Ancient settlement discovered at Tsarevo, Bulgaria.

Exciting news from Bulgaria and the first excavation in the seaside town of Tsarevo.

The town, on the southern Black Sea coast, was known to have had an ancient past since underwater archaeological surveys have discovered amphorae from the 4th to 6th centuries AD and imported Roman red glazed wares from north Africa and the Levant.  Furthermore in 2008 an arched tomb of the mid 4th century BC was discovered in the vicinity, and the city's southern peninsula has remains of a medieval fortress.

Photo: BGNES
It seemed likely, therefore, that the modern town overlay an ancient settlement, and the archaeologists’ suppositions have been proven correct. The excavations, under the leadership of Milen Nikolov of the Regional History Museum of Burgas, have so far revealed remains from the 5th or 4th century BC down to the 1st century AD and include such small finds as lamps, grave goods and plenty of ceramic vessels. No doubt there will be further discoveries as excavations progress.

The tomb discovered in 2008 by Daniela Agre and her team in the municipality of Tsarevo showed the importance of the area and the presence of a local elite marking their wealth and place in society. The tomb was of soft limestone and dated to around 370-360 BCE. Although the tomb had been robbed and partially destroyed by treasure hunters, it may be possible to restore it to it original form and repair the barrel-vaulted ceiling. Any precious grave goods had been robbed but amphorae, local ceramics and a limestone chest for the body of the deceased still remained.

Built tombs of this type are common in Thrace and Macedonia from the mid 4th century and are most often known as Macedonian tombs. Interestingly, in his Laws (947D), Plato describes the ideal tomb for a Custodian of the Laws:

“Their tomb shall be constructed underground in the form of an oblong vault of spongy stone, as long lasting as possible, and fitted with couches of stone set side by side; in this when they have laid him who is gone to his rest, they shall make a mound in a circle round it and plant thereon a grove of trees, save only at one extremity”

This is could be a description of a Macedonian type tomb - for example the tomb of Philip II at Vergina.   The tombs are built chambers with a barrel-vaulted roof, often of limestone. They are sometimes built partially underground and subsequently covered by artificial earth tumulus. Although they may to a certain extent be indebted to Near Eastern prototypes, for example in Lycia and Caria, the final product is the creation of Macedonian architects. 

Such tombs must have been reserved for only the wealthiest of the aristocracy and the discovery of this tomb in Tsarevo is testament to the richness and importance of the area, perhaps due to trade but certainly also due to the mineral wealth of the area.