Thursday, September 1, 2011


R. Georgieva, T. Stoyanov, D. Momchilov (ed.), Югоизточна България през II - I хилядолетие пр. Хр. (South-Eastern Bulgaria during the 2nd -1st millennium B.C.). Varna: Zograf Press, 2010. Pp. 299. ISBN 9789541502211. BGN 30.

Reviewed by Petya Ilieva, Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski" (

Version at BMCR home site

This volume comprises the proceedings of a conference held in 2008. It consists of 26 illustrated papers with 16 colour plates; each paper has a brief English summary which makes it useful for non-Bulgarian speaking scholars interested in the 2nd - 1st millennium archaeology of Thrace. The book includes regional studies focused on Southeastern Thrace between the Middle Bronze Age and the Roman period, arranged in chronological sequence. While some of the papers summarise the information from long standing projects, others present the final results of rescue excavations held in the area of Karnobat and some studies focus on reassessing familiar subjects.

Following a brief forward (p. 5), R. Georgieva and D. Momchilov, in "Investigations of Thracian culture in the region of Karnobat, 1996-2007" (pp. 7-15) introduce the field activities undertaken at first millennium BC sites in the district of Karnobat. The authors add new sites to the archaeological map of the area and emphasize the probable intermediary role of two settlements for distributing Greek goods from Apollonia Pontica in its immediate hinterland.

T. Khristova, in "Middle Bronze Age graves from Southeastern Bulgaria in the context of the cultural development in the Lower Danube basin" (pp. 16-21), discusses the obscure Middle Bronze age south of the Balkan range. A limited number of vases found in graves are recognised as originating from the Lower Danube Tei culture, but the mechanisms of their arrival so far south remain unclear.

The next four articles present the results of rescue excavations at a Late Bronze age site at Vratitsa and interdisciplinary studies of the remains. K. Leshtakov, R. Khristova, Y. Mihailov ("Late Bronze Age necropolis near the village of Vratitsa, Kameno municipality" [p. 22-36]) offer an overview of the field work with a stress on the discovered graves, followed by a discussion placing them in chronological and cultural context.

R. Khristova's study "Characteristics of Bronze Age pottery from the site at Vratitsa, Kameno municipality (Preliminary report)" (pp. 38-62) is a detailed, lavishly illustrated report on the ceramic technology and typology of shapes discovered in the settlement, accompanied by analysis that sets the pottery in the wider Late Bronze Age ceramic koine of Southeastern Europe.

Y. Yordanov and B. Dimitrova in "An Anthropological Study of Human Bone Remains from an Archaeological Site "Vratitsa," Bourgas Region" (pp. 63-65), provide an anthropological analysis of the skeletal remains from the cemetery allowing for the hypothesis that the individuals shared kin.

R. Zlateva-Uzunova's study of the "Chipped Stone Artifacts from Late Bronze Age – Site "Vratica," Kameno District" (pp. 66-70) argues for either a lack of row materials or a shift in the role of the chipped-stone artefacts in the economic system of the period.

In the brief and general overview taking the reader to the "Bronze to Iron Age Transition in Southeastern Bulgaria. Summary" (pp. 71-78), A. Gotsev supports an opinion stated in his earlier research. Contrary to the recently advocated view1 that the Early Iron age pottery kept some elements of Late Bronze age vases, the author believes that a rather sudden change marks the years of transition.

H. Popov's paper, "New data on the Early Iron Age in the vicinity of the village of Kasnakovo, Khaskovo Region" (pp. 79-84), reports on the results of excavation in the vicinity of a Roman sanctuary which led to the discovery of wattle-and-daub dwellings dating back to 9th - 8th c. BC.

G. Nekhrizov, "East-Rhodopean dolmens. Megalithic burial structures in the basin of Byala Reka in the Eastern Rhodope Mountains" (pp. 85-95), adds new megalithic monuments to the Early Iron age archaeological map of the the Eastern Rhodope mountain. The features of the dolmens are defined and the following discussion on the burial rites places them in wider context of first-millennium BC Southeastern Europe.

P. Delev, in "Some problems of Ethnonymy in Central and South-Eastern Thrace" (pp. 96-111), provides a thorough scholastic commentary on the ancient literary testimonia with reference to the localisation of the Thracian tribes on the territory of the Odrysian kingdom. The author's diachronic approach contributes to the identification of the changes in tribal names as witnessed by the written evidence.

K. Yordanov's paper, "Political History of Southeastern Thrace to the Beginning of Third Century B.C." (pp. 112-116), offers a concise reminder of the events, as narrated by the ancient writers, on the political stage of Southeastern Thrace between Darius's Scythian campaign and the march of Philip II in Thrace.

K. Porozhanov, in "Teres, king of Odrysians (born ca. 540 – 448 B.C.), and the poleis on Thracian coasts, members of the First Athenian League" (pp. 117-125), gives a new interpretation of the little known reign of king Teres and his hypothetical fiscal control over some small North Aegean poleis based, however, on argumentum ex silentio. It remains unclear why the Persian garrison at Doriskos is recognised as "coastal royal fortress – residence of the Thracians" at the time when the base came under the command of Darius's hyparch , replaced later by Maskames (Hdt. 7.106-113, 9.116).

J. Tzvetkova, "The Thracian Chersonese and the Odrysian kings (5th - 4th c. B.C.)" (pp. 126-133), discusses the fragmentary testimonia regarding the campaigns of the Odrysian kings in the Thracian Chersonese. The author recognises them as a purposeful policy for establishing control over the peninsula, clarifies the chronology and details of the events, but a major, recent contribution has not been taken into account.2

P. Balabanov, "On the stock manufacture of pottery in Ancient Thrace" (pp. 134-141), presents the results of archaeological campaigns held at the site of the ancient Deultum. Among the major outcomes is the discovery of a pottery kiln whose suggested chronology in the 5th c. BC remains unfounded, since no related finds exist. The following discussion on the nature of Gray Ware adopted in inland Thrace lacks any reference to recent important studies. 3

R. Georgieva and K. Nikov, in "Early Thraco-Hellenic contacts (based on archaeological evidence from Karnobat region)" (pp. 142-157), contribute to our understanding of Thracian-Greek relations in the early years following the establishment of Greek apoikiai on the Pontic coast. Based on precise analysis of the imported ceramics from several archaeological sites in the vicinity of Karnobat, they suggest the existence of an unidentified settlement with a mixed population as early as the 6th c. BC.

I. Karadzhinov's study of the "Early Greek painted pottery from the Middle currents of Hebros and Tonzos" (pp. 158-180) provides a full, well illustrated account of late 8th - 6th c. BC Aegean ceramic imports from southern Bulgaria. Despite the debatable use of the term "subprotogeometric" employed to label a period and not a pottery style, as it conventionally does, the study offers a comprehensive catalogue of the sherds and places them in the wider context of the Archaic Aegean ceramics.

T. Stoyanov's discussion on "The mirror from Chukarka in the context of recent archaeological investigations in Southeastern Bulgaria" (pp. 181-187) reconsiders an artefact attributable to the East Greek artistic circle. Its discovery in inland Thrace points to the role of Apollonia and supports the view that a trade centre distributing goods from coastal workshops to the Thracian interior was active as early as 6th c. BC.

M. Kamisheva's report on the "Pre-Roman materials from Stara Zagora" (pp. 188-197) adds new data on the habitation phases preceding the establishment of the Roman Augusta Traiana and enhances the map of the Archaic and Classical Aegean ceramic imports deep in the interior of Thrace.

The following two papers summarise the results from rescue campaigns held at a first-millennium B.C. site situated between Plovdiv and Stara Zagora. All the revealed structures are negative (pits), the only exception being a Late Roman domestic complex. M. Tonkova reports on the "Results of investigations of the eastern Sector of Thracian pit sanctuary from 5th – early 3rd c. B.C. at Kozluka locality near the village of Malko Tranovo, Chirpan Municipality" (pp. 198-212) and interprets the pre-Roman site as a cult centre, presenting discoveries such as millet bread residue, bone remains of animal and human sacrifices, a rich corpus of imported and native ceramics, metal and glass finds.

A. Bozhkova and K. Nikov, in "Archaeological investigation of pit complex near the village of Malko Tranovo, Chirpan municipality, Southwestern Sector. Preliminary observations" (pp. 213-220), present the campaigns at the western half of the site with discussion on the structures' features (spatial pattern, shapes, contexts), followed by a summarised presentation of finds and conclusions.

D. Dimitrova, in "Silver rhyton from Dalakova Mogila: an element of the royal feast" (pp. 221-227), introduces a 4th c. BC silver rhyton discovered in a Thracian tumular grave. A brief account of the grave features is followed by an exhaustive description of the rhyton's iconography. Dimitrova curiously suggests that the body of the buried person has been "symbolically served" on clay bowls found in the grave. The closing statement that the question regarding the origin of the rhyton is not one of importance, remains unintelligible, at least for the archaeologist and the historian of art.

The study by R. Mikov and D. Stoyanova of the "Roof tiles from Tumulus No. 9 at Cape Kolokita near Apollonia Pontica" (pp. 228-236) offers a brief report on the excavation of a late 4th c. BC burial mound in the vicinity of Apollonia, with a stone-built tomb. Follows a typology of the roof tiles discovered in and above the structure, some bearing production stamps (ΚΛΕΟΓΕΝΕΟΣ). The authors assume their local production and a special status for ΚΛΕΟΓΕΝΗΣ as an architect/ polis magistrate.

D. Vasileva's discussion on the "Classical and Hellenistic ceramic mortaria from Southern Bulgaria" (pp. 237-246) provides a summarized contextual data of the finds followed by a classification and an examination of the vessels' use. The conclusion interprets the mass circulation of this predominantly domestic ware in the Thracian interior as indicating the arrival of permanent Greek settlers.

V. Handzhiiska and I. Lozanov's contribution "Kabyle in the Hellenistic Period (Based on evidence from recent archaeological investigations)" (pp. 247-270) gives an account of structures and contexts of Hellenistic date in Kabyle, which are restricted in number and scattered under extensive Roman remains. Epigraphic and numismatic evidence complement the archaeological data and allow for more precise dating.

S. Dimitrova, in "Observations on the funerary practices in the necropolis of Mesambria Pontica (Based on evidence from archaeological investigations in 2003 – 2004)" (pp. 271-281), presents a summarized report on field work held in the cemetery of Mesambria, typology of the graves, catalogue of structures and burial equipment.

V. Ignatov in "Investigations of two-wheeled carriages in Nova Zagora region" (pp. 282-296), gives an account of rescue field campaigns which led to the discovery of two-wheeled carriages of Roman date in burial mounds and provides a contextual data with catalogue of metal elements left from the carriages.

The book's main contribution is that it introduces a considerable number of new archaeological sites and artefacts and throws light on on-going discussions. Though most of the reports could offer a more profound analysis, the volume is a useful tool for scholars with in-depth knowledge on the archaeology of the second to first millennia, who can process the new data through the prism of the wider background of Bronze and Iron Age Thrace and the Aegean basin.


1.   Bozhinova, E. 2008. The beginning of the Iron Age in Thrace: Archaeological Evidence and Questions of Chronology, In: A new Dawn for the Dark Age? Shifting paradigms in Mediterranean Iron Age Chronology, 48.
2.   Βελιγίαννη-Τερζή, Χ. 2004. Οι Ελληνίδες πόλεις και το βασίλειο των Οδρυσών: από Αβδήρων πόλεως μέχρι Ίστρου ποταμού. Θεσσαλονίκη.
3.   Nikov, K. 1999. "Aeolian" Bucchero in Thrace? Archaeologia Bulgarica 2, 31-34.

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