Thracian princess final resting place

The beehive tomb near the village of Mezek is the longest on the Balkan peninsula

Photo: Adelina Lozanova The Mezek Thracian beehive tomb has the long entrance passage among all the Thracian tombs in the Balkans.

The Mezek Thracian beehive tomb is situated near the southeastern Bulgarian village of the same name, not far from the place where the country's borders with Greece and Turkey meet. It is one of the largest Thracian tombs of the Mycenaean type in Bulgaria. Dating back to the 4th-3rd century BC, it has been preserved almost completely in its original state.

Locals discovered it by accident in 1931. Legend has it that when they opened the tomb, the entire hallway was covered in golden dust almost one-span deep. The structure consists of unwelded layers of stone blocks (2m by about 40cm), held together in places by cramp irons. At 32-metres-long, it is the longest Thracian tomb on the Balkans. It consists of a long entrance passage (dromos), two rectangular rooms with gabled roofs, and a circular beehive chamber holding a stone bed with profiled edges and two stone troughs (urns).

It is thought that the tomb was used as a shrine (heroon), a place to worship the cult of the divine deceased with certain religious rituals. It was used multiple times and it probably served as the family tomb of a Thracian aristocrat. Traces of six burials have been found. A woman was buried in the antechamber, as evidenced by the remains of a cremated female body found beneath the flooring. It is believed that this was a local Thracian princess.

Although it was ransacked back in antiquity, researches still found valuable Thracian works in the tomb - a chestplate made of iron, silver and gold; golden filigreed adornments, including a necklace and a pair of earrings; silver coins from the time of Alexander the Great; bronze and clay containers; and a bronze candelabrum (a three-branched candlestick with lamps), decorated with a large figurine of a dancing satyr. All of these items are on display at museums in Sofia and Haskovo. And in the tomb they can be seen as holograms thanks to filters from single-lens reflex cameras, a unique process for Bulgaria.

The first known find in the region is from 1908, when a local villager, while working his land, dug out a huge bronze wild boar with a shoulder wound. It is thought that the wild boar is part of a composition portraying a hero-worshipped rider out hunting. The bronze boar is now on show at the Archaeological Museum in Istanbul, because at the time of its discovery the area was still part of Turkey.

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