian aristocrat has been discovered just a kilometer away from the Greek border, in Ivaylovgrad municipality. The fortress was named "Rodestyuick". The name is known from the chronics of Geoffrey of Villehardoin, a knight who participated in the Fourth Crusade and had passed trough the region a year before Bulgaria's tsar Kaloyan inflicted a crushing defeat on the Crusade army.
Bulgaria Archaeologists Discover 13th Century Monastery, French Jewelry
In July, a team of Bulgarian archaeologists led by Professor Nikolay Ovcharov made unique excavation discoveries from the pinnacle of the Second Bulgarian Empire. In the yard of the St Peter and St. Paul Church in the medieval Bulgarian capital of Veliko Tarnovo, Ovcharov and his team found part of a wall and medieval coins within it that are dated back to 1210-1240. Ovcharov believes that this was part of the Monastery of the Bulgarian Patriarch in the 13th century.
Bulgarian Archaeologists Find Remains of Medieval Book in Veliko Tarnovo
In June, Bulgarian archaeologists have discovered the silver and gold casing of a medieval book in the yard of the St. Peter and St. Paul church in the city of Veliko Tarnovo. The book casing is only partially preserved. It was found by the team of Professor Nikolay Ovcharov and Dr. Hitko Vachev hope to find the rest of it as well as other valuable items during their continuing excavations, and is dated back to the end of the 14th century.
Russian Satellite Discovers Volga Bulgaria's Khan Palace
In June, the presumable location of the Khan palace in the capital of the ancient Volga Bulgaria State has been discovered with the help of a Russian satellite. The news was reported by the Constructor in Chief of the Rocket-Space center in the Russian city of Samara, Ravil Ahmetov. Ahmetov said the palace's remains have been located in the historical reserve "Ancient Bolghar" with special technology used to decode the satellite data.
Australia SBS TV Releases Film on Treasure Hunting in Bulgaria
In September, the Dateline current affairs program of the Australian SBS TV released a documentary on treasure hunting in Bulgaria. "Plundering the Past" is a film of Australian journalist David O'Shea demonstrating how treasure hunters pray on Bulgaria's archaeological heritage. (You can watch the film HERE.) Ivan Dikov, the Editor-in-Chief of Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency), was also involved in the project of David O'Shea by serving as a fixer and translator.
"Plundering the Past" focuses on the ancient Roman town of Ratiaria located on the Danube River in northeast Bulgaria, which was one of the six arsenal towns in the Roman Empire during the height of its power under Emperor Trajan (98 AD - 117 AD). While it was fully preserved until the late 1980s, Ratiaria was totally destroyed by treasure hunters after 1989, i.e. in the past two decades, who would use all sorts of means in their search for treasures, artifacts, statues, etc that they can then sell up the organized crime chain. The Dateline documentary also shows an incident in which the team is attacked while trying to talk to a group of treasure hunters that they surprised on the spot at Ratiaria.
The people who appear in the documentary are Bulgarian archaeologists Ventsislav Gergov, Georgi Ganetsovski, and Diana Gergova; head of the unit for combating trafficking of cultural heritage items at the Bulgarian police, Volodya Velkov; Todor Chobanov - lawyer prosecuting cases of treasure hunting and trafficking who became Bulgaria's Deputy Minister of Culture in the GERB government just two months after the movie was shot in June 2009; Petar Dimitrov, a collector; anonymous treasure hunters.
33 000 Treasure Hunters Sack Bulgaria's Archaeology Heritage
Between 30 000 and 33 000 people are involved in treasure hunting in Bulgaria - an activity leading to irreparable damage of archaeological sites. This figure has been announced in July by Volodya Velkov, head of the the Unit for Fighting Trafficking of Cultural Heritage Items, with the Bulgarian Interior Ministry. Velkov has been in charge of a 40-strong team to combat treasure hunting since 2006; he said he relied a lot on the enforcing of the new Cultural Heritage Act that came into force in April 2009 in order to curb the illegal treasure hunting activities.
Bulgaria Archaeologists Blast Changes in Cultural Heritage Act
In September, leading Bulgarian archaeologists have declared themselves against amendments of the newly-adopted Cultural Heritage Act pushed forth by the ruling GERB party. The changes provide for more lenient requirements for the registration of antiques and archaeological items modifying the law that is supposed to protect Bulgaria's cultural heritage from the treasure hunting plague and organized crime groups dealing with antiques trafficking.
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