THE THRACIAN CULT SANCTUARY AT STAROSEL

 

Surprisingly, the TEMP 2000 Thracian Studies Expedition unearthed this summer (the year 2000 - WBG's note) an awesome Thracian temple dating back to the late 5th and 4th centuries BC in the Chetinyova Mound near the village of Starosel. It consists of an imposing 241 m long wall (crepidoma, crepis) preserved at the height of up to 3 m at the centre, and two side stairs, a passageway, a finely executed façade, a rectangular and a circular domed room. Measuring 5.3 m across, the latter is the largest one found in Bulgaria; the temple itself with its size, planning and structural design  is the most imposing one in the Thracian lands. Buried here was presumably a god-like ruler, possibly king Sitalk himself. The imposing facility which took upwards of 4000 cut stone blocks to build, was but within the powers of a mighty, rich and influential king.

The temple is a key structure in a larger cult centre including a number of rock shrines and several dozen mounds. In two of these, smaller temples have been discovered also used as mausoleum tombs. Buried in some of the other tumuli were high-level members of the Thracian nobility, chieftains or rulers. The one laid in the Peychova Mound  was a follower of Orpheus. Back in the 5th century B.C. his body was dismembered and the three pieces were laid in an undoubtedly sacred rock tomb. Next to it, a ridge-roofed temple-like chamber was put up. It harbours the ruler's belongings - a complete set of armour (greaves, a chain-mail, a gilded breastplate, a gilded  helmet, a shield, a sword, spear tops, a bow with a leather quiver, arrows - with their wooden part preserved), two complete sets of silver articles to decorate the horse's bridle, most of them with animal images engraved, four silver and four bronze vessels, three amphorae, other pottery some of which -  with red-figure scenes and ornaments. Among the many other finds, standing out is a silver double axe (labris) - a symbol of regal power in ancient Thrace. There is also a labris engraved on a silver plate depicting a greave-wearing horseman drinking from a rhyton. The gold seal ring also displays a figure of a horseman spearing through a wild boar.

 

 

Another gold seal ring has been uncovered from the Mavrova Mound. Engraved on its surface is a winged sphynx having defeated a dragon lying in front. Conspicuous among the rest of the items are a human face glass mask and a bronze mirror.

Panchova Mound shelters the tomb of a warrior with a chain-mail, and other armour items, a set of silver ornaments for the horse's head. The nose cover is unique with its openwork and the gryphon with a fiercely open beak. A unique find thus far is also a bridle with two snaffles in the shape of single-edge cult axes.

The findings to date give grounds to state that the nearby area of Starosel, one rich in natural beauty, was an important place of worship for the Thracian tribe of Odrisians in the Late Iron Age.

 

Translated from an account authored by Dr. Georgi Kitov

Photos Stefan Dimov, Dr. Kitov

 

 


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