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Prof. Nikolay Ovcharov: Perperikon will only be revealed in its entirety over the next generations

БНР Новини

Excavations at Perperikon in the Eastern Rhodopes, a sacred city that is 7,000 years old, continue this year. The archaeological season there is expected to close on 10 September. Archaeologists say the 16th year of digs at Perperikon is crucial as they will have to complete their study of the Acropolis along with the sanctuary palace.

“Unlike classical ancient valley cities where we know what to look for, on this rock outcrop the different elements are positioned depending on the natural features here,” says Prof. Nikolay Ovcharov, head of the archaeological expedition. To find the central square, they had to dig up 90 percent of the Acropolis. And they found it: hewed into the rock, approximately 30 by 30 meters and surrounded by imposing stone buildings on all sides.

Снимка“Perperikon is probably the archaeological site that has caused the biggest sensation in 15-16 years. Tourists throng to see it – more than 250,000 a year. But it now has a place in world archaeology as well,” says the archaeologist.

Not long ago he took the heads of diplomatic missions to Bulgaria to see Perperikon.

“The ambassador of Germany said friends of his who are archaeologists had made a must-see list for him, and Perperikon was top of the list. So, we can well say its fame has been spreading and we have a great many tourists from abroad coming here – from Germany, France, USA… As to how important it is, I can say that I have now lost track of the number of articles in world media dedicated to it.”

The book - Sites of Spiritual Pilgrimage from Stonehenge to Santiago de Compostela by Phillip Carr-Gomm, presenting 50 of the world’s pilgrimage sites has also contributed to the popularization of the ancient city.

“Without knowing him at all, he came to the conclusion that Perperikon deserves to be made mention of alongside places like Machu Picchu and Santiago de Compostela,” Prof. Ovcharov says. “We have a site that is of world significance. Of course, there is still a lot of work to be done there – in terms of infrastructure as well as promotion. Be as it may, it is heading towards world fame with a steady stride.”

But when will Perperikon be revealed in its entirety?

“Over the coming generations because it is a vast city, still we have one objective we have to attain this year – to study the Acropolis, the pinnacle of the fortress. I hope we will be able to do that. Then we are starting on the suburb to the South which was no less important than the Acropolis itself; in some respects it may even prove to have been more important as it is highly probable that we shall find the principal temples there – pagan temples as well as Medieval churches.”

Perperikon’s history is truly grand. “In the Copper-Stone Age our ancestors worshipped the Sun-God here,” the archaeologist says. “In the second millennium BC, in the late Bronze Age it was already a major sanctuary with altars. But it truly flourished in the Roman Age – 3rd-4th century. That was when the Romans who respected Thracian cults turned this place into a city with its own streets, colonnades, a square, temples…”


This time the digs unearthed a bronze statuette of Apollo, votive tablets depicting the deity Thracian horseman, as well as many coins from different epochs, among them silver coins minted by Tsar Ivan-Alexander (1331-1371). “I would like to lay special emphasis on them as during the Middle Ages this region was, more often than not, in the hands of Byzantium which waged bitter wars against the Bulgarian state over it. These coins were in fact the wages that were sent from the capital Turnovo to the soldiers from the garrison when the Bulgarians had control of Perperikon and the Eastern Rhodopes,” Prof. Ovcharov says. The finds he is now displaying in Sofia include ancient silver rings and breastplate crosses. There are also three objects made of iron. One is an axe, the other a hammer with chisel. The third object is an extremely rare find – a Thracian sword called Rhomphaеa, which is almost 150 cms. long. Swords like this one were on the whole used from the 4th century BC right up until the end of the Roman domination of our lands.

English version: Milena Daynova

Photos: BTA
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