What archaeologists have hailed as a “monumental” 3rd century AD Roman tomb has just been discovered in Bulgaria, and researchers believe it most likely houses the remains of a Thracian aristocrat.
According to Archaeology in Bulgaria, the tomb was found during excavation work that was being conducted at the Maltepe Burial Mound, which is located very close to Plovdiv in the southern region of Bulgaria.
The size of the burial bound is such that it is the largest such mound that has ever been found in the Balkan Peninsula, with the ancient Thracian’s tomb buried about 16 feet below the surface of the mound. The Roman tomb that was recovered was measured at 22 feet long by 22 feet wide and has been estimated to stand at 16 feet.
Due to the sheer enormity of the tomb, archaeologists feel confident that a Thracian aristocrat was buried here, but Associate Professor Kostadin Kisyov, who is working with a team of archaeologists from Plovdiv Museum of Archaeology, has not visited the burial chamber yet to accurately verify this.
“We are still at the beginning of the tomb’s excavation. Right now, we are on the roof of the tomb which has been partly destroyed by treasure hunters’ digging. According to our calculations, we still have to go about 4.55 meters in depth in order to reach the actual burial chamber.”
Kisyov did note, however, that this Bulgarian tomb is exceedingly similar to another tomb that was found in Viminacium, the ancient Roman city, which is reputed to hold the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius Carinus. Archaeologists also spied stone blocks at the top of the Roman tomb which they believe points to the remains of a statue that would have been left at the site to honor the dead Thracian aristocrat.
According to Professor Kisyov, the tomb is most likely that of a Thracian who presided over Philippopolis, as indicated by the placement of the tomb inside the burial mound.
“In my view, the tomb belongs to a Thracian noble who ruled the city of Philipopolis in the middle of the 3rd century AD, the time when power in the Roman Empire was assumed by emperors of common origin, who had not been connected to the elites. The most typical indicator that the tomb itself is most probably connected with some of the Thracian rulers is its location inside a burial mound.”
As far as dating the tomb to the 3rd century AD, Kisyov further elaborated that archaeologists were able to verify that pottery and coins found near the burial mound also date back to this time period.
“The dating of the tomb is determined not just by the architecture and the materials that were used but also by the five coins and the pottery that we have discovered scattered around the tomb as part of the burial rituals.”
As excavation continues in Bulgaria at the site of the proposed Thracian aristocrat’s Roman tomb, Kisyov believes that it is very possible that archaeologists may discover inscriptions inside that will show definitively who the remains belong to.