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Bulgaria’s own Indiana Jones

Known to many as “the Indiana Jones of Bulgaria” the late Dr Georgi Kitov who headed up Bulgaria’s archaeological team for Thracian Tomb Research was the leading authority on this ancient civilisation and was renowned for unearthing the greatest discoveries in Bulgaria to date.

Born in 1943 in Doupnitza, he graduated from Sofia University with a degree in History and Archaeology in 1966 and 11 years later he became a doctor within this faculty. In 1981, he was promoted to Research Associate in Thracian Archaeology and later to Chairman of the faculty.

 

In 2001 he founded and took the lead role in TEMP, the organisation devoted to Thracian Tomb Research. Dr Kitov who died on September 14th 2008, was also a member of the Bulgarian Academy of Science’ (BAS) and Sofia University.

Quest Bulgaria was fortunate enough to interview Dr. Kitov before his death to learn more about the man who had taken the international archaeological world by storm.

A quiet, pensive man, Dr Kitov explained why he became an archaeologist, “As a schoolboy, I was interested in history and archaeology, I asked myself a lot of questions about ancient times ... who were our forefathers, what did they look like, what were their interests, how did they live, where did they live, what did their weapons look like and what they were made of.”

This interest grew over the years to the point where he became fascinated with more complex issues like habits, customs, rituals, wars and funerals, Dr Kitov explained, “For me, this was the most exciting and interesting thing in the universe.” Naturally this burning passion to know more led him to study history and archaeology and later to forge a career in this field.
As his discoveries grew and he came into the media spotlight, the press dubbed him “the Bulgarian Indiana Jones,” but Kitov was not keen on this label, explaining that, “I’m real scientist and he’s just a movie character!”

Many of us have fantasised about joining an archaeological dig and making some astounding discovery, but few realise this dream. Archaeological expeditions are made up of 10 to 15 specialists, which consists of the archaeologists, a geo-physicist, a restorer, two architects, several students and around three to 15 local labourers to do the bulk of the initial digging work. Archaeological digs are a far cry from the TV- style dig where young students sit in the sun chiselling away at their finds; a lot of heavy plant machinery like bulldozers and tractors are also on site to cope with the heavy work.

Dr Kitov was one of the lucky few who made not one but several astounding discoveries, he recalled his feelings the time he discovered some rare artefacts including a golden mask near Shipka, “It was so amazing and exciting. People said I was calm when I found this unique item and until recently, there have never been so many early Thracian artefacts uncovered.”

Many items from Kitov’s discoveries including Thracian tombs and relics are on display to the general public; the Regional Development Ministry spent two million Leva to improve the local infrastructure around Shipka, which included the building of a road directly to the site now known as the Valley of the Kings. Other artefacts like the King’s mask, the golden wreath and the ring are on show in the Archaeological Museum belonging to the Bulgarian Academy of Science in Sofia and the bronze head of King Sevt III is in the museum in Kazanlak.

Re-Discovering Ancient Thrace

Bulgaria’s rich history may hold the key to its success as a tourist destination, particularly as Bulgaria’s State Agency for Tourism wants to create diversity in the attractions the country has to offer and thus shed its ‘cheap holiday destination’ label. Archaeological digs unearthing Thracian treasures can help further its aim; future visitors to Bulgaria will be able to visit ancient Thracian sites, where treasures that enrich Bulgaria’s history have recently been uncovered.

The Thracians inhabited the eastern half of the Balkan Peninsula, which today forms Bulgaria, Turkey and a small of north-east Greece. They left a rich cultural heritage behind and were skilled farmers, horticulturalists, horse-breeders, potters, weavers, miners and gold and silversmiths. Originally they were part of an Indo-European ethnic group. The first Thracian Kingdom was founded at the end of 6th century BC by Theresus; his heirs, Sevt I and Kotis I, succeeded him and united all of the tribes within the Thracian territory. They built a prosperous and wealthy country called Odrin Kingdom, which became a serious political and military opponent of Byzantine Athens.

At this time the Thracians attained huge growth in their socio-economic and cultural development which continued until the 3rd century BC when Thrace was conquered by Philip of Macedon, who included it as part of his kingdom. His son Alexander the Great continued to rule the kingdom after Philip’s death. After the death of Alexander the Great, Lysimachus, one of his strategists, became the governor of Thrace. He proclaimed himself an independent ruler and tried to restore Alexander’s Empire.