Archaeologists Find Altars for Chthonic Deity Rituals in Fortresses of Ancient Thracian Tribe Asti in Southeast Bulgaria
December 23, 2015 · by Ivan Dikov · in Antiquity, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome / Roman Empire, Ancient Thrace
The newly excavated ruins of the fortified residence of a ruler of the Ancient Thracian tribe Asti. Photo: Lead archaeologist Daniela Agre/Tsarevo Municipality
Altars for religious rituals dedicated to the chthonic deities, i.e. the ancient gods and spirits of the underworld, have been discovered by Bulgarian archaeologists during the excavations of two fortified residences of rulers of the Ancient Thracian tribe Asti in Southeast Bulgaria.
The 2015 archaeological excavations of the two fortified homes of the Ancient Thracian paradynasts, i.e. co-rulers, from the Kingdom of the Asti (2nd-1st century BC), have now been wrapped up, Tsarevo Municipality has announced.
The Thracian rulers’ residences are located near the towns of Brodilovo and Sinemorets; both are in Tsarevo Municipality, which is Bulgaria’s southeastern-most municipality, and is situated on the Black Sea coast.
The excavations have been led by archaeologist Deyan Dichev and by archaeologist Daniela Agre from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.
In the fortified Thracian ruler’s residence near Sinemorets, the archaeologists have discovered a well-preserved ceramic kiln with a cult altar next to it, which is also known with the Greek word “eschara”.
According to the researchers, the altar in question was used for rituals as part of the Ancient Thracians’ prayers to the chthonic deities, i.e. the “subterranean” or underworld gods.
“These are the [gods] inhabiting the underworld or gods connected with prophesies and oracles. They are in charge of fertility, wealth, sex, birth, and death. They are close to the people and they are easy to get in touch with,” the archaeologists explain.
An identical “eschara”, i.e. altar, has been found in the Thracian ruler’s residence near the town of Brodilovo which is seen as evidence that both aristocratic homes of the Asti tribe adhered to the same religious cults.
It is noted that the buildings in both fortified residences date back to the time of the conflict between the Ancient Rome, i.e. the Roman Republic and the Pontic Kingdom (Pontus), also known as the Mithridatic Wars, after King Mithridates IV of Pontus, that played out on the Balkan Peninsula in the 2nd-1st century BC.
“[It was at this time that] in the Strandzha Mountain (in today’s Southeast Bulgaria and Northwest Turkey – editor’s note) that one of the most powerful and significant Thracian kingdoms took shape – the Kingdom of the Asti, which survived until the 1st century AD, and has not been sufficiently researched yet,” the archaeologists say, as cited by Tsarevo Municipality.
Both fortified Ancient Thracian residences are located on the banks of the Veleka River, and enjoyed natural defenses.
They were also protected with massive stone walls, with the fortification near Brodilovo having a fortress wall that was 2.4 meters wide. Both rulers’ homes had towers as part of defenses.
During their excavations near both Brodilovo and Sinemorets, the archaeologists have discovered a large number of luxury ceramic vessels such as amphorae and cups from the Ancient Greek polis Megara; these include both vessels that were imported from Ancient Greece, and that were locally made.