Archaeology Bulgaria

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CITY OF SALT

Today's doctors urge less salt, but such an advice would have sounded at least odd to the people of yore who had to do with preindustrial food. Ever since the dawn of civilisation salt was a rare and valued product. Its extraction was difficult, trading it often entailed travel of hundreds of miles, the control of salt extraction sites generated wars. Long before gold and silver became measures of wealth salt was used as a universal currency.

A prehistoric site in northeastern Bulgaria now reveals the role salt played in founding the first urban centre in Europe.

Fri, 10/30/2020 - 12:17
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Rock niches near Zhenda village

WONDERS OF STONE IN RHODOPE

When travelling around the Eastern Rhodope, you are bound to encounter this strange sight: on certain precipitous rocks, here and there, are scattered small, dark niches. Some are on their own, others form groups of dozens.

What are these strange niches, you might wonder. Nobody knows for sure, is the honest answer. The mystery of the rock niches that indent major cliffs in the Eastern Rhodope remains unexplained.

Fri, 07/03/2020 - 10:57
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BULGARIA'S DOLMENS: PREHISTORIC MEGALITHS SLOWLY DISAPPEAR FROM SOUTHEAST

Yes, there are dolmens in Bulgaria, and it was the Thracians who constructed them. This ancient people had a predilection for megaliths, the prehistoric manmade structures found all over Europe, whose most famous example is Stonehenge. The term megalith, a derivative of the Greek for "big stone," traditionally applies to the single standing stones called menhirs, the stone circles called cromlechs, and the dolmens, which are low, heavy structures often used as tombs.

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 14:35
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CHURCH OF BIRDS

A mosaic peacock, its majestic tail opened in full display, used to greet believers entering one of the most formidable buildings in the Late Antiquity Balkans: the Bishop's Basilica of Philippopolis. In 2019, the 1,500-year-old bird, restored to its former glory, will meet visitors again, after centuries of oblivion caused by earthquakes, invasions, wars, changes of population and history itself.

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 14:41
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AUGUSTA TRAIANA

It is the result of a tragedy and a necessity. In the 1877-1878 Russo-Turkish War, Stara Zagora was razed to the ground after a vicious battle. Rebuilding began in 1878 according to a plan by an Austro-Hungarian architect.

But no one was aware then that beneath the debris of houses, churches and mosques lay the remains of an ancient city with meticulous straight-street planning.

It was the Roman city of Augusta Traiana.

Tue, 01/03/2017 - 13:15
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BRINGING ANTIQUITY BACK TO LIFE

In October 2016, a thick layer of soil and debris covering an ancient mosaic for centuries was removed to reveal a stunning mosaic of a peacock with a tail fanned to show all of its majestic colours. But the marvellous bird is only a speck of the archaeology, history and art treasures of the Bishop's Basilica in Plovdiv. For a second year now, they are being surveyed by archaeologists from Plovdiv Archaeological Museum led by Zheni Tankova, with funding by the America for Bulgaria Foundation.

Tue, 11/29/2016 - 16:09
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THE SECRET OF MISHKOVA NIVA LOCALITY

Until recently, no one was able to visit one of Bulgaria's most interesting sites, the dark grey remains of a tomb near Malko Tarnovo. Under Communism, people needed special permits to enter this small town in the Strandzha mountains, as it was only a few metres from the border with Turkey, a member of a hostile NATO member. Even if tourists had somehow obtained permits, it was impossible for them to cross the border fence and take a look at the tomb in the Mishkova Niva area.

Tue, 11/29/2016 - 15:35
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ROMAN CITY OF ABRITUS

In July 251, the swamps at an all but forgotten corner in the Balkan realms of the Roman Empire were about to become the witness of a devastating event. Two armies stood against one another, in the summer heat. The legions of Emperor Decius (249-251) and his son and co-ruler, Herennius Etruscus, stood against the army of the Goth leader, Cniva, in the final meeting of a long cat-and-mouse game.

Thu, 10/27/2016 - 12:28
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VALLEY OF THRACIAN KINGS

By the turn of the 21st century, however, another name popped up and has stuck in the public's mind, evoking images of hidden treasures and untold mysteries – the Valley of the Thracian Kings. The term was coined by Dr Georgi Kitov, the archaeologist who worked in the area in the 1990s and 2000s and made some of the most fascinating discoveries there, obviously as a parallel with the Valley of the Kings in Egypt.

Wed, 06/08/2016 - 14:11
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MYSTERIES OF MEZEK TOMB

However, apart from the destruction that it continues to bring, there are a few occasions where this illegal activity has led to extremely interesting discoveries. The Thracian tomb discovered near the Mezek village, in the region of modern Svilengrad, is one such story.

The mound that hides the tomb is a spectacular sight, at 14m high and about 90m wide. Its name, Mal Tepe, or Gold Hill, indicates that its secrets had long gripped the imagination of the locals.

Wed, 05/11/2016 - 12:04
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BULGARIA'S ONLY OBELISK

North-central Bulgaria is not famed for its historical landmarks. It is a region of rolling hills and soft valleys, of small forests and depressed villages and towns where, even on the brightest days, grey is the predominant colour. It is as if generations of people had concluded that the landscape was good enough for farming, but not inspiring enough for the creation of something remarkable – a city, a temple, a legend.

As with most appearances, this one is not true. Indeed, this region is the home of one of Bulgaria's most curious ancient monuments: an obelisk.

Wed, 12/23/2015 - 11:15
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STONED RHODOPE

Traditional architecture and music, great food, and mystic landscapes: the Rhodope, the mountain range that covers a significant part of the south of Bulgaria, is cherished by nature lovers for many a reason. Its strange rock formations are one of them.

Thu, 11/05/2015 - 12:51
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POMORIE TOMB: AN ANCIENT MYSTERY BY THE SEA

Pomorie, a seaside town about 20 kilometres north of Burgas, has now become a concrete labyrinth of high-rise hotels and apartment blocks thronged with Russian tourists and holiday-home owners. It does not sound particularly appealing – but that's only on the surface.

Amidst the dust, sun and crowds of Pomorie, there is a place of eternal silence and an unexplained mystery. To find it, you have to take a sign-posted lane off the congested Burgas-Nesebar road. This lane leads to a lush vineyard and there, hidden inside the cold embrace of a huge mound, is a tomb.

Tue, 08/11/2015 - 11:36
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WHO WERE THE THRACIANS?

These people were the Thracians.

Today their name is barely known to anyone outside southeastern Europe. The Thracians built for eternity – especially tombs and shrines – but they lived in the moment and, underestimating the importance of writing down their deeds, they left next to nothing about their history, faith and beliefs. And so, bar the fascinating sites and treasures they created, the life of the Thracians remains more or less a mystery.

Wed, 07/08/2015 - 12:44
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DEULTUM: ROMAN TOWN ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF BURGAS

The bay on whose shore the city stands today was deeper and surrounded by malaria infested swamps.

Living conditions were at least inhospitable. A few people had made their home there from prehistoric to medieval times, in settlements and fortresses away from the coast, moving location as the coastline itself changed. The continuity of usage of the mineral springs in today's Vetren and Banevo neighbourhoods of Burgas is amazing. The healing waters were prized by the ancient Thracians and Romans, by Bulgarian kings, Byzantine emperors and Ottoman sultans.

Wed, 06/10/2015 - 13:59
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