Bulgaria’s Road Agency Provides EUR 2.5 Million for Rescue Archaeological Excavations in 2015

Rescue excavations near Mursalevo in Southwest Bulgaria have led to the discovery of an Early Neolithic settlement. Photo: Bulgaria's Road Infrastructure Agency

Rescue excavations near Mursalevo in Southwest Bulgaria have led to the discovery of an Early Neolithic settlement. Photo: Bulgaria’s Road Infrastructure Agency

Bulgaria’s Road Infrastructure Agency, a government body, will provide about BGN 5 million (app. EUR 2.55 million) for rescue excavations preceding the construction of the respective sections of the Struma Highway, the Maritsa Highway, and the Sofia Ring Road.

The Bulgarian road agency reminds in a press announcement that in 2014 it provided a total of BGN 5.35 million (app. EUR 2.73 million) for rescue archaeological excavations that yielded some of Bulgaria’s most important 2014 discoveries such as the discovery of the Early Neolithic city near the southwestern town of Mursalevo, on the proposed route of the Struma Highway.

Most of the 2014 funding – BGN 4.3 million (app. EUR 2.2 million) went for the excavation of the archaeological sites along the route of Lot 2 of the Struma Highway in Southwest Bulgaria (running from Sofia to the Bulgarian border with Greece), while the rest, BGN 1.07 million (app. EUR 550,000), was spent on excavating the route of Lot 1 of the Maritsa Highway in Southern Bulgaria (running to the Bulgarian border with Turkey).

Bulgaria’s Road Infrastructure Agency says it has taken steps to preserve and exhibit in situ “part of the archaeological site” of the 8000-year-old Neolithic settlement found during the 2014 rescue digs near Mursalevo by drafting a design for the construction of “a retaining wall which will provide for the preservation of 3,270 square meters of the area of the Neolithic settlement.

Yet, it is still unclear whether the discovery of the prehistoric city at Mursalevo, which will be excavated for three more months – in April-June 2015 – will lead to a change in the route of the Struma Highway.

The road is planned to go through the very middle of the Early Neolithic settlement, and in September 2014 then Minister of Culture Martin Ivanov said he was going to initiate talks for with the agency in order to get it to shift the highway route so that an open-air museum could be created out of the prehistoric city.

The BGN 5 million of funding for the 2015 rescue excavations allocated by the Bulgarian Road Infrastructure Agency will be spent on digs along the routes of the Struma Highway, the Maritsa Highway, and the so called Western Arc and Northern Tangent of the Sofia Ring Road.

Background Infonotes:

The Early Neolithic settlement near Mursalevo, Blagoevgrad District, in Southwest Bulgaria was discovered in May 2015 (even though the spot has been known as an archaeological site since the 1930s) by a team of Bulgarian archaeologists led by Prof. Vasil Nikolov from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. It is dated to about 5,800 BC. The Bulgarian archaeologists found there at least 20 prehistoric buildings with perfect alignment whose walls are 20 cm wide and made of plant stalks and clay. They believe that the buildings were burned down deliberately in arson after firewood was stocked inside them. On the same spot near Mursalevo, the archaeologists have found a Late Neolithic grave with a skeleton in fetal position, artifacts such as tools, figurines, and ceramic vessels, as well as dozens of Ancient Thracian sanctuary pits for rituals and sacrifices from the 5th-1st century BC; it is thought that the Thracians deemed the spot of the former prehistoric settlement a sacred place.