3,200-Year-Old Cyclopean Masonry Fortress Found in South Bulgaria, Shows Ancient Thrace Was Part of Mycenaean Civilization

The Cyclopean masonry outer wall of the newly discovered fortress near Bulgaria’s Zlatograd is similar to that of Ancient Mycenae. Photo: Archaeological team via BTA

An ancient fortress which is 3,000 – 3,200 years old and was built with the so called Cyclopean masonry has been found by archaeologists in Bulgaria’s Rhodope Mountains, near the town of Zlatograd and the border with Greece, and is taken as evidence that Ancient Thrace was part of the Mycenaean Civilization.

The previously undetected fortress is roughly dated to 1,200 BC, i.e. to the time of Ancient Troy and the Trojan War.

It is located near Zlatograd, Bulgaria’s southernmost town, near the southern slopes of the Rhodope Mountains, in an area that is only about 20 kilometers away from the coast of the Aegean (Mediterranean) Sea.

The Cyclopean masonry used to erect the fortress wall of the newly found Ancient Thracian city is typical precisely of Ancient Mycenae and the Crete – Mycenaen Civilization: it is built of enormous boulders without any mortar, not unlike the fortress walls of Mycenae, Tiryns, and Troy.

The Cyclopean masonry fortress near Zlatograd has been found by accident by an archeological expedition which earlier this month discovered the site of an Ancient Thracian royal residence from the 5th – 4th century BC located near the town of Benkovski, in the neighboring Kirkovo Municipality.

Each of the boulders used for the construction of the newly found Bronze Age fortress weighs approximately 5 metric tons.

The Cyclopean masonry of the newly discovered Thracian fortress from ca. 1,200 BC may have appeared to the locals as a natural rock formation. Photos: TV grabs from BNT

“This is one of the first testimonies of the so called Mycenaean Thrace, a [fortified] residence from 3,000 – 3,200 years ago. The fortress wall and the pottery that we discovered indeed speak of the period of the Trojan War,” archaeologist Prof. Nikolay Ovcharov has told the Bulgarian National Television.

Behind the fortress wall, his team has explored what they believe were two public buildings and a shrine as well as a necropolis, and a fortified castle. These are believed to be the remains of a major city from Ancient Thrace from the time of Achilles, Hector, and Odisseus

“The fortress wall was built using the Cyclopean masonry typical of the 13th – 11th century BC, the same type as in key sites such as Troy, Mycenae, and Tiryns, the centers of the Mycenaean Civilization,” Ovcharov has told BTA.

Nearly 50 years ago, late Bulgarian scholar Prof. Alexander Fol (1933 – 2006), the founder of thracology, the study of the civilization of Ancient Thrace, was the first to voice the hypothesis that early Thrace was part of the Crete – Mycenaean Civilization, which is widely recognized as Europe’s first Antiquity civilization.

Ovcharov sees the discovery of the Cyclopean masonry fortress near Bulgaria’s Zlatograd as evidence in support of Fol’s theory.

He points out that according to Fol’s hypothesis, the Thracian kings from the period of the Trojan War had their own fortified residences built with Cyclopean masonry. However, until the fortress discovery there had been few tangible arguments to support it.

“And now, in the heart of the Rhodope Mountains, we’ve come across a fortress which leaves no doubt that it was built in this way,” Ovcharov underscores, noting that the only other Cyclopean masonry in Bulgaria known up till now is found in the Nebet Tepe Fortress in the city of Plovdiv.

Archaeological artifacts discovered during the exploration of the newly found early Thracian city. Photos: TV grabs from BNT

As the Cyclopean masonry fortress has been found during the archaeological expedition that found a Thracian royal residence from a later period, Ovcharov hypothesizes historical continuity.

The expedition lead by Assoc. Prof. Zdravko Dimitrov from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology has been based on a number of finds from the area discovered over the past few years, including the rock grave of a dismembered Thracian princess containing jewels from the 4th – 3rd century, the ruins of a complex of monumental buildings, and a stone wall from the same period located not far from the Cyclopean masonry fortress.

An Ancient Thracian toy stork dubbed the oldest child toy in Europe from the Late Bronze Age, ca. 1,500 – 1,200 BC, has also been found in the area.

“This here was probably an Ancient Thracian residence [from ca. 1,200 BC] which continuing to function during the first millenium BC as well,” Ovcharov hypothesizes.

The field research led by Ovcharov and Dimitrov in the area of the towns of Zlatograd, Kirkovo, and Benkovski near Bulgaria’s border with Greece have been funded privately for the fifth year in a row by the Ethnographic Area Complex in Zlatograd.

“Our goal here is to support scientific research while also promoting the archaeological heritage of the region,” Alexander Mitushev, the Director of the complex, is quoted as saying.

Another testimony to the inclusion of Ancient Thrace in the Mycenaen Civilization is a vessel from Mycenae found in 2016 in a 3,300-year-old Bronze Age settlement near Bulgaria’s Razlog, also in the Rhodope Mountains.

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