SOFIA, Sep 7, 2000 -- (Agence France Presse) Teams of Bulgarian archeologists have made phenomenal discoveries in ancient Thrace this summer, uncovering the palace of a monarch and the biggest ancient Thracian sanctuary in the Balkans.
They unearthed a "waking dream" and made "phenomenal discoveries" during the summer campaign, the diggers said, discovering the palace of a Thracian king close by the medieval fortress of Perperikon, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the site of Starossel, where a sanctuary was uncovered, probably including the tomb of another Thracian king.
The two sites, discovered in August, are situated in the south of the country, respectively 200 and 100 kilometers south of the Bulgarian capital, Sofia. They date from the fifth and sixth centuries before Christ.
Valeria Foll, a specialist in Thracian civilization with the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, said that Perperikon and Starossel, were like "opposite sides of the coin," the life and death of the Thracians.
The Thracians inhabitated south-eastern Europe, the Carpathians and the Caucacus from the fourth century BC through the second century AD. Under attack from the Romans, their civilisation declined, disappearing in the sixth century AD under Slav onslaught.
They specialised in farming and stock-raising, but also were famous for their skills as goldsmiths.
The difficulty for the archeologists is that, unlike other ancient civilizations, Thrace had no writing.
For Thracians, the Earth mother was the genesis of the world, giving birth to the sun. The rocks that the sun's rays illuminated were regarded as sacred. This was why the palace at Perperikon was built between six and eight metres (20 and 27 feet) under the Rhodopes range, exactly facing the sun.
A monumental staircase led to a reception room giving access to a throne room measuring 25 by six meters. The king crossed a 100-metre long entrance hall before appearing before his subjects, said Nikolai Ovcharov, leader of the Perperikon expedition.
The diggers also found a secret entrance above the three fortified central gates.
Tens of thousands of Thracian tumuli and tombs are scattered across Bulgaria, but no habitation had yet been discovered.
"We still know very little about the palace," said Ovcharov, adding that sacrificial altars had been discovered.
Men and horses topped the scale of worth for sacrifices, followed by the bull, the ram, the male lamb, and at the bottom, the black cock, he said.
The king of the Thracians was the son of the Earth and the Sun, and as such lived in several palaces, "so as to illuminate the whole territory with his holiness like the sun," said Foll.
She added: "The king was immortal and had to have a sumptuous funeral to continue in his role as mediator between his people and the gods."
Gueorgui Kitov, who made the discovery at Starossel, said it was at first a temple where the faithful attended festivals and watched wrestling matches.
Later, a king, probably Sitalk, was buried there and the temple became a sanctuary and was buried. Digging is continuing on the site.