Bulgarian Archaeologists Start Excavations of Ancient Thracian City Kabile near Yambol

Part of the ruins of the Ancient Thracian city of Kabile, one of the residences of the Thracian Kings from the Odrysian Kingdom, which is located near today's Bulgarian city of Yambol. Photo: Yambol District Administration

Part of the ruins of the Ancient Thracian city of Kabile, one of the residences of the Thracian Kings from the Odrysian Kingdom, which is located near today’s Bulgarian city of Yambol. Photo: Yambol District Administration

A team of archaeologists from the Regional Museum of History in the southern Bulgarian city of Yambol has started the 2015 summer archaeological season with the renewed excavations of the Ancient Thracian city of Kabile.

For the first time in 26 years the excavations of Kabile are funded by Yambol Municipality, which has provided a total of BGN 25,000 (app. EUR 12,800) for the digs in one of the most important cities of Ancient Thrace. The archaeologists will use the funding to excavate part of the city’s southern fortress wall.

The funding will be sufficient for excavating Kabile for a month-and-a-half, in two stages, by a team consisting of three archaeologists and 20 workers, the Director of the Yambol Regional Museum of History Stefan Bakardzhiev has told the Bulgarian private radio station Darik Sliven.

The Ancient Thracian city Kabile, which was established at the end of the 2nd millennium BC, is located on the southeastern slope of a tall hill known as Zaychi Vrah (“Rabbit’s Mount") at a curve of the Tundzha River, with a rock acropolis shrine on the hill’s top.

Kabile was located on the crossroads of several major ancient roads, and the fact there is no modern-day settlement built on top of it makes the Ancient Thracian city a fruitful place for archaeological research and cultural tourism.

Kabile was declared an archaeological site by the Bulgarian authorities in 1927; in 1969, it was granted the status of a monument of culture of national importance, and a national archaeological preserve, and in 1979, it was made part of a nature preserve.

The Director of the Yambol Regional Museum of History has also pointed out that in addition to Kabile his team will excavate three more archaeological sites during the summer of 2015, making for a total of one prehistoric site, two Antiquity sites, and one site from the Middle Ages.

“That way we will continue our tradition to conduct annual archaeological research of sites from the three main periods," Bakardzhiev says.

One of the other sites to be excavated in Bulgaria’s Yambol District is the prehistoric Maleva Mogila Mound near the town of Veselinovo. It is said to be “one of the most interesting prehistoric sites whose research started 79 years ago" by Bulgarian archaeologist Vasil Mikov.

Bakardzhiev points out that the archaeological excavations of the Maleva Mogila Mound were resumed in 2014 after a long pause when the archaeologists unearthed layers from the Bronze Age.

The other sites to be researched by the Yambol archaeologists in their 2015 summer excavations are the medieval Bulgarian and Byzantine fortress near the town of Voden (not to be confused with the Upper Voden Fortress in Asenovgrad), and the Ancient Roman city located in the Yurt area near the town of Stroyno.

In another radio interview last week, the Director of the Yambol Regional Museum of History Stefan Bakardzhiev revealed that more than 40 archaeological sites in the Yambol District have been raided by treasure hunters since 2014.

Background Infonotes:

The Ancient Thracian city of Kabile is an Archaeological Preserve located 10 km away for the southeastern Bulgarian city of Yambol. The city of Kabile was founded at the end of the 2nd millenium BC, and was one of the most important cities of Ancient Thrace. In fact, it is believed to have been one of the royal residences of the kings from the Odryssian Kingdom, the most powerful state of the Ancient Thracians. In 341 BC, Kabile was conquered by King Philip II of Macedon. The Ancient Thracian city is mentioned by 14 ancient authors, the first of whom describes its conquest by Philip II of Macedon.

After the collapse of Alexander the Great’s empire, in the 3rd century BC, Kabile was ruled once again by the Ancient Thracians. It was conquered by the Roman Empire in 71 BC, and was later incorporated into the Roman province of Thrace. It was an important regional center in the Late Antiquity as well. The city of Kabile was modeled after the Ancient Greek cities at the time. It boasts a stone acropolis with a unique rock relief of the ancient goddess of Cybele, a protector of the city. In the 4th century AD, Kabile was conquered by the Goths, and was later destroyed for good by the Avars.

Kabile is located on the southeastern slope of a tall hill known as Zaychi Vrah (“Rabbit’s Mount") at a curve of the Tundzha River, with a rock acropolis shrine on the hill’s top. It stood at the crossroads of several major ancient roads, and the fact there is no modern-day settlement built on top of it makes the Ancient Thracian city a fruitful place for archaeological research and cultural tourism. Kabile was declared an archaeological site by the Bulgarian authorities in 1927; in 1969, it was granted the status of a monument of culture of national importance, and a national archaeological preserve, and in 1979, it was made part of a nature preserve. The Kabile Archaeological Reserve has a territory of 650 decares (160 acres). It features ancient structures such as the agora (a central square), Roman barracks, Roman thermae, a bishop’s basilica, among others. Kabile is excavated every year by archaeological teams from Bulgaria and abroad.

The “Little Fortress" near the town of Voden is located in Yambol District, close to Bulgaria’s border with Turkey. The medieval Bulgarian / Byzantine fortress near Voden dates back to the 12th-13th century. It was excavated for the first time with government funding in 2014.

The Ancient Roman city near Stroyno, Yambol District, Southeast Bulgaria, is located in an area known as “The Yurt". It became famous to the general public back in 2007 when the team of Bulgarian archaeologist Daniela Agre discovered there a stone sarcophagus with unique golden decorations, and ceramic and glass vessels. Several ancient necropolises studied by Daniela Agre near Stroino, Borisovo, and Boyanovo are connected with this Roman settlement. After the discovery of a fragment of a Roman Navy veteran’s diploma in 2014, the Bulgarian archaeologists have hypothesized that the Roman town near Stroyno was settled by retired Roman military veterans of Thracian origin. In the past decade, the Roman town has been savagely destroyed by treasure hunters. According to the director of the Yambol Regional Museum of History, Stefan Bakardzhiev, the one-time Roman settlement looks like a battlefield, with over 200 pits dug up by treasure hunters in an area of 200 decares (app. 50 acres).

Bulgaria’s Yambol District, which has a territory of 3335 square kilometers, boasts about 4000 archaeology sites, averaging more than one archaeology site per square kilometer. Those include over 3000 burial mounds (tumuli) of which fewer than 2%, or about 60, have been excavated and researched; over 300 prehistoric settlements and settlement mounds; about 50 fortified towns from the Antiquity period (including the Late Iron Age, Ancient Thrace and Ancient Rome, and the Late Antiquity); and about 50 fortified towns from the Middle Ages (Bulgaria and Byzantium). In addition to the 60 excavated burial mounds, only about 20 of the rest of the archaeological sites have been excavated and studied. A total of 87 new archaeological sites, mostly burial mounds but also a dolmen, were discovered in Bulgaria’s Yambol District in 2014 alone.