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Bulgaria’s own Indiana Jones - Places of Interest

During the expansion of the Roman Empire, Thrace was absorbed into it. One of the most famous heroes of this time was the Thracian soldier Spartacus who became a symbol for freedom. He was captured by the Romans and then sold as a slave and later a gladiator. A few years later, with 70 of his comrades, Spartacus escaped, hid on Mount Vesuvius, raised a large army of rebel slaves and attempted - unsuccessfully - to free his homeland.

Within a couple of centuries, while the Byzantium, Bulgarian and Ottoman Empires were developing their cultures and economies the Thracians merged with Greeks, Bulgarians, Slavs and Turks and the true Thracian culture became unclear until archaeologists began to make some unique finds dating back to early Thrace.

Thracian Places of Interest

The ‘Valley of the Thracian Kings’ covers a small part of the Thracian lowlands in the middle of Bulgaria near to Kazanlak. Here more than 1,500 Thracian tombs and burial grounds have
been found. Places such as Svetitcata, Goliama Kosmatka, Aleksandrovo, Starosel, Shipka and many others have now begun to reveal the extent and huge wealth of the Thracian civilisation. These 2500 year old temples and tombs are unique - not only with their architecture and
treasures - but also with the history hidden within them.

The golden mask of a long-dead warrior king found in Svetitcata (near Shipka) contains more than half a kilogram of solid gold and was made in the 5th century BC. This extremely rare hand-made mask is amazing, with its realistic shape and size of the face displaying incredible detail.

Amongst the wealth of treasures unearthed at the site of the Golden Mask, there were also swords, Greek vessels and a golden wreath made with astonishing precision and decorated with oak leafs and acorns, as well as a goblet which, like the mask, was used during
religious rituals.

The Archaeological expedition TEMP (Thrace Expedition for Tomb Research) lead by thelate Dr Georgi Kitov started excavations at Goliama Kosmatka (also near Shipka). A Thracian temple which was built 2500 years ago was discovered and appears to be the biggest and the oldest Thracian temple found in the Valley of the Thracian Kings. It is 7 m wide and 5 m in high. In the middle of
the stone wall there is a corridor that leads to an inner hall and the centre of the temple.

Another astonishing find was a figure of the helmeted goddess Pallas Athena - the like of which has never been seen before in Bulgaria. The artefacts found in the temple’s chamber were used as a bed on top of which the king’s dead body was laid. Tombs containing vast amounts of ancient treasure such as were found at Goliama Kosmatka shows that this was the last resting place of a very rich and powerful man. Outside the temple the archaeologists discovered a unique bronze head, part of a statue of an ancient Thracian ruler.

Many of the Thracian treasures are currently on exhibit all over the world to encourage an interest in this most fascinating aspect of Bulgarian cultural history.

With the growth in cultural tourism, which has been fuelled by discoveries such as those mentioned above, the long dead Thracian kings may be able to aid the State Agency for Tourism in its quest for a more suitable label, which truly reflects the cultural significance of this once mighty land.