Archaeologists Discover Late Roman Graves at Ancient Thracian Tomb Ostrusha near Bulgaria’s Kazanlak
Three funerals from the Late Roman period have been discovered during recent excavations at the Ostrusha Tomb, one of the most famous Ancient Thracian burial mounds (tumuli) in the Valley of Thracian Kings near the town of Kazanlak in Central Bulgaria.
The three graves, which date back to the second half of the 4th century AD, were found during rescue excavations in the late fall of 2015 by archaeologist Diana Dimitrova from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia and Meglena Parvin from the Iskra Museum of History in Kazanlak.
Their findings have just been presented during the 35th Regional Conference of the Archaeologists from Southeast Bulgaria hosted by the Museum in Kazanlak, which featured 15 participants with 11 reports, reports Darik Stara Zagora.
Inside two of the three Late Roman graves, Dimitrova and Parvin found preserved human bones while the third grave contained cremated human remains.
All three newly found graves were technically discovered in tombs built with flat and curved tiles.
The three Late Roman tombs were unearthed at a depth of about 2.5 meters below the surface of the Ostrusha mound. Each of them was about 1.7 meters long, 48-50 cm wide, and 40-42 tall.
The graves are part of a Late Antiquity necropolis from the 4th century AD, which was first found in 1992 when the archaeologists unearthed there three other graves from the Late Roman period.
The Ostrusha Tomb itself, one of the most famous tourist sites in the Valley of Thracian Kings, dates back to the middle of the 4th century BC, and was discovered in 1993 by.
The latest discovery brings the total number of known graves in the Late Antiquity necropolis at the Thracian tomb Ostrusha to six, archaeologist Meglena Parvin has noted in her presentation.
She has not ruled out the possibility that more graves from the Late Roman period might be unearthed during further archaeological excavations.
Inside the third of the newly found Late Roman graves, which contained the cremated human remains, the archaeologists discovered a number of artifacts including an oenochoe (an Ancient Greek ceramic wine jug), glass vessels, an iron ring, and a total of 26 Roman bronze coins.
The coins are said to be the most valuable find from the recent rescue excavations at the Ostrusha Mound near Bulgaria’s Kazanlak because they provide a very specific time frame allowing the archaeologists to date the funerals more precisely.
The coins were minted between 335 AD and 378 AD. Most of them belonged to two of the last Roman Emperors: Emperor Constantius II (r. 337-361 AD) and Emperor Valens (r. 364-378 AD).
There are also coins of Emperor Julian the Apostate (r. 361-363 AD), and Procopius (r. 365-366 AD), the usurper who attempted to overthrow Emperor Valens.
The coins were discovered in a pile on the floor of the third tomb, which is why the archaeologists believe that they were placed in a leather purse near the human remains.
The rescue excavations were conducted in the late fall of 2015, at a spot located to the north of the protective building at the Ancient Thracian tomb Ostrusha (but in the southern periphery of the tumulus) because of a landslide. They lasted for three days.
According to Parvin, the Late Antiquity necropolis was set up next to the 4th century BC Thracian burial mound Ostrusha as a “logical continuation” of the mound itself which the Late Antiquity population saw as connected with the burial customs of their predecessors.
All of Ancient Thrace (most notably, the Odrysian Kingdom – 5th century BC-1st century AD) was conquered by the Roman Empire in 46 AD, and the Thracian aristocracy was integrated into the Roman society as a provincial aristocracy.
The Ancient Thracian burial mound known as the Ostrusha Tomb is located in the Valley of Thracian Kings near the towns of Kazanlak and Shipka in Central Bulgaria, and is accessible for tourists.
The tumulus itself is about 20 tall and has a diameter of 100 meters. It was an Ancient Thracian burial and cult (religious) complex which also featured a temple of Ancient Thracian (and Phrygian) god Sabazios.
Learn more about the Valley of Thracian Kings and the Ostrusha Tomb in the Background Infonotes below.
The Ancient Thracians were an ethno-cultural group of Indo-European tribes inhabiting much of Southeast Europe from about the middle of the second millennium BC to about the 6th century AD on the territory of modern-day Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Greece, Turkey, Macedonia, Serbia.
The Odrysian Kingdom, a union of Thracian tribes dominated by the tribe of the Odrysians (also known as Odrysea or Odrusai bearing the name of a mythical ruler, Odryses or Odrisis, (ca. 715 – ca. 650 AD)), was the most powerful state of the Ancient Thracians. It existed from the unification of many Thracian tribes by a single ruler, King Teres, in the 5th century BC till its conquest by the Romans in 46 AD on the territory of most of modern-day Bulgaria, Northern Greece, Southeastern Romania, and Northwestern Turkey.
The Valley of Thracian Kings is a term used to describe the numerous Ancient Thracian tumuli (burial mounds) containing tombs and graves in the valley of the Central Bulgarian town of Kazanlak, which was coined by late Bulgarian archaeologist Georgi Kitov, a tracologist (an archaeologist specializing in Ancient Thrace). It is believed that over 1,500 Ancient Thracian burial mounds exist in the Valley of Thracian Kings alone, of which some 300 have been excavated by archaeologists. Not unlike the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, the Valley of the Thracian Kings is where the Thracian rulers and high aristocrats were buried.
The world-famous Kazanlak Tomb was discovered in 1944 (it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979). Between 1948 and 1954, Bulgarian archaeologists had the chance to explore one of the capitals of the Ancient Thracians, the ancient city of Seuthopolis. Unfortunately, those were only rescue excavations since the then communist dictatorship in Bulgaria decided it would be a good idea to submerge Seuthopolis on the bottom of the then constructed Koprinka Water Reservoir (present day initiatives for creating an underwater island to exhibit Seuthopolis for tourists have failed to be realized). The Thracian tombs in Maglizh and Kran were discovered in 1965. Thracian tombs from the Roman period (i.e. after Ancient Thrace (at least south of the Danube) was conquered by the Roman Empire in 46 AD) were excavated near the towns of Tulovo and Dabovo in the 1960s. In the 1970s, the team of Dr. M. Domaradski explored a Thracian settlement and a necropolis near the town of Tazha. Between 1992 and 2006, late Bulgarian archaeologist Georgi Kitov led his special archaeological expedition TEMP (Tracology Expedition for Mound Research) which explored over 200 Thracian burial mounds during the Iron Age and the Roman Age in the Kazanlak Valley. The expedition’s finds include over 15 tombs, 3 brick masonry graves, and a number of rich funerals. New discoveries after 2007 of funerals of Thracian aristocrats at Drumeva Mogila Mound near the town of Staro Selo, and Yakimova Mogila Mound near Krushare have extended the Valley of Thracian Kings’ eastward along the Tundzha Valley to the city of Sliven. The traces of civilized life indicate that the Thracians continued many of the traditions of the prehistoric people who inhabited the region in today’s Central Bulgaria. This is evidenced by the Buzovgrad Megalith dating back to 1,800-1,600 BC, and the city of Seuthopolis, which was built on top of a previously existing settlement. More Thracian tumuili have been studied recently near Buzovgrad and Dolno Izvorovo.
Of all the Ancient Thracian burial mounds with their tombs and graves in the Valley of the Thracians Kings, only the Kazanlak Tomb has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (since 1979). However, in 2012, Kazanlak Municipality started preparing its application for seeking UNESCO World Heritage Status for several more of the most major Thracian tombs in the Valley of Thracian Kings’ – the Golyama Kosmatka Tomb, the Ostrusha Tomb, the Shushmanets Tomb, the Helvetia Tomb, and the Griffins’ Tomb.