Taking care of eternity

The Thracian ritual complex of Ostrusha combines a tomb and a temple of Sabazios

Protective structure guarding the tomb in the mound of Ostrusha.

To the Thracians, life after death was much more important than their earthly existence. A large number of tombs discovered in Bulgaria are a proof to that. They were specially built to guarantee comfortable afterlife to the local nobility. One of the most interesting and remarkable among these structures is located in the mound of Ostrusha, which is situated near the town of Kazanlak, in the Valley of Thracian Kings.

The tomb was built in the 4th century AD and gradually developed into an entire ritual complex dedicated to Sabazios, the god of immortality. The complex stretches over an area of 100 sq m and consists of six chambers - five rectangular and one circular. The tomb itself is built of two solid stone blocks with a combined weight of 60 tonnes. The first one is cube-shaped and contains the burial chamber while the second is a roofing construction. The ceiling is richly decorated. Among the preserved ornaments are portraits of people as well as animalistic and floral motifs.

Archaeologists found remains of a ritually buried horse, weapons, silver decoration inlays for a horse harness, a phial, coins of Philip II of Macedon, ceramic vessels and other artefacts of great artistic value.

The whole structure is built of perfectly hewn stone blocks firmly connected by lead-coated iron clamps. The space which was found first played the role of a “distribution ante-room” leading into the chambers situated at the eastern, western and northern sides of the temple. The one occupying the eastern part of the complex was found with a collapsed cupola-shaped roof. The chamber located at the southeastern side of the complex is the only intact room found. The northeastern and northwestern chambers are smaller, have no entrances, and were probably accessible by ladders. Experts assume that they were used as sacrariums, but unfortunately both chambers were looted already in ancient times.

There were several stages in the completion of the temple's construction - first, the central chamber was cut out and incorporated in the cavity, and then the site was deserted and buried under layers of soil. There are markers for each stage - a silver Apollonian obolus and two coins of Philip II of Macedon, as well as silver ornaments for a horse harness, and fragmented metal vessels. At the tomb's entrance, archaeologists found a symbolic casket resembling a sarcophagus, in a straight line in front of it there were six stone arcoreria with palmette ornaments, which used to decorate the building's facade.

During the early Byzantine epoch, the tomb was used as a Christian necropolis. Probably the Byzantines, drawing analogies with their own sacred architecture, looked for a crypt under the burial chamber and, after digging a tunnel, found the central chamber. This explains the presence of several dozens of coins dated to the time of Constantine the Great, fragments of Byzantine earthenware and other artefacts dated to even later epochs.

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