Bulgarian archaeologists have made an exciting find during their excavations n the Necropolis of Mesambria in the Black Sea city of Nessebar. A small stone built tomb was opened to reveal a bronze hydria dating back to 4th century BC.
Mesambria (sometimes spelt Messembria) was a Greek colony of around 510 B.C. on the site of an older Thracian settlement. The Black Sea was an important area to the southern Greeks as it gave access to corn producing lands and also mineral rich areas. Mesambria remained a Greek city until annexed by Rome in 72AD.
The hydria is the first find of its kind from the excavations at the necropolis and will doubtless lead to speculation of the status of the person whose remains lie within it.
The hydria was, as its name suggests, a vessel for water, but hydria often have a secondary purpose as a funerary urn. The cremated bones of the dead would be placed within the hydria, and then buried within the tomb.
The hydria from Mesambria is well-preserved with three decorated handles and was once also decorated with applied metal figures. Luckily the metal figures, though they had become detached from the body of the vessel were also discovered in the tomb. The figures are of a winged male and female, a common motif on hydria – see the example from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, below. Also found within the tomb was a strigil, suggesting that the occupant was male.
|4th C hydria from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York|
According to Aneliya Bozhkova, co-director of the excavation, cremation was very rare in the Necropolis of Mesambria and in the area, and so this may raise questions as to the ethnicity of the occupant of the tomb. The excavations continue.