Bird Headed Ancient Thracian Warship to Be Built near Submerged City of Seuthopolis in Bulgaria’s Kazanlak

Bird Headed Ancient Thracian Warship to Be Built near Submerged City of Seuthopolis in Bulgaria’s Kazanlak

A 3D model of the future replica of the Odrysian, the Ancient Thracian warship to be built and launched in the artificial lake whose bottom has the ruins of Seuthopolis, the capital of the Odrysian Thracian Kingdom. Photo: Kazanlak Municipality

A replica of a “bird headed" Ancient Thracian warship will be built in the Central Bulgarian town of Kazanlak, and launched in the Koprinka Water Reservoir, whose bottom harbors the ruins of Seuthopolis, the glorious capital of the Ancient Thracian Odrysian Kingdom.

The ruins of Seuthopolis were flooded in the 1950s by the Bulgarian communist regime precisely for the creation of the artificial lake, Koprinka, one of the largest water reservoirs in the country.

Before they were submerged, the ruins of Seuthopolis, the capital of likely the most powerful Thracian kingdom, that of the Odrysians (Odrysae), were thoroughly excavated by archaeologists.

A large-scale project exists for the “resurfacing" of Seuthopolis by walling it off from the waters of the artificial lake, and thus making it accessible for tourists on the bottom of the lake but its realization is nowhere in sight because of huge cost estimated at tens of millions of euros.

Seuthopolis and the Koprinka Water Reservoir are located in the Kazanlak Valley in the geographic center of Bulgaria, also known as the Rose Valley, and the Valley of Odrysian Thracian Kings – because of the numerous Ancient Thracian burial mounds with tombs and other archaeological sites.

The project of the building of a full size replica of an Ancient Thracian warship is entitled “Archaeworld – in the Footsteps of the Great".

It has been initiated by the private Enochfilm Studio, and is supported by Kazanlak Municipality, the municipal administration has announced, releasing photos of what the bird headed Thracian warship is supposed to look like.

Kazanlak Municipality has agreed to provide the timber needed for the construction of the Ancient Thracian vessel replica which is going to be about 20 meters (60 feet) long, and is going to weigh about 10 (metric) tons.

The next steps it the project for building and launching a bird headed Ancient Thracian warship have been presented by project author and leader, Atanas Dimitrov, at a news conference in Kazanlak Municipality.

These provide for storing the timber, selecting a shipbuilding spot on the coast of the Koprinka Water Reservoir, constructing a dock which is itself supposed to be a replica of the docks used by the Ancient Thracians, and the actual construction of the warship. Once built, the vessel will be named “The Odrysian”.

3D models of the future Thracian warship replica, the Odrysian. Photos: Kazanlak Municipality

“The goal of the initiative for building the Ancient Thracian warship replica is to resurrect the skill of the Thracians to use the rivers for active commercial and cultural exchange, and for political and territorial conquests," Kazanlak Municipality says.

“The preparation of the elements of the ship should start in the fall so that its construction can be carried out during the 2018 [summer] tourist season before the eyes of the tourists on the coast of the Koprinka Water Reservoir, above the submerged ancient city of Seuthopolis," Dimitrov has stated.

He unveiled a small exhibition on the realization of the Thracian warship project, and also presented a short documentary about the support lent to the project by Doncho Papazov, a native of Kazanlak, a writer and adventurer who has sailed all around the world.

He also made it clear that the “Archaeworld – in the Footsteps of the Great" is part of a larger project for experimental maritime archaeology entitled “Rhesus", after the mythical Thracian king who was allied with Troy in the Trojan War, according to Homer’s Iliad.

Today the ruins of Seuthopolis lie right in the middle of the Koprinka Water Reservoir. Photo: Seuthopolis Project

This computer generated image shows the location of the Ancient Thracian capital Seuthopolis on the bottom of the Koprinka Water Reservoir, and what the ancient city will look like if the project for its walling off and exhibiting in situ gets realized. Photo: Seuthopolis Project

Background Infonotes:

The Ancient Thracian city of Seuthopolis (today under water) was established by King Seuthes III (r. ca. 331 – ca. 330 BC), ruler of the Odrysian Kingdom (5th century BC – 1st century AD), the most powerful state of Ancient Thrace. It was founded around 325 – 315 BC, after the breakup of the Empire of Emperor Alexander the Great (r. 336-323 BC), on top of an earlier Thracian settlement which is believed to have been burned down.

For several decades, Seuthopolis was the mighty capital of the Odrysian Kingdom. In 281 BC, Seuthopolis was sacked by the Celts, and by 270 BC, it is believed to have waned. Today, the ruins of Seuthopolis are located near the town of Kazanlak in Central Bulgaria, on the bottom of the Koprinka Water Reservoir where it ended up as a result of a decision of the communist regime in the People’s Republic of Bulgaria.

Seuthopolis was an Early Hellenistic city with active relations to other major centers of the Hellenistic World. The palace of King Seuthes III was also a shrine of the Cabeiri, ancient deities worshiped in a number of Thracian and Greek cities in the Hellenistic World, which indicates that Seuthes might have been a priest-king, the high priest of the Cabeiri among the Odrysian Thracians. The cult for the Cabeiri was associated with fire and metallurgy, and the smith-god Hephaestus.

Seuthopolis was located on elevated ground with natural defenses as it was surrounded on three sides by the Tundzha River. It had a fortified area of about 50 decares (app. 12.5 acres), and much of its territory was occupied by public buildings, rather than homes, with additional population living in suburbs outside of the fortress wall, and in nearby settlements. Its fortress wall was about 890 meters long, and it had the shape of a pentagon, with thorough urban planning similar to that of a Greek polis, and with streets crossing at right angles, and forming rectangular quarters. The city was inhabited by about 50 aristocratic families.

The name of the Odrysian Thracian capital became known thanks to an inscription found in the residence of King Seuthes III which stated in Greek: “This inscription [is] to be engraved on two tablets, and to be placed in Seuthopolis, in the temple of the Great Thracian Gods". The city also had a temple of ancient god Dionysus.

As part of their excavations in the 1950s, the Bulgarian archaeologists also excavated the necropolis of Seuthopolis, with three burial mounds, which, however, had been raided back in the Antiquity. The fact that many of the graves were found in brick tombs is something untypical of the Ancient Thracians because bricks were not used as construction materials in other parts of Thrace.

King Seuthes III was also the first Thracian ruler to mint his own coins. During the excavations of Seuthopolis, the archaeologists found over 2,000 coins, including about 800 coins of Seuthess III.

The King’s residence was in the northeast corner of Seuthopolis; it had a 40-meter-long façade, and was richly decorated.

The ruins of Seuthopolis were first discovered in 1948 by Bulgarian archaeologists carrying out rescue excavations for the construction of the Koprinka Water Reservoir. The Ancient Thracian capital was fully excavated by 1953. In spite of the value of the archaeological site, the communist government of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria (1944/8-1989) decided to go ahead with the water reservoir project, leaving the ruins of Seuthopolis under 20 meters of water.

In 2005, Bulgarian architect Zheko Tilev proposed a project to make the submerged Ancient Thracian capital Seuthopolis accessible for visitors by building a round dam around the city walling it off from the waters of the Koprinka Reservoir right in the middle of the artificial lake.

The project for making a top-notch archaeological and cultural tourism destination out of Seuthopolis by building a wall around it with a circumference of almost 1.3 km is estimated to cost about EUR 50 million. Walled off from the water, the Ancient Thracian city would be visited by tourists by traveling to its wall by boats, and then descending by four panoramic elevators.

The project has been supported by Kazanlak Municipality which has been fundraising to finance it but appears to be nowhere near securing the necessary sum. Yet, there are great hopes for the “resurfacing" of Seuthopolis, including because thanks to the detailed archaeological excavations in the early 1950s, modern-day Bulgarian archaeologists have all the necessary information to restore the ancient city.

If it is ever accomplished, the exhibition in situ of the ruins of the submerged city of Seuthopolis will be an integral part of the so called Valley of Thracian Kings – the area of the Kazanlak Valley which is dotted with Ancient Thracian tombs, including the tomb of the Golyama Kosmatka Mound where the founder of Seuthopolis, the Thracian King Seuthes III, was buried.

***

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 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.

***

The Valley of Odrysian 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 Odrysian 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 Odrysian Thracian Kings is where the Thracian rulers and high aristocrats were buried.

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