The Ministry of Culture of Emma Moskova intends to lay with concrete the largest Thracian temple in the BalkansDijan Nikolov, pictures by Ivo Hadzhimishev
"This is a good opportunity. Here we possess a field of 8 decares and my son decided to build a hotel". These are the business-plans of the dairy-farmer Mina Cokovska from the Hissar village of Starosel.
Several weeks ago the archaeologists from the expedition "TEMP 2000" discovered the largest Thracian temple in the Balkans in the place Chenitjova mogila above the village. Next to the sanctuary unexpectedly appeared a stone-work grave of a distinguished ancient warrior.
Starosel is situated several kilometres away from Hissar. The ancient temple can be reached by a very bad dirt road covered with sharp stones. For most of its part there is, however, a parallel road which leads exactly to the tomb.
The temple dates to the V c. BC
It was the burial place of the powerful Thracian king Sitalces, proudly remarks the chief of the archaeological expedition Dr. Georgi Kitov. King Sitalces ruled over the lands from the Danube's mouth to the mouth of Mesta in the years 445-424 BC.
A stone wall, 240 meters long and up to 3 metres wide, was built around the temple. It was constructed of big ashlar blocks. At one place is the entrance to the temple. After several high stairs we reach a corridor, 27 metres long, 6 metres wide and 5 metres high. The temple has an imposing facade with an embossed and colourful decoration. Two rooms have been discovered up to now - a rectangular and an oval one.
The monument was not just a burial tomb as those found up to now, but an imposing temple, visited frequently in the antiquity, says Dr. Kitov. A proof for this are the gutters on the floor of the threshold from the sliding heavy stone doors. On Wednesday the archaeologists removed most of the stone pieces of the doors. The latter have very interesting
ornaments, resembling small women breasts.
The building was not intended to be a tomb, but was continuously used. "The king stood before the doors of the temple, flanked by his retinue. Here at the traditional holidays they feasted and watched wrestling and all kind of games", thinks Dr. Kitov.
The view from the temple towards the lowlands is indeed majestic.
Until now the archaeologists have discovered more than 100 valuable items. Among them are bronze decorations, three-pointed arrow-heads, ceramic vessels, amphorae, coins and other things. Immensely impressive is the small ceramic vial with a six-pointed star engraved on the bottom. It resembles very much the Haley comet. Some of the items point to the Hellenistic epoch (IV-III c. BC).
Quite unexpectedly the archaeologists discovered also a stone-work grave a few tens of meters away from the tomb. We used the time when the excavator machine was idle and this way a part of the grave appeared, says Kitov. The built grave turned out to be intact, a very rare occasion with the Thracians. Since ancient times there have been treasure-looters who dug up the graves, after the performance of the ritual.
A full set of arms was found in the grave. Two sets of bridle-reins depicting animals. Two knee-pieces, iron armour for the upper part of the body, a gold-plated neck protector, a shield, an iron sword, bronze spear-points and arrow-heads, 4 silver and 6 bronze vessels, 7 ceramic vessels with painted decoration.
Most valuable is however
the ring of solid gold depicting a rider killing a boar with a spear. This is the favourite find of Kitov and he always carries it on his left forefinger.