Archaeological Project "Thracian Past - European Future"

The international project “Thracian Past – European Future” under the framework of the Youth in Action European programme was organized by the NGO Sdrujenie “Nadejda – CRD”, and head of the archaeological survey was prof. dr. Diana Gergova. The work of the project was concentrated on excavations on the territory of Sboryanovo archaeological reserve from 14th of August to 14th of September 2012. Volunteers from Bulgaria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Romania, Belarus, Italy, Poland and Japan took part in the initiative.

In the first days of the project the volunteers took part in the final work on a rare type of tomb in the Eastern cemetery of the reserve. The site was prepared for tourists.The team cleaned the famous large Sveshtari Mound and the site was prepared for further survey. One of the Romanian volunteers, the architecture student Alexandru Ivan Greceniuc, made a presentation with a three-dimensional reconstruction of the tomb.

A boyar estate at the locality Buven Kassaba, dating from the time of the First Bulgarian Empire, was also cleaned. During the first week there were lectures and presentations, which introduced in details to the participants the history and the significant cultural heritage of the Thracians. The volunteers visited the most important sites of the archaeological reserve – the Thracian Royal Tomb, a UNESCO monument, and the sanctuary Demir baba teke.

The project team cleaned also the greatly polluted glade (behind the Sboryanovo archaeological base) – a space, often used for rituals and feasts. Some of the locals helped in the cleaning.

Later the volunteers were invited by the locals to the celebration of the holiday Sheker Bayram in Sveshtari village.

There was an official opening of the project, with many guests, among who were representatives of the local authorities and Romanian artists. The Bulgarian participants, dressed like Thracians, carried out a poetry recital with the archaeological verses of the poetess Liliya Raycheva. The Romanian guests told about the traditional Thracian costumes. The vocal group “Ahinora” performed beautiful Bulgarian folklore songs. The 30th anniversary of the beginning of the systematic survey in Sboryanovo was also celebrated.

There were also two educational excursions to important historical sites. The first one was to the Roman settlement of Abritus, to the rock-hewn churches of Ivanovo, and to the aristocratic city of Ruse. The Romanian participants shared that the visit of the city on the Danube river was especially interesting for them, not only because of its beautiful architecture, but also because of the chance to see their country from the other bank.

After the first excursion the team started the excavations of mound 21 in the Western cemetery of Sboryanovo. The work of the volunteers was greatly concentrated on this site. The tomb was raided two times by treasure-hunters, but the expectations of the team that it would be only rescue excavations were disproved. An amazing surprise was the fact that there was a part of the tomb, which was not robbed by the treasure-hunters and there were some interesting findings – fragments of silver ornament with medallions shaped like women`s faces, bronze brooches, iron weapons, religious objects and pottery in every day life.

The second educational excursion included visits of the Madara horseman, of the archaeological museum in Varna, of Nesebar and Sozopol. The volunteers spent two days camping near Sozopol, dancing and singing every evening around the fire on the beach. Deeply fascinated by the Bulgarian seaside was the participant from Belarus Wladimir Koroljonok, who shared that he had been waiting to see the Black Sea for many years and intended to come back again one day for sure, and why not even to live there.

The volunteers also drew and restored findings, and the participant from Armenia Mariam Eryan made a reconstruction of a Thracian male costume.

In the last two weeks of the project there were cultural evenings. The volunteers had to prepare traditional dinners, to make presentations related to their history and culture and to show an interesting film from their country.  The team of the project did a lot of good work for the archaeological reserve, the volunteers got the chance to know the different faces of Bulgaria, to fall in love with it, and the most important thing – to make friends for life.

For carrying out the project the NGO Sdrujenie “Nadejda – CRD” won the award for good practice of 2012 in the voluntary sphere, presented by the National Centre “European Youth Programmes and Initiatives”, which coordinates the Youth in Action Programme in Bulgaria.

Additional members of the team were three volunteers from Japan, sent by the Foundation for Cultural Collaboration, lead by the famous Japanese public figure Y. Hamada. They got many books about the Bulgarian history and left our country with the promise to come back one day.

Students from the University of Cambridge and the University of Sheffield also joined the voluntary work.