Thracian shrine discovered under mosque in Bulgaria


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A large Ancient Thracian shrine (which may turn out to be a necropolis) has been discovered in the town of Karlovo by the Bulgarian archaeologists excavating the 15th century Lead Mosque (Kurshum Dzhamiya), a historical monument from the period of Ottoman Yoke (1396-1878/1912) when Bulgaria was part of the Ottoman Empire, Archeology in Bulgaria reports.

Thracian shrine discovered under mosque in Bulgaria
The ruins of an Ancient Thracian shrine from the Odrysian Kingdom 
have been found underneath the old mosque in Bulgaria’s Karlovo 
[Credit: Radio Plovdiv]

The discovery of the Thracian shrine, part of which lies below the Lead Mosque in Karlovo, has been made public by Kostadin Kisyov, Director of the Plovdiv Museum of Archaeology, who participates as an expert in the commission evaluating the excavations of the Muslim temple.

“To our great surprise, underneath the foundations of the mosque there is an [Ancient Thracian] cult facility. At present, we can’t say for sure whether it was solely a shrine, or there is also a necropolis,” Kisyov has told Radio Plovdiv.

He adds that the Ancient Thracian shrine lying below the Lead Mosque (Kurshum Dzhamiya) is dated to the 5th-4th century BC. It is from the time of the Odrysian Kingdom, the most powerful Thracian state ever, which thrived in the second half of the 1st millennium BC.

Its dating is based on the discovery of a silver coin, a tetradrachm, from the Ancient Greek colony of Apollonia Pontica, i.e. today’s Sozopol on Bulgaria’s Southern Black Sea coast, and on the discovered Thracian ceramics. The Ancient Greek silver coin itself is dated to 440-400 BC.

“The coin is perfectly preserved. It features a depiction of an anchor on one side, and of the mythical creature Gorgon Medusa,” Kostadinov says, adding, “The shrine is indeed a very rare discovery.”

He points out that the ruins of the Thracian shrine lie at a depth of 1.7 meters, and this is the first time a structure from the Odrysian Kingdom has been found in the region of Karlovo.

Thracian shrine discovered under mosque in Bulgaria
The 15th century Kurshum Dzhamiya (Lead Mosque) in the town of Karlovo
 in Central Bulgaria will be turned into a history museum once it is fully
 excavated and studied [Credit: BGNES]

While the Ottoman Lead mosque was directly built on top of the ruins of the Thracian shrine, the shrine itself is larger in area than the Muslim temple, and the Bulgarian archaeologists are yet to figure out its scope.

“In general, the Thracian shrines are facilities made of stone and mud shaped like a circle or a square, with their walls towering at 2-3 meters, and usually have no roof. These shrines were used for different cultrites, sacrifices to the gods, ritual breaking of vessels, ritual wine drinking, etc. This may also turn out to be a Thracian necropolis which means we may find graves or tombs with rich inventories. This would make the discovery even more interesting,” explains the Director of the Plovdiv Museum of Archaeology.

Kisyov adds that once the site of the Lead Mosque in Karlovo is fully studied, it can be turned into a Museum of Religions featuring the excavated ruins of the Thracian shrine.

The long-awaited archaeological excavations of the Lead Mosque, which are expected to reveal important information about the history of the Bulgarian town of Karlovo and to pave the way for turning the mosque into a museum, have become possible after in May 2015 the Sofia Appellate Court ruled in favor of Karlovo Municipality and against the Bulgarian Chief Mufti’s Office which had sought to gain ownership of a number of inactive mosques and former Ottoman properties in municipalities with little or no Muslim population.

Source: PanArmenian [July 08, 2015]



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