Bulgarian Archaeologists Start Excavations of Looted Ancient Thracian Shrine on Mount Ostrets near Velingrad
Bulgarian archaeologists have started excavations of an Ancient Thracian shrine on Mount Ostrets in the Rhodope Mountains near the spa resort of Velingrad, Snezhana Veleva, Director of the Regional Museum of History in the southern city of Pazardzhik, has announced.
The archaeological excavations of the Thracian shrine on Mount Ostrets are funded by Velingrad Municipality with project funding.
Prof. Diana Gergova from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia is the lead archaeologist; she is aided by archaeologists Asen Salkin and Dimitar Bayrakov from the Pazardzhik Regional Museum of History.
Velingrad Municipality, which is sometimes called “the spa capital of the Balkas” because of its numerous mineral water springs, plans to have the Thracians shrine excavated, conserved, and exhibited as a cultural tourism site.
Unfortunately, however, even though the Thracian shrine on Mount Ostrets in the Western Rhodope Mountains is hard to access, it has been severely damaged by treasure hunters.
“We have found a very tragic sight up there, with lots of treasure hunting pits. Add the fallen trees beause of the heavy snowfall in March, and we found a rather despairing sight. However, now things are going better, we have unearthed new types of archaeological structures, and I hope that this will become a very interesting site to visit,” Veleva has told Radio Focus Pazardzhik.
The Ancient Thracian shrine on Mount Ostrets was a sacred place for the Thracian tribe Bessi, and was dedicated to ancient god Dionysus.
It was discovered in 2009 by Prof. Diana Gergova, with one of the most interesting finds being an iron scepter shaped like two snake heads. The time range of the other discovered artifacts and coins is from the 8th-7th century BC to the 5th century AD.
In addition to the Thracian shrine on Mount Ostrets, the archaeologists from the Pazardzhik Regional Museum of History will be excavating another Thracian shrine located at the Kleptuza Lake near Velingrad.
The excavations of the Thracian shrine at Lake Kleptuza will take place in July-August 2015, and will also be led by Prof. Diana Gergova.
Gergova is also the author of a current exhibition dedicated to legendary Ancient Thracian poet and singer Orpheus entitled “The Mountain and the Faith of Orpheus” which is on display at the Pazardzhik Regional Museum of History until July 8, 2015.
The Ancient Thracian shrine on Mount Ostrets near the southern Bulgarian town of Velingrad was a sacred place for the Thracian tribe Bessi, and was dedicated to ancient god Dionysus. It is one of the largest Thracian shrines ever known, and was discovered in 2009 by Prof. Diana Gergova from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia. The place was also explored in 1989 by Polish-Bulgarian archaeologist Mieczyslaw Domaradzki. The shrine has been badly damaged by looting treasure hunters. The discovered archaeological artifacts and coins at the Bessi shrine on Mount Ostrets are dated from the 8th-7th century BC to the 4th-5th century AD. One of the most interesting finds is an iron scepter shaped like two snake heads. Other finds include richly decorated cult ceramics, decorations, part of a votive table, a stone altar with geometric ornaments, an artifact shaped like a bird’s head, part of a shield decorated with three different metals, including gold, fibulas, clay cult items. The coins discovered there include a silver tetradrachma from the 1st century BC, and coins of Roman Emperors and Co-Emperors Constantius II (r. 324/337-361 AD), Constantius Gallus (r. 351-354 AD), Valentian I the Great (r. 364-375 AD), Valens (r. 364-378 AD), and Theodosius I the Great (r. 379-395 AD). Part of the archaeological excavations on Mount Ostrets have revealed the ruins of several consecutive Christian temples – an Early Christian basilica and medieval churches.