This partly preserved Mycenaean alabastron, a perfume vessel, from 1,300 BC has been found in the Bresto Bronze Age Settlement in Bulgaria’s Razlog Valley. Photo: New Bulgarian University
A partly preserved alabastron, a vessel for perfumes, from Ancient Mycenae has been discovered by archaeologists excavating a 3,300-year-old fortified Bronze Age settlement near the town of Banya, Razlog Municipality, in Southwest Bulgaria.
The artifact dating back to 1,300 BC testifies to the connections between the civilization of Mycenaean Greece and Bronze Age Ancient Thrace in today’s Southwest Bulgaria, and especially in the Razlog Valley located between the Rila, Pirin, and Rhodope Mountains.
The discovery of the Mycenaean vessel in the fortified Bronze Age settlement located in an area called Bresto near the towns of Banya and Razlog has been made by an international team of archaeologists and archaeology students, New Bulgarian University in Sofia has announced.
The excavations have been led by Assist. Prof. Bogdan Atanasov from the Archaeology Department of New Bulgarian University, Prof. Dr. Philipp W. Stockhammer from Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich, Germany, and Iliya Kulov from the Regional Museum of History in Bulgaria’s Blagoevgrad.
They featured participating by students from New Bulgarian University and Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich, and thanks to the Field School of the Balkan Heritage Foundation, students from the USA, UK, and Australia.
A massive stone fortification wall found at the Bresto Bronze Age settlement is comparable only to the structures of the sixth settlement of Ancient Troy, according to the archaeologists. Photos: New Bulgarian University
While Ancient Greek pottery from later periods (such as the Golden Age of Athens) is often discovered in Bulgaria’s archaeological sites from Ancient Thrace, especially in the southern parts of the country, Mycenaean pottery is a rare find.
“Mycenaean pottery has only very rarely been found in Bulgaria," says New Bulgarian University regarding the discovery.
“The find dating back 33 centuries sheds new light on the relations between the mountain regions of Southern Bulgaria and the urban centers in the Aegean Region at the time of the Mycenaean palaces," it adds.
It is noted that another artifact discovered during the excavations of the Bronze Age settlement near Banya and Razlog offers further evidence of these ties: a lamella made of a wild boar’s tusk “which was probably prepared for the production of a ceremonial Mycenaean helmet", i.e. a boar’s tusk helmet.
The precise content of the partly surviving Mycenaean alabastron is yet to be established with analysis of the organic residue in it.
The archaeological site of the fortified Bronze Age settlement in the area known as Bresto in Bulgaria’s Razlog Valley is located on the slope of a hill surrounded from three sides by the Iztok River, a tributary of the Mesta River (known as Nestos in Greece) which flows into the Aegean (Mediterranean) Sea.
The Mycenaean vessel was discovered in a small passage next to a huge building with an apse.
The University points out that in the 13th century BC, at the time when the first fortified Bronze Age settlement emerged in Bresto in today’s Southwest Bulgaria, new defensive structures were constructed in the more important settlements of Mycenaean Greece.
It cites ancient sources in Linear B writing, the syllabic script used for Mycenaean Greek, as revealing that some Mycean palaces took defense measure, and adds that in the early 12th century BC, the Eastern Mediterranean was rattled by political and economic crises leading to the demise of the Mycenaean Civilization and the breakup of the Hittite Kingdom in Anatolia (Asia Minor). The archaeologists have found that this was the time when the Bronze Age settlement in Bresto was abandoned.
“For the time being, no such massive fortification walls [from the Bronze Age] such as the one in Bresto have been discovered in Western Bulgaria or Northern Greece," says New Bulgarian University, adding,
“The closest resemblance to the wall from Bresto can be found in the sixth settlement of Troy."
The archaeological excavations in Bresto are said to be aimed at a better understanding of the wealth and distant relations of the strongly fortified Bronze Age settlement located between the mountains of Rila, Pirin and Rhodope.
An aerial view of the archaeological site of the Bresto Bronze Age settlement in Southwest Bulgaria. Photo: New Bulgarian University
The excavations have been carried out with the funding and logistical support from New Bulgarian University, Heidelberg University, LMU Munich, the Balkan Heritage Foundation, the Institute for Field Research, Bulgaria’s Ministry of Culture, Razlog Municipality and the town of Banya, Valeks Group 2 in Razlog, and the St. Paisiy Hilendarski (Paisius of Hilendar) School in Banya.
Students from Bulgaria, Germany, the USA, the UK, and Australia have participated in the 2016 excavations of the Bresto Bronze Age Settlement in Southwest Bulgaria largely thanks to the Field School of the Balkan Heritage Foundation. Photos: New Bulgarian University