Bulgaria’s Largest Ancient Thracian Burial Mound to Get Open-Air Museum with Norway, EEA Funding

The Maltepe Ancient Thracian burial mound near Bulgaria’s Manole is seen in the background before the ground-breaking ceremony for its future open-air museum. Photo: Maltepe Project / Maritsa Municipality

What is believed to be the largest Ancient Thracian burial mound in Bulgaria, the so called Maltepe Mound, an unexcavated one at that, is going to be turned into an open-air museum with government funding from Norway and European Economic Area.

The Maltepe Thracian Burial Mound is some 100 meters in diameter, and about 28 meters tall. It is made up of some 87,000 cubic meters of soil.

The Maltepe Mound in question is located near the town of Manole, Maritsa Municipality, Plovdiv District, about 10 km away from the city of Plovdiv, the successor of ancient Philipopolis.

It should not be confused with another Thracian burial mound called “Maltepe" which is located near the town of Mezek and the ruins of the Mezek Fortress, Svilengrad Municipality, about 130 km to the east. The latter is also known as the Mezek Thracian Tomb, which has already been turned into a museum, and is open for visitors.

The project for the open-air museum at the Maltepe Ancient Thracian burial mound near Manole has been funded with a total of EUR 806,000 by the Norway Grants / European Economic Area (EEA) Grants, a development aid mechanism of the governments of Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.

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The official ground-breaking ceremony for the future open-air museum, with burial mound visible in the background. Photos: Maltepe Project / Maritsa Municipality

The official ground breaking ceremony for the construction of the future museum took place on Wednesday, July 27, 2016, Maritsa Municipality has announced on the official website of the project, which is being executed in cooperation with the Plovdiv Museum of Archaeology and the Plovdiv District Governor’s Administration.

The start of the construction was given by Maritsa Municipality Mayor Dimitar Ivanov, Manole Mayor Alexander Ivanov, and Plovdiv Museum of Archaeology Director Kostadin Kisyov.

The Norway / EEA-funded project for Bulgaria’s largest Ancient Thracian burial mound technically started in August 2015, and is supposed to be completed by the end of February 2017.

It is noted that the Maltepe Mound near Manole, which itself has not been excavated yet, is part of a large Thracian mound necropolis connected with the history of ancient Philipopolis (today’s Plovdiv) in the period between the 1st century BC and the 3rd century AD.

Bulgaria’s countryside is dotted with thousands of Ancient Thracian burial mounds but the great majority of them date back to the 5th-1st century BC.

The cultural heritage project provides for the construction of an information center, exhibition space, a conference hall, archaeology training facilities (with a combined built-up area of 790 square meters), and a parking lot fitting 15 cars and 2 buses.

Update as of October 20, 2016: A total of five ritual pits containing inventories from the 2nd-3rd century AD have been discovered in the periphery of the Maltepe Mound which was excavated for the first time ever.

The open-air museum of the largest Ancient Thracian burial mound in Bulgaria will be completed long before the archaeological excavation of the burial mound itself to support the research with its brand-new training and teaching facilities. Photos: Maltepe Project / Maritsa Municipality

Background Infonotes:

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.

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The Odrysian Kingdom, a union of Thracian tribes dominated by the tribe of the Odrysians (also known as Odrysea or Odrysai bearing the name of a mythical ruler, Odryses or Odrisis, (ca. 715 – ca. 650 AD)), was one of the two most powerful states 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.

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