The Tomb of Seuthus III
The Tomb of Seuthus III
Just outside Kazanlak, along the road to the Shipka pass, lies the tomb now thought to belong to Thracian King, Seuthus III. There are various Thracian tombs in the area but this is the most famous.
From the outside the tomb looks little more than a large mole hill covered in grass. In fact all over the flat valley bottom, there are mounds just like this, some large, some tiny, but all similar in appearance and all left over from around the 5th century BC. It is estimated there are around 1,500 such Thracian tombs and thus the area has been renamed the Valley of the Thracian Kings. However, only a handful have been excavated and not all the mounds actually contain the stone-built tombs inside.
Little is known about the Thracian culture, although the opening and exploration of a few of these tombs has revealed various treasures from which assumptions can be made. The tomb of Seuthus III was excavated in September 2004.
Now, the tomb can be reached by a brand new tarmac road, leading to car park by the side of the large mound. On the south side of the mound, an opening has been dug into the side and new glass doors enclose a foyer where pamphlets in both Bulgarian and English can be purchased and where you pay around 2 leva per person to enter the tomb itself.
Right in the doorway to the foyer is a large stone. This is the spot where a bronze head of a bearded man was discovered. It had been snapped off a statue and lay propped up by stones at the entrance to the tomb.
From the tomb’s ‘foyer’ a corridor runs for around 13 metres into the centre of the mound where three rooms were found. This corridor had been filled with stones and soil when it was originally found but the roof and walls, which are made of huge square carved granite blocks, show that at some point, a fire had raged through the corridor, blackening the walls and ceiling. It is thought that maybe the wooden support structures where set alight when the tomb was closed.
At the end of this corridor is a small rectangular room with a sloping ceiling. The skeleton of a horse was found this chamber and it is believed that the animal was sacrificed so as to accompany its owner to the next life. In other burial mounds, the skeletons of large dogs have been found and in some, the bodies of young females, possibly wives of the tomb’s owner as it is thought that it may have been an honour to die and be buried with your husband.
The chamber above leads into a small round room with an impressive domed ceiling and through this you enter the burial chamber. This room appears to have been carved out of one enormous block of stone, with a bed or table, carved into the far wall. It was in here that the body of King Seuthus III was found, along with many golden treasures, including a golden wreath and a cup and many other exquisite ornaments. A richly woven cloth covered the floor and the bed. The tomb owner was identified by inscriptions found on some of the items in the tomb. King Seuthus III had built his city, called Seuthopolis not far from the tomb but unfortunately it now lies at the bottom of a large reservoir.
Many of the treasures found are now on display in the museum in Kazanlak. Other tombs are slowly being excavated and a number are to be linked by a tarmac road or trail, leading from one to the other. For any one interested in ancient history and culture, you should make the effort to visit one or two of these Thracian burial mounds that populate the area around Kazanlak. Other tombs are found in various locations around Bulgaria.
For some good photographs of the excavation and treasures found please visit http://www.kroraina.com/thracia/gk/