The tomb of Alexandrovo, Bulgaria – come and see the world of ancient Thracians

Тази статия може да я прочетете и на: Български

We enter the tomb of the Thracian king (or another noble man, you never know) and we find ourselves in front of the celebration scene. Thracians were party lovers and loved wine. But who does not like partying. However, the only well-preserved figure from the celebration scene is the one of the cupbearer. But isn’t he the most important person on a party?

The celebration scene is visible upon entrance to the tomb of Alexandrovo
The celebration scene is visible upon entrance to the tomb of Alexandrovo

But let’s go back to the beginning of our story and where we are. We have just arrived at the Thracian tomb near Aleksandrovo village, Southeastern Bulgaria. It is located on equal distances (around 20 km) from Haskovo, Harmanli and Dimitrovgrad. It is a rainy day in February and our enthusiasm to climb the mound of the tomb quickly fades. Instead, we reserve the right to go back on a summer morning because the view from the top is said to be the best in the area.

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Александровска гробница 41.981323, 25.738542

Museum Center “Thracian Art in the Eastern Rhodopes” and why we enter a replica instead of the tomb itself?

Just next to the original mound is located the Museum Center “Thracian Art in the Eastern Rhodopes”. Inside the building was built a replica of the original tomb. You might be disappointed to see only the replica but there is strong reason about this – we have to preserve the historical artifacts. Even most of the workers in the museum were not let in the original, so we should all better respect this.

Photo from the original tomb
Photo from the original tomb
Photo from the original tomb
Photo from the original tomb

Why is the access to the original tomb restricted?

The tomb has been attacked by treasure hunters many times and its amazing murals were badly damaged. It is now sealed and surrounded by a special installation to keep constant temperature and humidity in order to preserve the artifacts. Most important, the precious murals are highly sensitive to light and may fade. This is the main reason why the original tomb could not be open to visitors – you can never restrict light going inside. So I also support the idea of preserving the originals.

The replica of Alexandrovo tomb, Bulgaria The replica of Alexandrovo tomb, Bulgaria
The replica of Alexandrovo tomb, Bulgaria The replica of Alexandrovo tomb, Bulgaria

However, visiting the replica is not less impressive. It is an exact copy of the original tomb, to the smallest details. The only difference between the two is the missing central part of the corridor. The main reason for this is ease of access – many old or disabled people are visiting the tomb and it would be very uncomfortable for them to walk 10 metres through the narrow and low corridor.

The replica of Alexandrovo tomb, Bulgaria The replica of Alexandrovo tomb, Bulgaria
The replica of Alexandrovo tomb, Bulgaria The replica of Alexandrovo tomb, Bulgaria
In the museum exhibition, you will see many other interesting artifacts. Also present is one of the oldest gold treasures in the world – dated around 4500-4000 B.C.

“Roshavata Chuka” mound and what lied beneath it

Roshavata Chuka is the name of the mound near Alexandrovo village, where the tomb was discovered in 2000. Penetrating deep through a hole earlier made by treasure hunters, archaeologists came across a Thracian tomb dated the IV century B.C. with frescoes incredibly well-preserved. The tomb is dated to 4th century B.C., from the times of Odrysian Kingdom. The mound was looted through centuries so the only things preserved to now were the frescoes and the burial stones. Anyway, they have incredible historical value.

The beautiful frescoes on the dome of the tomb The beautiful frescoes on the dome of the tomb
The beautiful frescoes on the dome of the tomb The beautiful frescoes on the dome of the tomb

It is unknown whether a king or another noble man was buried inside the tomb. Our guide Nedyalko took us to a walk around the incredible frescoes that give a lot of knowledge of the mystic world of ancient Thracians. A central figure in the scene is the one of the ruler on a horse, hunting wild boars. For who may not know, the wild boar is maybe the most dangerous hunting enemy on the Balkans.

The figure of the ruler on horse, sitting on leopard skin The figure of the ruler on horse, sitting on leopard skin
The figure of the ruler on horse, sitting on leopard skin The figure of the ruler on horse, sitting on leopard skin
A little bit about the Thracians and their way of life. Little is actually known about them and this is why these frescoes are so important. What we know is that Thracians were wine lovers and they used to drink wine concentrated, unlike Greeks that preferred to mix it with water. Moreover, Thracians drank their wine on ex because they drank it from horns and it was impossible to leave a full horn on a table without spilling the wine. Apart from wine, Thracians also loved battling and hunting. And this is clearly visible from the murals of Alexandrovo tomb.

A tomb or a mausoleum?

When we earlier visited the Thracian tomb near Mezek village, the guide explained that there was a discussion about was this a tomb or some kind of a temple. The reason to consider this theory is because the door threshold stones of the Mezek tomb were worn out. There are theories that the tomb of Alexandrovo was used for similar purposes, although there is no straight evidence.  However, we have been to many caves or other narrow buildings acting like temples, so this would not be so unusual.

The stone burial bed in the tomb, Alexandrovo Thracia tomb, Bulgaria The stone burial bed in the tomb
The stone burial bed in the tomb, Alexandrovo Thracia tomb, Bulgaria The stone burial bed in the tomb
In the original tomb there is one very unusual frescoes. It is a head of a man, a portrait, just above the celebration scene. It is, however, thought that this is a self-portrait of the first treasure hunter who broke into the tomb. An inscription next to the portrait says Kodzimases HRESTOS – probably that was the name of the man.
Maria coming out of the replica of the tomb
Maria coming out of the replica of the tomb

We spent around 2 hours in the museum, guided by Nedyalko who told us a lot about the history of Thracian, the Odrysian Kingdom and about other Thracian archaeological sites in the area. Then we headed to another adventure through the wine cellars of Harmanli. If you are like the Thracians and like wine without diluting it with water, follow us!

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