Professor Nikolay Ovcharov: Cultural heritage tourism will help the economy of the municipality28 July 2016 | 16:57 | Radio FOCUS
FOCUS: Bulgarian archaeologists can now boast with another discovery. It is located close to the Haskovski Mineralni Bani [Haskovo Mineral Baths] region. But let us leave archaeologist Professor Nikolay Ovcharov tell us more about the new archaeological finding!
Nikolay Ovcharov: The matter in point concerns a discovery of my good friend and colleague Associate Professor Zdravko Dimitrov. It is located only 15 km away from the ancient Thracian city of Perperikon and practically it is part of the civilisation of the rock people, which I have been studying for more than 20 years. So, they asked me to give my evaluation. We visited the place and I was really amazed by what I saw – both by the site itself and by the results of the archaeological excavations, which were finalised few days ago.
It is about the latest sanctuary in the Eastern Rhodope region, a Thracian sanctuary dug into the rocks. But, of course, everything is still at an initial stage. We are yet to see what will appear, just like in Tatul and Perperikon in the past.
I would like to wish my colleague, as well as Mayor of Haskovo Ali Iskender, who is strongly dedicated to the project, too, much of luck.
So what is it all about? Indeed, it is a huge town. Probably, it will be similar to Perperikon, which also started from a sacred place. It reminds about Tatul, the temple of Orpheus, a symbolic sacral grave on the peak of the mountain, with an altar around it, where sacrifices were made. The altar is almost the same as the big alter in Perperikon.
In other words, it is something that undoubtedly belongs to the civilisation of the rock people, which developed in the II-I millennium BC in the Eastern Rhodope.
These practices continue in the Christian era, too, because right next to the grave I talked about a V century church appeared. A very interesting church, indeed. Obviously, the Christians continued paying respect to this place. It was known from before, before the excavations, with the biggest accumulation of the so-called Thracian rock niches. These are niches dug into the rocks, always looking to the East or South – i.e. to the Sun. This is where he idea about the honouring of the sunny god, or let us say the God of Sun.
By the way, it is a little bit difficult to explain these things on the radio. But let us say that about 300-400 m from the peak, close to the foot of the mountain, a unique sun clock was found. It dates back to the late Bronze Age, i.e. from 3,500 years ago.
Unfortunately, because the place was not protected over the years, it was attacked by treasure-hunters and the clock was partially damaged. Anyway, the niches, which are also part of the cult to the Sun, together with the clock, make us think that the people here preached such a religion. Everything I say is very important because we are collecting the history of the mysterious Thracian culture in the Eastern Rhodope for 20 years now and it is just like arranging a puzzle piece by piece, with the studies in Tatul, the temple of Orpheus, Perperikon, the Womb Cave.
And now, the archaeological works close to the Angel Voyvoda village, give us another touch in this direction. Naturally, I would like to note that this is just the beginning. I am absolutely convinced that there will be much more and much more interesting things found in this sanctuary in the future.
FOCUS: How old is this Thracian town?
Nikolay Ovcharov: The estimations I talked about are for about 3,500 years. We speak about the late Bronze Age and the early Iron Age.
But I would like to note – the excavations were not big enough so far, the money was restricted and we were trying to find financing not only from the municipality but also from the state, sponsors, and others, so as to expand the studies. We expect to find a whole town, a town that will be similar to the one in Perperikon.
FOCUS: You already mentioned the sun clock. Are there other interesting findings?
Nikolay Ovcharov: In the first place, it is the grave, which is unique and very interesting. We have found such thing only in Tatul. The other thing is the V century church, which my colleague Dimitrov found, and which shows this transition from the cult to the paganism to the things connected with the Christianity.
By the way, we see the same thing in Perperikon. Two basilicas have been found in Perperikon. I guess there will be a third one, too, we are working on it at the moment.
Thus, the Christian culture literally inherits the ancient paganism.
FOCUS: Are you optimistic for the financing?
Nikolay Ovcharov: I help as much as I can, but I will not reveal any details, of course. My colleague Zdravko Dimitrov, who is deputy head of the excavations in Perperikon, is about 40 years old, and now we are practically passing the baton to the younger scientists, who will step in our shoes and continue the work.
Raising money is not an easy task nowadays but this is part of the game. We have to popularise the sites enough, convince the state and the municipalities, the business, if you wish, that these are important things and that they can develop the cultural tourism.
By the way, Kardzhali is a perfect example of this. You see that in about 15-16 years an out-of-the-way town in the Rhodope turned into a centre of the cultural heritage of the country thanks to sites like Perperikon and Tatul.
The municipalities need these monuments, this fresh blood, because many things in the Eastern Rhodope are already gone, as I predicted in the past. There is no mining industry, no tobacco production. All these things are replaced by the cultural tourism. I am deeply convinced of this. This is something that will replace the traditional productions in the Eastern Rhodope.
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