A Thracian temple and sanctuary of Zeus and Hera discovered in central Bulgaria

The fourth archaeological season at the Kozi Gramadi peak has proved fruitful for the National History Museum of Bulgaria. Under the direction of Dr. Ivan Hristov excavations have recommenced at the Kozi peak, 1365 metres above sea level, in the village of Starossel near Hissarya.

This season’s excavations have involved the exploration of a large sanctuary at the summit of the Kozi hill, which in ancient times was surrounded by a stone wall, and resulted in the discovery of a Thracian temple and a sanctuary of Zeus and Hera that covers an area of 50 square metres.

The temple seems to have been in operation during the Early Iron Age from the eighth to sixth centuries BC, and then rebuilt during the fourth century at the same time as the construction of the Odrissian palace at the foot of the hill.

One of the altars (Photo: NHM

During this period, the Thracians used cut stone blocks to emphasize the fa├žade and roofed the temple with Corinthian style tiles. The old clay altars were also replaced with four round altars built of stone and clay.

This shrine, and another located on a nearby rocky peak, is clearly related to the fortified residence (or palace) associated with the Odryssian dynasty. This part of the Sredna Forest appears to have been a significant regional cult centre.

The temple remained in use in Roman times and finds include coins of the Emperor Elagabalus and fragments of marble votive tablets, some of which bear the image of Zeus.
Photo: NHM

During the 5th century AD the temple was destroyed by Christians and built a small single nave church 15 metres to the north.

Other significant finds include coins minted in the Thracian Chersonese, coins of the Macedonian kings Philip II and Alexander the Great, denarii of the late Roman Republic and over 1,000 sherds, all of which seems to have come from offerings in the sanctuary.

Work by archaeologists at the site this season will continue until early September.