- Sveshtari Thracian tomb
- Thracian sanctuaries and stronghold
- Tomb of Demir Baba
The archaeological reserve at Sboryanovo, an hour’s drive away, is one of the highlights of Bulgarian archaeology.
There are hundreds of burial mounds at the Sboryanovo Archaeological Reserve but one stands out from the rest because it is unique for Thracian archaeology.
It is the Sveshtari tomb which is a UNESCO world heritage site. The tomb is one of the finest Thracian burials in Bulgaria and visitors are allowed entry inside the mausoleum to see the wall paintings and sculptures.
The Sveshtari mausoleum is perfectly preserved and visitors can stand under the stone arch that marked the doorway of the burial chamber, the threshold between life and death, the gateway to immortality and the realm of the Thracian gods. This was probably the burial of the Thracian king Dromichaetes who is known from ancient Greek sources.
Herodotus, the Greek historian, describes the Thracian practice where the favoured wife of a dead king was chosen to accompany him to the grave. Sure enough when archaeologists discovered this tomb in the 1980s there was a female skeleton alongside the man in the tomb.
There were also skeletons of horses at the entrance and the Thracians were known as skilled warriors, some serving in the cavalry of Alexander the Great. The Thracian horseman indeed became a popular deity in the Roman period and there are many stone carvings of this figure, the image which later became the standard picture of St. George.
These are the most striking remains at Sveshtari but the expansive reserve also contains hundreds of other burial mounds, as well as the remains of long-lived Thracian ritual places and sanctuaries.
There was also a thriving fortified Thracian city. You can see the remains of this fourth century BC town which It is probably the political and military centre of the local tribe, the Getae. This place was called Hellis and was mentioned by ancient Greek historians.
Elsewhere in the reserve, from a much later time, you can see the sanctuary at Kamen Rid and there is the seventeenth century tomb of Demir Baba, a mysterious figure revered by an obscure mystical Moslem sect known as the Alevi. The tomb continues to be visited and respected by Moslems and local Christians. It was built into the site of a much earlier Thracian shrine.