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volume 1
Rescue Archaeological Investigations
along the Gotse Delchev - Drama Road
1998 -1999

Editors of the volume:

A. Bozkova, P. Delev

Editors of the English version:

P. Delev, D. Vulcheva

Sofia 2002
© D. Aladjova, S. Alexandrov, A. Bozkova, P. Delev, B. Dimitrova, S. Dimitrova,
K. Gagova, V. Hadjiangelov, V. Katsarova, R. Petrunov, H. Popov, T. Popova,
I. Prokopov, V. Ruseva, V. Stanev, N. Tonkov, M. Tonkova, Y. Tsvetkova, M.
Vaklinov, D. Vulcheva, Y. Yordanov, Y. Yurukova (text)
© T. Balukchiev, M. Dineva, K. Georgiev, D. Hadjiangelov, V. Hadjiangelov, G.
Ivanov, R. Kolev, E. Krondeva, L. Petrova, N. Tonkov (illustrations)

ISBN 954-90387-7-7

© NOUS Publishers Ltd.

P. O. B. 1275
1000 Sofia
Fax: +359 2 / 659 688
Preface 7
ILL The Middle Mesta Region in Antiquity (P. Delev) 13
11.2. The Middle Mesta Region in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages (K. Gagova) 29
11.3. Koprivlen and the Middle Mesta Valley in Modem Times (V. Stanev) 33
11.4. An Archaeological Overview of the Middle Mesta Region 41
11.4.1. The Prehistoric and Thracian Periods (Y. Tsvetkova) 41
11.4.2. The Roman Imperial Period, Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages (M. Vaklinov) 51
11.5. The Ancient Road Network in the Middle Mesta Region (P. Delev, H. Popov) 57
LV.l. Stratigraphic Observations on the 1s1 Millenium B.C. Settlement (A. Bozkova) 83
IV.2. The Archaeological Structures (P. Delev) 91
IV.3. The Pit Sanctuary (D. Vulcheva) 103
IV.4. The Finds from the Thracian Settlement 125
LV.4.1. Hand-Made Pottery of the Early Iron Age. (D. Vulcheva) 125
FV.4.2. Pottery with Geometric Decoration and Related Wares (A. Bozkova) 133
IV.4.3. Monochrome Slipped Ware (A. Bozkova) 145
IV.4.4. Black-Glazed Ware (A. Bozkova) 153
IV.4.5. Plain Table Ware (A. Bozkova) 159
IV.4.6. Pithoi (V. Hadjiangelov) 163
IV.4.7. Strainers (H. Popov) 167
IV.4.8. Loom-Weights and Spindle-Whorls (S. Dimitrova) 173
IV.4.9. Construction Ceramics (H. Popov) 185
IV.4.10. Bronze Ornaments of the Early Iron Age (D. Vulcheva) 189
IV.4.11. Metal Ornaments of the Late Iron Age and the Early Roman Imperial Period
(M. Tonkova) 195
rv.4.12. Varia (S. Dimitrova, V. Stanev) 207
V Hadjiangelov) 213
VI. 1. Early Coins (Y. Yurukova) 243
VI.2. Hellenistic and Early Roman Coins (I. Prokopov) 247
VI.3. Roman and Byzantine Coins (D. Aladjova) 259
VII.1. Geophysical Prospecting (N. Tonkov) 273
VTI.2. Archaeobotanical Investigation (T. Popova) 279
VII 3. Anthropological Study of Postcranial Skeletons from the Necropolis
at Koprivlen (Y. Yordanov, B. Dimitrova, V. Ruseva) 289
VII.4. Chemical Analyses of Metal Slags (R. Petrunov) 293
Abbreviations 318

Illustrations.. ..319

In the few years that have elapsed since its first discovery in 1995, the archaeological site at
Koprivlen near Gotse Delchev in south-western Bulgaria has come to be treated as one of those an-
cient inhabited places which serve as points of reference in the scientific investigation of the past. The
extreme habitational continuity (from the Late Bronze Age till the Middle Ages) and the character of
the cultural remains from all relevant periods have indisputably established the high scientific value of
the site. The field investigations in the vicinity of the modern village of Koprivlen have passed
through stages of different duration and intensity. The most extensive and efficient archaeological ex-
cavations in 1998 and 1999 were imposed by the imminent construction of a section of the interna-
tional road between Gotse Delchev and Drama. The prompt initiation and ready financing of these ex-
cavations by the Road Executive Agency not only fulfilled the exigencies if the law but also provided
an example of a responsible attitude to the preservation of the cultural heritage in line with the high
standards of world practice.
The present publication was realized with the benevolent assistance of the management of the
Roads Executive Agency and completes a successful stage in the archaeological investigations at Ko-
privlen, introducing the results of the excavations in 1998 and 1999 with their various aspects and is-
As the partner of the Roads Executive Agency in the realization of this project, the Archaeo-
logical Institute and Museum at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences has strictly kept its obligations for
the expedient and efficient execution of the archaeological excavations in 1998 and 1999 and of the
necessary specialized interventions during the actual construction of the road section in 2000 and
The cooperation between the two institutions has demonstrated how goodwill and shared re-
sponsibility can find the common means for the preservation of the cultural and historical heritage in
the implementation of large-scale infrastructural projects.

Sofia, 2002
Prof. Y. Yurukova, Dr Sc.
Archaeological Institute and Museum
Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

Anelia Bozkova
(Institute of Archaeology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences)

The archaeological site situated in the vicinity of the modern village of Koprivlen has come to
light quite recently. Fragmentary references were actually mentioned in some earlier general surveys,
but only in connection with isolated chance finds or reiterating the general indication about the pres-
ence of archaeological materials in the area.1
The site was first registered in 1995 during a campaign of field surveying carried out under a
project for archaeological investigations in the Nevrokop Valley, sponsored by the then National Fund
for Scientific Investigation at the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and directed by the
Institute of Archaeology at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. The implementation of this three-year
investigation project provided the team with the opportunity not only to identify the cultural remains
in the locality Kozluka (Bryasta) near the modem village of Koprivlen, but also, between 1995 and
1997, to carry out the first trial excavations there. Two of the initial trial pits, designated as Sondage 1
and Sondage 4, provided substantial stratigraphic data about the development of the site in the 1st
millennium B.C. The results from the first campaign in 1995 were enough to procure a preliminary
declaration of the site as a Monument of Culture with provisional "national importance" category. At
present, the procedure of granting the sight a permanent status of Monument of Culture of National
Importance is in progress.
In 1995-1997, along with the excavations at Koprivlen, the archaeological team made inten-
sive field surveys in the region west of the Mesta, between Gotse Delchev and the state border. The
participation of students in the team was sponsored by the Open Society Foundation. In several suc-
cessive campaigns these surveys covered considerable territories around the villages Musomishte, Ly-
aski, Koprivlen, Sadovo, Petrelik, Ilinden, Teplen and Beslen and the town of Hadjidimovo. Dozens of
archaeological sites from different periods were registered, permitting the establishment of a large da-
tabase of reliable scientific information on the character and development of the regional settlement
system in antiquity and its various components - settlements, necropolises, sanctuaries, industrial sites
(metallurgical centres), etc. Interesting observations were also made on the ancient road network in the
area. The archaeological finds from the field surveys have added to the understanding of the regional
cultural characteristics during several historical periods.
During the implementation of the project sponsored by the National Fund for Scientific Inves-
tigation the archaeological team undertook also trial excavations at a burial mound situated near the
Monastery of St. George by Hadjidimovo. The excavations were incited by the information of a stone
tomb discovered and damaged in the thirties by local people.2 They resulted in the discovery of the
antechamber of a hypogeum stone tomb built of ashlar blocks. The vault was completely destroyed.
The antechamber was of rectangular form, with an entrance to the southeast. The fa9ade preserved
traces of red and white coloured plaster. The insufficient financial provision prevented the complete
study of the tomb, which was re-buried at the end of the campaign.
A couple of ritual pits were studied under the tumulus and beneath the ancient ground level;
these contained archaeological materials resembling those from phase I of the site at Koprivlen.3 The
most eloquent finds were the fragments of wheel-made vessels decorated with geometric motifs.
Although very restrained, the excavations at the tumulus by Hadjidimovo provided valuable
evidence about the ancient Thracian culture in the region. The examination of the pottery gathered
Gergova 1987: 33; Domaradzki 1990: 31; Gergova 1995: 33, Fig. 1; Encyclopaedia 1995: 454-455.
Mikov 1937:212;Mikov 1957:221
Cf. Chapter III. 1 infra.
/ A History of the Archaeological Exploration at Koprivlen (A. Bozkova)

from the surface in the same vicinity authorizes the preliminary localisation of another large and
probably significant settlement of the same period as the one near Koprivlen. The tomb which is ty-
pologically related to the so-called Macedonian tombs is the first of its kind to be studied in South-
western Bulgaria. It sheds new light on the political history and cultural affinities of the Thracian
tribes in the region during the early Hellenistic Period.
The results of the field surveys carried out in 1995-1997 under the project sponsored by the
National Fund for Scientific Investigation could be estimated as highly satisfactory. They permitted
the elaboration of a precise and comprehensive archaeological map of a region previously very imper-
fectly studied, and this newly acquired knowledge about the whole territory gave the research team the
particular chance to situate the site by Koprivlen against its genuine cultural and geographical back-
The archaeological exploration of the site by the village of Koprivlen was continued in 1998
and 1999 with the rescue excavations imposed by the impending construction of a section of the road
between Gotse-Delchev and the state frontier (Fig. 1). The excavations were financed by the General
Road Administration under a contract with the Institute of Archaeology. They were carried out by the
same team which had begun the exploration of the site in the previous years and continued actively for
some ten months. The large scale of the excavations and the presence of structures from different ar-
chaeological periods imposed an enlargement of the archaeological team, which included members
from several different institutions - the Institute of Archaeology, the "St Kliment Ohridski" University
of Sofia, the historical museums in Samokov and Blagoevgrad.
The rescue excavations were restricted in the outline of the roadbed, which bypasses the mod-
ern village, crossing through the territory of the archaeological site. The field observations and the trial
pits excavated along the roadbed helped to identify from the very start of the campaign the several
sectors containing archaeological structures (Fig. 2). The preliminary ideas on the chronological limits
of the site were changed considerably in the process of the excavation of these sectors with the addi-
tion of substantial archaeological structures of the Late Bronze Age, Late Antiquity and the Early
Middle Ages. In the area provisionally described as Sector "North", a Thracian ritual complex of the
7th-4th c. B.C. had been succeeded by a necropolis of Late Antique and Early Medieval date (Colour
Plates, Fig. 283). The excavations in Sector "Centre" brought to light cultural layers of the 1st millen-
nium B.C. corresponding to those found in Sondages 1 and 4, and the remains of two consecutive
"peribolos " walls closing in an area to the west of the roadbed comprising the building partially stud-
ied in Sondage 4. The archaeological layers recognized in Sector "South" date from the 7* -5' c. B.C.
and from the Early Middle Ages; the sector also contains numerous ritual pits and caches provisionally
called "the southern sacrificial complex"'.
The excavations on a section of the roadbed situated to the south of Sector "South" and des-
ignated provisionally Site 1A produced rather surprisingly some dwelling structures of the Late
Bronze Age (Colour Plates, Fig. 284). Their accurate localisation is due to the professional insight and
persistency of the archaeologist in charge of this sector, Dr S. Alexandrov.
The presence of scattered ceramic sherds on the surface of the roadbed still further south im-
posed the excavation of several trial trenches of limited size. Although their study yielded some pot-
tery fragments from the 1 st millennium B.C., the Roman Imperial period and the Middle Ages, no
definite archaeological structures or layers were recognizable.
Trial excavations were undertaken also in several locations near the village of Sadovo to the
south of Koprivlen which will also be affected by the impending construction of the road. It was es-
tablished that the roadbed crosses the periphery of an archaeological site of the 1st millennium B.C.
and does not affect cultural layers and structures. The scanty archaeological finds (mainly ceramic
sherds) seem to have been transposed from their original place. Nevertheless, the trial excavations near
Sadovo had some positive results in the establishment of cultural and chronological correspondence
with the finds from Koprivlen, adding thus to the overall picture of the Thracian presence along the
Middle Mesta.
The results of the archaeological excavations at Koprivlen have already been announced in a
number of summary statements which were met with considerable interest among the professional cir-
cles in the country. The interim reports at the annual sessions of the Institute of Archaeology and some

KOPRIVLEN1 eg I. Archaeological Exploration

preliminary communications before other academic forums4 presented only a general outline of the
character of the archaeological discoveries. Aware of its responsibility in face of the interest of both
specialists and the general public, the archaeological team has accepted the challenge to prepare and
offer a detailed preliminary publication of the results of the excavations at Koprivlen, only a few
months after their end. The opportune proposal by the investors from the General Road Administra-
tion to finance the publication of a complete volume has been accepted as a serious obligation towards
the full implementation of the contract and a suitable occasion to present a fuller and more detailed
account of our scientific results.
The short term in which the present book had to be prepared has determined its content and
structure. The main intention of the authors was to offer a full preliminary presentation of the excava-
tion results accompanied by analyses of field situations and of the more important groups of finds. The
approach to the latter has however been selective in view both of the quantity of the material and of
the stage of its study. It is for such reasons that some significant and interesting categories of finds
such as the amphorae and the plain hand-made pottery have not been considered in extenso in the pre-
sent publication. Some groups of imported pottery such as the few pieces of East-Greek, black- and
red-figure vases have also not been analysed in any detail. A possible increase in their number in the
future will provide better opportunities for their study. Various interdisciplinary investigations have
accompanied the archaeological excavations in all the campaigns, and their results, if also partial and
preliminary in some cases, are also presented briefly. The opening sections dedicated to the natural
and economic characteristics of the region and the existing archaeological and historical evidence
about its past were conceived as an introduction of the reader to the natural and ethno-culrural envi-
ronment of the ancient settlement at Koprivlen.
The contents and structure of the volume were discussed and developed by all the members of
the team, who also took an active part in the pre-printing and editorial work. In this respect the unfail-
; assistance of D. Vulcheva, S. Dimitrova and Y. Tsvetkova has been especially helpful.
This book is a collective enterprise, an outcome of the work of many specialists who took part
m the field work and in the processing of the archaeological material. The joint efforts of all the team
members, including the students, and of the consulting experts in certain special subjects (numismat-
ics, interdisciplinary studies, etc.) have contributed to the successful completion of this stage of the
research project.
A. Bozkova, P. Delev, D. Vulcheva, and V. Hadjiangelov were in charge of the field survey-
ag team which first started the excavations at Koprivlen back in 1995. The excavations of the Thra-
~.jn settlement of the 1st millennium B.C. and the later structures on its territory (Site I) in 1998-1999
"•ere directed by A. Bozkova, P. Delev, and D. Vulcheva. In 1998 the team was joined by S. Alexan-
-ar.jY who took the responsibility for the excavations of the Late Bronze Age settlement (Site 1A). The
ir;haeologists V. Hadjiangelov, R. Nenova, Y. Marinova, S. Petrova, and I. Kulov also took part in
^rierent stages of the investigations around Koprivlen and Sadovo. H. Popov, S. Dimitrova, Y.
r:ko\a, V. Stanev, and V. Katsarova have been unfailing collaborators through all these years; they
3eg.ui their participation as students and now all of them are preparing PhD dissertations at different
Jdiernic institutions. The advice and help of M. Tonkova and T. Marvakov at some points in the in-
'rsc:gation has been valuable and appreciated. The excavations could not have been realized without
7:e dedicated work of many students from the "St Kliment Ohridski" University of Sofia, from the
Bulgarian University and from the Slavonic University, among them were B. Galabova, D.
::: . G. Bobov, P. Devlova, R. Rasheva, V. Nikolova, M. Vaklinov, S. Shatov, and M. Nikolov,
wbose participation has been particularly active and persistent. N. Tonkov and V. Konstantinov car-
~ec : ut the geophysical prospecting and metal detection, and their high professionalism permitted the
±?cirMvhment of invaluable preliminary information about the presence of archaeological structures
ice lulraral remains in and outside the excavated area. The field geodetic surveys were conducted by
~:e indefatigable T. Balakchiev. T. Popova made the archaeobotanical investigation. The restoration of
:rn£rrjsnted pottery was assigned to M. Tumpahova and I. Nacheva. V. Hadjiangelov, D. Hadjiangelov
arc M. Dineva did the drawings of the finds. Our devoted drivers, the brothers A. and D. Gyur-
r . were invaluable members of the expedition.

Bozkova 1997; Bozkova (in press); Delev et al. (in press); Vulcheva et al. (in press).

/. A History of the Archaeological Exploration at Koprivlen (A. Bozkova)

The successful archaeological explorations at Koprivlen in 1998-1999 owe much to the gener-
ous contribution of many different institutions and persons. It is my pleasant duty to thank here all
those who have assisted and collaborated in the implementation of this large-scale project. On behalf
of the team I would like to express our great appreciation to the General Road Administration for the
timely initiation of the rescue excavations. The firm conviction in the importance of the cultural and
historical heritage and in the necessity of its protection shown by K. Taushanov and P. Dikovski as
Directors of the General Road Administration has created the conditions for the excellent collabora-
tion with the Institute of Archaeology. The archaeological team has enjoyed the superior understanding
and wholehearted co-operation of S. Silyanov to whom we owe very special thanks. The administra-
tive tasks accompanying the implementation of the contract between the General Road Administration
and the Institute, of Archaeology were fulfilled accurately and in time thanks to the competent invest-
ment control carried out by "Pat Invest Engineering". Our gratitude goes to all its employees that
have worked with us and especially to V. Zarev, G. Ivanova and I. Marinov.
The team members owe the warmest thanks to the Director and governing personnel of the In-
stitute of Archaeology at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences who have not only entirely entrusted us
with the excavations but also shared all our academic and administrative problems. Our work has also
been greatly facilitated by the competent and efficient accountant service provided by the Institute.
The excavations at Koprivlen have received the generous assistance of people and institutions
in the town of Gotse Delchev and the neighbouring villages. Many organisational problems were
solved with the helpful co-operation of Mr V. Moskov, Mayor of Gotse Delchev, Mr A. Belchev,
Mayor of Koprivlen, and Mr I. Shindov, secretary of the Mayor's Office in Koprivlen. All the inhabi-
tants of Koprivlen and the neighbouring villages demonstrated good will and interest in our work.
Many of them participated personally as hired personnel in the excavations.
The archaeological expedition is also indebted for the help and support of the local offices of
the General Road Administration and "Pat Invest Engineering" in the persons of Mr I. Kuyumdzhiev,
Mr K. Vulchev and Mr M. Kesedji.
The Municipal Historical Museum in Gotse Delchev housed the finds discovered in the course
of the excavations, and will soon incorporate them in its permanent exposition. The devoted help of
Miss S. Paskova, Chief Curator of the Museum, has facilitated very much our work on the documen-
tation and analysis of the finds. Our heartfelt thanks go to Miss Paskova also for her commitment to
the problems of the expedition and her efforts to provide the optimum working conditions for the
We would also like to address our heartfelt thanks to Prof. Roland Etienne and to the Ecole
Franfaise d'Archeologie in Athens for their amiable hospitality in offering to two members of the
team (P. Delev and S. Alexandrov) a work stay at the school in the autumn of 1999; the use of their
excellent library was of exceptional significance for the early preparation of the present publication.
The magnificent results from the excavations in 1998 and 1999 were presented to the general
public in two subsequent temporary exhibitions in the halls of the Historical Museum in Gotse
Delchev (autumn 1998) and of the Archaeological Museum in Sofia (autumn 1999). Together with the
present volume they have completed a stage in the explorations at Koprivlen, which we hope and
believe will be continued in the future and will further contribute to the study of the rich cultural
heritage of this isolated mountainous area.



Peter Delev
(University of Sofia "St Kliment Ohridski")
The Middle Mesta region which comprises in general outline the Nevrokop basin with the
frontier mountain ridges surrounding it in the south, the slopes of the Pirin and Rhodope mountains in
the west and east and the Momina Klisura gorge in the north, is mentioned in the extant ancient liter-
ary sources relatively seldom,1 due no doubt to its relatively isolated location. The river Nestos, Nessos
or Mestos, as the ancient authors call it (the form Mestos being evidenced only in the Roman Imperial
Age),2 appeared relatively early and was mentioned quite often in the ancient literary sources, if
mostly in connection with its lowermost part near Abdera and the seaside; however Thucydides in the
5th c. B.C. could already offer precise information about the region of its sources.3 The name of the
Rhodope mountains was the other toponym well known to the early Greek geographic tradition, 4
though presumably as an indefinite general notion of a large mountain massif within which most likely
the Rila and Pirin were also included.


The Thracian tribes which inhabited the Middle Mesta region in antiquity are not clearly at-
tested in the ancient literary tradition. Some specific details are mentioned as an exception in a para-
graph of Pliny the Elder, which however leaves too many doubtful and uncertain points: "...the right
side of the river Strymon is inhabited by the Denseletae and Maedi as far as the already mentioned
Bisaltae; the left side - by the Digerri and many tribes of the Bessi as far as the river Mestos, which
skirts the foot of the Pangaeus mountain [having passed?] among the Haleti, Diobessi and Carbilesi,
and then among the Brigae, Sapaei and Odomanti" b Pliny, who lived in the 1 st c. A.D., was a most
learned man of encyclopedic knowledge. He has not mentioned the sources of the short geographic
description of Thrace in the fourth book of the Naturalis Historia, but the paragraph starts with the
division of the country into fifty strategies, which places the whole passage in the context of the age
when the Romans imposed their rule in Thrace.

A general review of the ancient literary evidence is to be found in Gerov 1961: 214-225.
Detschew 1976: 299, 329, 330.
Thuc. 2.96.4.
Cf. for example Hdt. 4.49; 8.116.
" The relation of the rather vague oronyms Scombros (Thuc. 2.96.3; Arist. Meteor. 350b.l6; cf.
Detschew 1976:459) and Dunax (Strabo 4.6.12 = Polyb. 34.10.15; Liv. 40.58.2; cf. Detschew 1976: 153) with
Rila is uncertain, as well as the enlargement of the scope of Orbelos (usually identified as Belasitsa after Hdt.
5.16) towards Southern Pirin or more definitely AH Botush (on the basis mainly of Arr. Anab. 1.1.5, cf. Borza
1995: 89).
Plin. N. H. 4.40.
The question about the strategies in Thrace has been the subject of a long discussion in the scientific
literature. Cf. Mihailov 1967; Mihailov 1967; Gerov 1970; Gerov 1978; Tacheva 1981; Tacheva 1983; Tacheva
1997: 170-174; Fol 1985; Kalojanov 1995. I adhere to the opinion that they would have been created in the pe-
riod of revival of the "great" Odrysian Kingdom as a Roman protectorate in the 1 st c. B.C.

//. 1. The Middle Mesta Region in Antiquity (P. Delev)

Curtailed and incorrect versions of basically the same statement are found in later authors like
Gaius Julius Solinus ("on the right bank of the Strymon live the Denseletae and many tribes of the
Bessi as far as the Mesta river, which skirts the foots of Pangaeus "f and Martianus Capella ("on the
right side of the Strymon live the Bessi and Denseletae as far as the river Mestos, which skirts the
Pangaeus")^ Both passages obviously derive from the text of Pliny the Elder, without adding any sig-
nificant information to it.
If we ignore the general unreliability of this description' 0 and analyse it such as it is, we would
still be at a loss to arrange the mentioned tribes on the geographical map because of its fundamental
ambiguity. Pliny starts by placing the Digerri and Bessi between the Strymon and Mestos, and then in
two consecutive groups along the latter first the Haleti, Diobessi and Carbilesi, and then the Brigae,
Sapaei and Odomanti. One of the possible ways of interpretation is to place the Digerri and Bessi in
the highlands of the mountains Rila 1 ' and Pirin, and then arrange the following tribes to the east of
them in the valleys along the Mesta river basin (for example the Haleti, Diobessi and Carbilesi along
its upper and middle course and the Brigae, Sapaei and Odomanti along the lower one). The other pos-
sible interpretation would be based on the idea that the ancient population was concentrated mainly in
the fertile valleys, which should also be considered as the kernels of the Thracian tribal groups; ac-
cordingly the territories of the Digerri and Bessi would be extended in an easterly direction to the Up-
per and Middle Mesta valley, 12 and those of the following tribes should in this case be located to the
south of them. Both hypotheses however are purely fictional and arise from the wish to place all the
tribes listed by Pliny together on the geographical map. If however we were to assume that at least a
part of the several ethnonyms placed by Pliny along the Mesta belonged to some of the "many tribes
of the Bessi", the result would be essentially different (and maybe closer to the ancient reality).
The Bessi, located by Pliny between the Strymon and the Nestos, were already known to
Herodotus who describes them, with reference to events at the beginning of the 5th c. B.C., as a part of
the Satrae and prophets in the sanctuary of Dionysos. The Satrae themselves are defined as the warlike
inhabitants of high mountains, who live among woods and snow and have always been independent.13
Herodotus also mentions the Satrae in connection with the area of the Pangaeus mountain, where ac-
cording to him they had been working the gold and silver mines together with the Pieres and Odo-
manti; 14 however the whole text gives the impression that the father of history gave this name rather to
the numerous population in the interior mountainous territories of Southern Thrace, situated away
from the coast. Even before Herodotus, the Satrae had been mentioned as a Thracian tribe by
Hecataeus of Miletus, who is quoted in the Ethnica of Stephanus Byzantinus; 15 and again Hecataeus
has attested a tribe bearing the composite name Satrokentai.
Relying mainly on the rather dubious information of Herodotus, the modern historical geogra-
phy of the Thracian tribes placed the Satrae most often between the Strymon and Nestos, whether only
in the area of Mount Pangaeus or in a larger region including the Pangaeus at its southern end and
comprising the mountainous massifs of Bozdag, Sharlia, Cherna Gora, Ali Botush and, according to
some opinions, also the whole of the Pirin, while others were ready to add moreover the Rila and even
Vitosha in the north. 17 Later, T. Sarafov expounded his theory (gladly accepted by other scholars too)
that the tribal territory of the Satrae should be enlarged eastwards in order to include also the main part
of the Rhodope mountains.

Solin. 10.
Mart. Cap. 6.656.
Some of the Thracian tribes mentioned by Pliny are absolutely unknown from other sources and some
seem to have been incorrectly located. In the next sentence from the Natural History, for example, among the
tribes from the Odrysian lands in the valley of the Hebros Pliny mentions the Botiei and Edoni, which is obvi-
ously incorrect.
Cf. however Thuc. 2.96.4 with the affirmation that Rila was uninhabited.
Such was the opinion of Gerov 1961: 160, 218.
Hdt. 7.111.
Hdt. 7.112, 110.
Steph. Byz. 557, 24.
" Steph. Byz. (FGrH 1,F 181).
For a detailed review of the locations cf. Sarafov 1974: 123-137.
Ibid. 149-176.

KOPRIVLEN 1 cell. The Middle Mesta Region

The name of the Satrae vanishes from the literary sources after its last mention by Herodotus.
In the work of Thucydides the ethnonym of the Dii appears instead; these were highlanders independ-
ent of the rule of the Odrysae, bearing swords and inhabiting the Rhodope mountains, who in 429 B.C.
voluntarily joined the campaign of the Odrysian king Sitalces in Macedonia and Chalcidice.19 And
again Thucydides tells of a party of 1300 peltasts "from the Thracians bearing swords of the Diakoi
clan", who came to Athens in 413 B.C. as mercenaries, but were sent off and on their way back took
and plundered the small town of Mycalessos in Boeotia; it is possible that the name is corrupted in the
text or represents a variant of the name of the Dii.20 Henceforth the name of the Dii also disappears
from the written sources for a long time. In connection with the campaign of Alexander the Great in
Thrace in 335 B.C. Flavius Arrianus mentions only the lands of the "independent Thracians", but
their identification with the Satrae of Herodotus and the Dii of Thucydides seems quite possible in the
light of the context of the paragraph21 and also because of an incidental mention in Suetonius that Al-
exander had visited (most probably during this very campaign) the famous sanctuary of Dionysos,
where he had received a fiery omen from the oracle of the god." The Dii were mentioned again only
by Publius Cornelius Tacitus in the description of events from the time of the emperor Tiberius - the
revolt of the Coelaletae, Odrysae and Dii in 21 A.D. against the pro-Roman king Roemetalces who
was besieged in Philippopolis and later escaped only as a result of the timely intervention of the army
of the pro-praetor of Moesia Publius Velleius."
Returning now to the Bessi, mentioned by Herodotus as only a part of the Satrae and prophets
in the famous sanctuary of Dionysos, it should be pointed out that in the course of time their name
turned more and more popular, until in Late Antiquity it became a synonym of "Thracians" in gen-
eral." Polybius and Titus Livius refer to a campaign of Philip V in the lands of the Odrysae, Bessi and
Dentheleti in 183 B.C." In the course of the two centuries following the establishment of the Roman
province of Macedonia, the Bessi are being mentioned repeatedly in the literary sources as traditional
Roman enemies in Thrace; they often acted also as the adversaries of the pro-Roman Odrysian rul-
ers.26 Unfortunately, most of the texts reflecting the events of this period do not offer any information
at all about the geographical position of the Bessi or of any of the other mentioned Thracian tribes.
The scarce evidence concerning this question is quite contradictory and has given start to a long and
still open discussion among the modern historians. While some authors have preferred to locate the
Bessi in the Rhodope region and to consider them a highland population,27 others have spread their
territories northwards to the Stara Planina (the Balkan range) and Sredna Gora mountains, including
also the western part of the upper Hebros valley, according to some as far as Philippopolis in the
east."8 The second opinion is based on a general statement in Strabo that the Bessi lived near the river
Hebros,29 on the location of the Roman road station Bessapara near Sinitovo in the region of Pazard-
jik,30 and especially on the connection established between the Bessi and the Haemus mountain again

Thuc. 2.96.
Thuc. 7.27.1-2, 29.1-30.3. Cf. Detschew 1976: 130.
Arr. Anab. 1.1.5. (starting from Amphipolis, Alexander entered the lands of the independent Thra-
cians, passing to the right of the city of Philippi and of the mountain Orbelos; on the tenth day after the crossing
of the Nestos he reached the mountain Haemus).
Suet. Aug. 94.6.
Tac. arm. 3.38-39.
On the Bessi cf. Katsarov 1924; Sarafov 1974.
Polyb. 23.8. 3-7; Liv. 39.53.12-14.
Cf. Chapter II. 1.6 Mm.
Sarafov 1974.
Katsarov 1924: 31; Venedikov 1969: 43 ff.; Fol 1975: 77-83. Tacheva 1995: 12-14 limits the pres-
ence of the Bessi in only part of the Upper Thracian Valley, but spreads their territory in the whole Western
Stara Planina. Cf. also Boteva 1996 with an attempt to locate the Bessie sanctuary of Dionysos in the Etropole
Strabo 7.f 47: along the Hebros live the Corpili and then upwards the Breni and at the end the Bessi;
The river is navigable as far as there. In the following part of the same paragraph however Strabo is credited with
the key statement that the Bessi were neighbours of both the Odrysae and the Sapaei, which would automatically
send their location in the Rhodope region.
Tsonchev 1950. According to an inscription from Philippopolis (Mihailov 1961 : 947) there existed an
Upper and a Lower Bessapara.

III. The Middle Mesta Region in Antiquity (P. Delev)

in the work of Strabo. The expansion of the ethnonym of the Bessi over such an enormous territory
puts in serious doubt their interpretation as a tribe or a tribal group; it could hardly be explained also
by the assumption that the name was used as the denomination of a specific type of population.32
The seventh book of Strabo's "Geography" containing the description of Thrace is preserved
incompletely, partly in fragments, and the text contains many evident inconsistencies. The last quoted
passage is among the most problematic ones: the Bessi are mentioned as inhabitants of the Haemus
together with the rather uncertain Coralli and the evidently mistaken Maedi and Dentheleti who are in
fact definitely located in the valley of the Strymon. This patent mistake provides good reasons to sus-
pect that Strabo systematically (here and in several other places) confuses the Balkan mountain range
(Haemus) with the mountain Rila, probably being mislead by his sources.33 If such be the case, the
passage in question could have derived from an initial information enumerating the tribes along the
Strymon, around the Rila mountain (= Haemus) and as far as the Pontos river (Strumeshnitsa) in the
south. This suggestion conforms better with the next affirmation of Strabo in the same paragraph, in
which the territories of the Bessi are said to be adjacent to the Rhodope mountains and to the territo-
ries of the Paeones and of the Illyrian tribes of the Autariatae and Dardani.31 The suggestion becomes
even more plausible because in another (though confused textually) paragraph from the seventh book
of Strabo the mountains Haemus and Rhodope are explicitly related with the valley of the Strymon.36
The well known story in Titus Livius about the ascent of the Macedonian king Philip V to "the peak of
the mountain Haemus" could be added to the arguments: on his way to the mountain Philip passed
through the lands of the Maedi, and after the unfortunate climbing he immediately devastated the lands
of the Dentheleti who were his allies.37
If the relation of the Bessi with Stara Planina (the Balkan mountain range) is discarded, it be-
comes easier to ignore also the evidence locating them in the valley of the Hebros and to accept the
basic idea of Sarafov according to which they were the inhabitants of the highland Rhodope region,
with the explicit postulation that their territories extended in the west to comprise the whole Rila mas-
sif (and maybe also the range of the Pirin to the south of it?) - and this fits perfectly with the assertion
of Pliny which places them to the east of the Strymon.
The Digerri (or Digeri) who appear together with the Bessi in Pliny, are also mentioned as a
Thracian tribe (but with no location) by Stephanus Byzantinus who quotes the thirteenth book of
Polybius as his source.38 Their name is similar to the names of the Pyrogeri and Drugeri mentioned in
the subsequent text of Pliny as tribes on Odrysian territory in the valley of the Hebros,1 but this could

Strabo 7.5.12: Then come the Corali, Bessi, some Maedi and Dentheleti who live around and bellow
the Haemus as f a r as the Pontus. These tribes are all given to plundering, and the Bessi who inhabit the larger
part of the mountain Haemus are called brigands by the brigands themselves. They live in huts and live a poor
With a possible meaning of "highlanders", "ore-miners", "independent" or something else. How-
ever, it is doubtful that a similar epithet was ascribed simultaneously to the independent mountainous population
in the Rhodopes and to the lowlanders of the fertile Upper Hebros Valley who were controlled by the Odrysae.
It remains however unclear whether the evident inconsistency in Strabo should be attributed to a
mistake in the ancient literary tradition or to an authentic coincidence of the names of the two mountains. It
seems perfectly possible to assume that the oronym Haemus could have derived from a common noun in the
Thracian language (with a sense, for example, of "high mountain", "snowy mountain" or something similar).
On the river Pantos cf. Detschew 1976: 374.
Strabo 7.5.12. A part of the Autariatae (whose main territories were further to the north, in the valley
of the Morava) were settled by Cassander "near the mountain Orbelos" (Diod. 20.19.1; lustin. 15.2.1-2). The
territory of the Dardani is located around the upper reaches of the Axios with Scupi (Scopie) as a centre. In
Strabo (7.5.1, Cf. 7.f 4) the Autariatae and Dardani are the northern neighbours of the Paeoni.
' Strabo 7.f 36. On the basis of this paragraph, of 7.5.1 (where the Rhodope mountains border on Pae-
onia) and of 7.f 10 (where Rhodope and Haemus are neighbouring mountains) the suggested hypothesis could be
further developed in the sense that in all these cases the name Rhodope was actually ascribed to the Pirin. The
transferring of the names Haemus and Rhodope to designate the Rila and Pirin mountains could result also from
a general geographical idea of the position of the two pairs of mountains.
Liv. 40.21.2, 22.1-12.
Steph. Byz. 229.19. The thirteenth book of Polybius included an account of the actions of Philip V in
Thrace in 205-204 B.C., and the mention of the Digerri could be related to these.
Plin. N. H. 4.40.

KOPRIVLEN 1 eg 11 The Middle Mesta Region

hardly be a good enough reason to suggest that the three tribes were situated close to one another, for
example in the eastern part of the Rila and along the upper reaches of the Nestos and the Hebros. The
similarity of the names would rather be purely linguistic, and the common second part (geri ) probably
had a semantic and not an onomastic significance.40 Besides, the Tabula Peutingeriana puts the Pyro-
geri between Philippopolis and Hadrianopolis and also shows another tribe with a similar name - Bet-
tegerri - in the region between Ainos and the Asticus Mons (Strandja);41 Pliny himself adds yet an-
other such name - that of the tribe of the Celegeri who lived somewhere in the province of Moesia in
the north.42
The etymology of the name Digerri is not clear, but the above parallels with second compo-
nent -geri make the division Di-gerri obvious. It is worth considering whether the first component of
the name (di-) does not correspond to the ethnonym Dii (with the variant Diakoil) in Thucydides and
Tacitus. Following stricto sensu the logic of the arrangement of the tribes along the Strymon in the
first part of Pliny's passage (Dentheleti - Maedi - Bisaltae, i.e. from north to south), the Digerri
should be placed to the north of the Bessi. If on the other hand we accept the opinion of T. Sarafov,
who considers the Dii (= Digerri?) and the Bessi as different names for one and the same highland
population, we may think of the possibility to refer Pliny's remark "multa nomina" to both mentioned
ethnonyms and read his text as "Digerri and Bessi, many tribes".
In the second part of the same paragraph Pliny lists the names of tribes living along the Nes-
tos, grouping them into two series: first the Haleti, Diobessi and Carbilesi, and then the Brigae, Sa-
paei and Odomanti. The name of the Haleti is not known from other sources; D. Detschew compares
it to the second component of compound names like Denth-e/ef/, Coe\-aletae, etc. The composite
name Diobessi is also a hapax legomenon, but both its component parts are well known; it closes in a
perfect way the ethnonymic sequence Bessi - Satrae - Dii already discussed above. The name of the
Carbilesi is also mentioned solely in this text; however it resembles very much the name Carbileti
mentioned in the following text of the same paragraph as inhabitants of the valley of the Hebros.
Detschew suggested that one and the same tribal group was meant in both instances, and was inclined
to locate it accordingly somewhere in the north-western parts of the Rhodope mountains.
The three names included in the following group are better attested in the ancient tradition.
Most enigmatic here are the Brygae; the name is an emendation by the publishers of Pliny in place of
the Brysae (or, Brisae) of the codices, which would have been a hapax legomenon. The correction
however remains uncertain; the name Brysae/Brisae may be related to a large enough series of Thra-
cian language remains,46 and on the other hand this would be the only text in which the Brygae, oth-
erwise well-attested in the ancient sources, would have been placed anywhere near the Lower Mesta
region, even if their other known locations vary in quite broad geographical limits. The variant sug-
gestions to consider the Brygae of Pliny as a part of the Phrygians left in the area during their migra-
tion to Anatolia, as a part of the Macedonian Brygae pushed out of Central Macedonia together with
the Pieres during the early territorial expansion of the Macedonians, or as a remnant of the same Ma-
cedonian Brygae resettled by the Persians after their defeat by Mardonius in 492 B.C., seem all rather
strained because of the lack of any evidence about their presence on the lower Nestos in the whole
earlier, pre-PHnian literary tradition; the same objection however can be raised to the alternative
The other two tribal groups do not raise similar doubts. The Sapaei are attested since the time
of Herodotus, who locates them between the Bistones and the Dersaei in his enumeration of the tribes

Tomaschek 1980:1.87; Detschew 1976: 102.

TP 8.2, 4/5.
PJin. N. //. 4.40.
Detschew 1976: 12.
Detschew 1976: 140.
Detschew 1976:227.
Detschew 1976: 87-92 mentions , -brisa, Bpmocioc;,
For example in Central Macedonia around the mountain Bermion, in the basin of the river Erigon
(Cherna) with the town of Cydrae, and even further westwards round the Ceraunian mountains; cf. e. g. Hdt.
6.45; Strabo 7.7.8-9, 7. F 25. On the Brygae cf. Oberhummer 1897; Detschew 1976: 91-92; Venedikov 1982: 98-
101; Papazoglou 1988: 271-272; Petrova 1996: 135 f.

//. 1. The Middle Mesta Region in Antiquity (P. Delev)

along the North Aegean coast.48 In the 2lld c. B.C. a ruler of the Sapaei called Abrapolis interfered ac-
tively in the conflict between the Macedonian Kingdom and the Roman Republic,49 and in the 1s' c.
B.C. the Sapaei presumably managed with Roman protection to seize the power in the Odrysian King-
dom, establishing its last dynasty ruling in Byzia.50 Strabo locates them above the coastal area of Ab-
dera and Maroneia, i.e. in the southernmost parts of the Rhodope mountains. 51 According to Appian,
in 42 B.C. the army of Brutus and Cassius bypassed the Sapaeian pass through the homonymous Sa-
paeian mountain and descended directly into the plain of Drama near Philippi. " The stability of these
localizations over a very long period of time not only confirms their authenticity, but also suggests that
the Sapaei, in contrast to other more ephemeral tribes, represented a numerous highland population
permanently settled in this area. Unfortunately, the exact establishment of their tribal territories re-
mains impossible, including the key question of their frontiers in the west and north-west which are
relevant to the present study.
The Odomanti also appear early into the ancient literary tradition. 53 Herodotus mentions them
twice always in connection with Mount Pangaeus: first, together with the Doberi and Agrianes, as one
of the tribes who had preserved their independence during the campaign of Megabazus against the
Paeones in the valley of the Strymon, 54 and then again, together with the Satrae and Pieres, as ore-
miners extracting gold and silver from the mountain. 55 Thucydides on the contrary considers them a
lowland population in an important paragraph of his history, locating them together with the Panaei,
Droi and Dersaei in the plains along the eastern bank of the Lower Strymon and adding that at the
time of the campaign of Sitalces in 429 B.C. all these tribes were independent.56 Thucydides mentions
also a king of the Odomanti called Poles who was an ally of the Athenians in the battle of Amphipo-
lis.57 Polybius likewise placed the Odomanti to the east of Strymon; 58 according to Strabo the river
separated them from the Bisaltae.59 On the basis of a mention of the town Sirae in Odomantica in Ti-
tus Livius,60 the lands of the Odomanti have been traditionally located in the region of the plain of
Seres, usually with the addition of the western part of the plain of Drama and the mountains rising
above them - Sharlia (Vrondu) and Zmiynitsa (Menikion).61 In the 5 th century however Herodotus
considered Siris a Paeonian town, 62 and if the two versions denote the same toponym (easily identified
with the modern town of Seres), the sources definitely create the impression that the ethnic map of the
region had radically changed in the period between the 5th and the 2 nd c. B.C.
Notwithstanding the general uncertainty of these localizations and the suggested possibility
for changes in the course of time, the extant sources create the overall impression that the tribal groups
of the Sapaei and Odomanti were more or less permanently settled in areas situated to the east of the
lower reaches of the Nestos for the former, and to the east of the Strymon for the latter. This conclu-
sion in its turn leads to the inference that the account of Pliny, at least in this part, is rather general and
includes tribal names spread over a large area around the lower reaches of the Nestos and still pre-
serving their relative importance in the age of the establishment of Roman domination over the Bal-
kans. The earlier authors mention in this wider geographical area around the lower Strymon and Nes-
tos several other Thracian tribes, whose absence from the list of Pliny can be interpreted as the result
of a gradual degradation of their tribal identity after the region fell under Macedonian rule in the 4*

Hdt. 7.110.
The sources in Fol 1975:77.
Tacheva 1997: 83 f.
Strabo 7.f 43.
App. C/v. 431-438.
Oberhummer 1937; Detschew 1976: 336.
Hdt. 5.16.
Hdt. 7.112.
Thuc. 2.101.3.
Thuc. 5.6.2. Cf. also Aristoph. Ach. 156 sqq.
Polyb. 36.10.4.
'Strabo 7. F36.
Liv. 45.4.2.
Papazoglou 1988: 377-384.
Hdt. 8.115; cf. Detschew 976: 448.

KOPRIVLEN 1 osll. The Middle Mesta Region

century. Among these tribes not mentioned by Pliny, most important historically were the Edoni,63
located in the 5 century in the region around Mount Pangaeus. The Pieres, whom Herodotus defines
as settlers from Macedonia, occupied in the same period the southern slopes of the Pangaeus. Hero-
dotus places between the Sapaei and the Edoni the Dersaei, who are also mentioned by Thucydides;
some modern authors have tried to identify them with the Derroni who are known only from their
splendid coins.'" Herodotus mentions, always in connection with the same region, also the Satrae who
were already mentioned above, the Paeoplae, Doberi, Agrianes, Paeones and Siriopaeones; 66° Thucy-
dides adds the names of the Droi and Panaei.' The otherwise unknown Orrescii minted large quanti-
ties of excellent coins at the end of the 6th and in the first half of the 5th c. B.C.; their probable location
in the area is based only on the numismatic correlation between their coins and the early strikes of the
island of Thasos. Besides the probable location in the region of the Orreskii and the possible (but
more uncertain) one of the Derroni, there is a more remote possibility to place somewhere in the same
area also the hypothetical tribes of the Ichnaei, Tynteni and Letaei, whose names are reconstructed
from the legends on silver coins minted in the same period.
The sources in general present quite a variegated picture of the tribes inhabiting the region
around the lower Strymon and Nestos; it should however be kept in mind that in reality the system
could have been rather dynamic and it is not at all surprising that some tribal names have been men-
tioned only sporadically. The factors determining this instability were the strategic situation of the re-
gion and its notorious riches, which had made it the object of repeated aggressive and expansionistic
activities by foreign political powers, including the Greek colonists, the Persian Empire, the Athenian
Empire, the Odrysian Kingdom, until, in the end, the whole region was integrated permanently in the
Macedonian Kingdom. The fact that the ethnonyms of the Sapaei and Odomanti were preserved till
Roman times should probably be related with the gradual withdrawal of their respective tribal territo-
ries from the contended coastal and lowland areas towards the mountains of the near interior, which
allowed them to preserve their tribal identity.
If, in conclusion, we return once more to the text of Pliny enumerating the tribes in the region
of the Nestos, it becomes obvious that the three last mentioned groups - the Brygae (or, Brysae), Sa-
paei and Odomanti - should be located generally in the mountains around the modern state frontier
between Bulgaria and Greece. This allows to place the lands of the foregoing Haleti, Diobessi and
Carbilesi further in the north. However, the picture remains too vague and lacking in details, and it is
not possible to suggest anything more definite about the ancient population in the Nevrokop (Gotse
Delchev) basin. The Haleti, Diobessi and Carbilesi could have belonged to the tribal community of the
Bessi, not only because of Pliny's remark about the numerous tribes of the latter, but also for the char-
acteristic composite ethnic name of the Diobessi; this assumption suggests further a possible division
between the lands of the Bessi in the north and those of the Sapaei and Odomanti in the south. The
impossibility to outline clearly the northern boundary of the latter does not allow, however, to reach
any definite conclusions. Most likely, only the eventual discovery of an explicit epigraphical monu-
ment might one day throw some more light into this entangled and obscure question.


The archaeological material accumulated especially in the last several years strengthens the
impression that stable and very old relations existed between the Middle Mesta region and the littoral
which was open to the direct influence of the maritime civilizations controlling successively the navi-
gation and sea trade in the Aegean. It seems that relations of this kind existed as early as the Myce-
naean Age (16 th - 12th c. B.C.), as attested by the so far sporadic finds of Mycenaean pottery near Ko-

Detschew 1976: 197-199; Fol 1972: 104-106; Papazoglou 1988: 385-414.

Detschew 1976:366-368.
Detschew 1976: 120, 128; Fol 1972: 99-101.
Hdt. 5.15-16; 7.113.
Thuc. 2.101.3. According to St. Byz. 499.3 the Panaei were an Edonian tribe near Amphipolis.
Kraay 1976: 139; Yurukova 1992: 16. Coins of the Orrescii have been found near Gotse Delchev, cf.
Gerasimov 1939, 344; Yurukova 1979: 59.
Cf. Chapter II. 1.3 infrn.

D. 1. The Middle Mesta Region in Antiquity (P. Delev)

privlen.70 No certain evidence of archaeological character has been found as yet to confirm similar
contacts during the Geometric Age (11 t h - 8th c. B.C.), when they could be supposed both with the
Phoenicians established on the island of Thasos and on the opposite coast71 and with the Euboean
Greeks, whose early (pre-colonization) influence in the Chalcidic Peninsula seems lately more and
more certain. " The authentic imported materials from the Archaic Age (from the second half of the 8th
till the end of the 6* c. B.C.), found in the course of the excavations at Koprivlen, should obviously be
related with the results of the Greek colonization in the coastal area.
The earliest colonization activities in the North-Western Aegean area were those of the
Euboean towns Chalcis and Eretria in the Chalcidic Peninsula.73 Before or at least about the middle of
the 8th c. B.C. the Euboeans started founding their settlements in the region; among them - the Eretrian
colony of Mende in Palene and the Chalcidian one of Torone in Sitonia. The total number of Euboean
colonies in Chalcidice reached several dozens, most of them small towns which have not left a signifi-
cant trace in the historical tradition. The opinion that the early Euboean colonization in Chalcidice was
exclusively of agrarian character does not seem convincing, 7 especially in view of the active minting
and the broad diffusion of the coins of the Chalcidic towns in the Archaic period.75
The Dorians appeared in Chalcidice very little later than the Euboeans, but their foundations
remained isolated. About the end of the 7 th or at the beginning of the 6th c. B.C. Corinth founded Poti-
daea on the neck of Palene.76 Sclone on the same peninsula was probably founded by Achaeans from
Pelene in North Peloponnesos. In the middle of the 7 c. B.C. the Cycladic island of Andros carried
out an active colonization in the eastern part of Chalcidice with the help of Euboea; among its colonies
wets Acanthus, Sane, Stageira andArgilos.
Also in the middle of the 7 th c. B.C. Paros, another Cycladic island, colonized the island of
Thasos, founding one of the most prosperous Greek poleis near the Thracian coast.79 The Thasians
occupied quite early the opposite coast on the mainland, the so called Thasian Perea, where they es-
tablished many of their own foundations; particularly important among these was the port of Neapolis
(the modern Kavala).80
Abdera to the east of the mouth of the Nestos was founded first in the middle of the 7n century
by lonians from Clazomenae in Anatolia, but the colony was soon destroyed by the hostile Thracians.
It was re-founded a century later again by lonians, this time from Theos, who had fled their city after
West Anatolia was conquered by the Persians.81
In the 5th c. B.C. new colonization efforts were undertaken by Athens which was going
through the period of its acme at the head of the Delian League, of which the Greek cities along the
coast of South-Westem Thrace were all members. After successfully expelling in 476 B.C. the Per-
sians from Eion at the mouth of the Strymon, the Athenians re-colonized it and turned it into the main
base for their subsequent attempts to penetrate into the interior.82 In 465 B.C., at the time of the Thasos
uprising, Athens sent ten thousand colonists to Ennea Hodoi ("The nine roads"), upstream on the
Strymon, on the place of the future Amphipolis. The campaign finished with a complete disaster after
Cf. Chapter HI infra.
Salviat, Servais 1964: 278-284; Graham 1978: 88-92. On the basis of the information of Herodotus
(Hdt. 2.44; 6.46-47) it has been suggested that the Phoenician presence was directly connected with the mining
of precious metals.
Vokotopoulou, Koukouli-Chrysanthaki 1988: 81; Tiverios 1998: 249.
On the Chalcidic Peninsula and its colonization cf. Harrison 1912; West 1919; Bradeen 1952; Berard
1960: 66-68; Zahrnt 1971.
Boardman 1988:229.
Kraay 1976: 132.
On Potidaea cf. Alexander 1963.
Thuc. 4. 120. 1.
Thuc. 4. 84. 1;88.2; 103.3; 109.2; 5.6.1; Plut. mor. 298 AB.
From the numerous books on Thasos cf. for example the series Etudes Thasiennes; Pouilloux et al.
1954/1958; Lazaridis 1958; Guide de Thasos 1968; about the date of the foundation cf. Graham 1978.
On Neapolis and the Thasian Perea cf. Bakalakis 1936; Koukouli-Chrysanthaki 1980b: 309-325;
Isaac 1986: 8-12,64-71.
On Abdera cf. Berard 1960: 92-95; May 1966; Lazaridis 1971; Isaac 1986: 73-111; Koukouli-
Chrysanthaki 1988; Koukouli-Chrysanthaki 1994.
On Eion cf. Isaac 1986: 60-62; Papazoglou 1988: 388-389.

KOPRIVLEN1 es77. The Middle Mesta Region

the defeat of the colonists in a big battle with the Thracians near Drabescos. " About 445 B.C. the
Athenians founded Brea, the location of which is sought for either in the lands of the Bisaltae above
the western bank of Strymon or in the southwest, in the Chalcidic area. In 437/6 B.C. the Athenian
general Hagnon founded, this time successfully, the city of Amphipolis. Situated at a place naturally
defended by a meander of the river, the new city had a strategic importance because of the control
over the land roads across the lower Struma and over the silver and gold mines in the region and espe-
cially because it provided easy access to sources of quality timber which were essential for the ship-
building industry of Athens.
The attack of the Athenians against Potidaea which had deserted from their league was among
the causes for the outburst of the Peloponnesian war; the seizure of the old Corinthian colony in 429
B.C. remained however their last success in the region. At the same time Olynthus had also left the
Athenian League. Once a town of the Botiei given by the Persian Artabazus to the Chalcidians, now
Olynthus was resettled with a part of the population of the smaller Chalcidian towns and the Athenians
were unable to regain control of the city which had now become too strong and had succeeded in
uniting the remaining towns of Chalcidice into a political union.86 The crash of the Athenian expan-
sion came in 424 B.C. when the Spartan Brasidas seized Amphipolis and deprived Athens of its most
important gain in Thrace; the attempt of the democratic leader Cleon to change the situation failed in a
great battle under the walls of the city, in which both Cleon and Brasidas found their death. It is worth
noticing that Thucydides mentions the active participation of the Thracians of the region in these dra-
matic events: at the time of the seizure of Amphipolis Brasidas received the help of the Edoni from
Myrkinos, after their former king Pittakos was killed in a coup.87 Later, in the big battle at Amphipolis,
one thousand and five hundred Thracian mercenaries and the whole army of the Edoni consisting of
peltasts and cavalry, plus another thousand peltasts from the Edonian Myrkinos were fighting in the
army of Brasidas, while the king of the Odomanti Poles brought an unspecified, but in any case con-
siderable number of Thracian mercenaries for the army of Cleon.89
In the 4th c. B.C. Athens recovered from the defeat in the Peloponnesian war and made a de-
termined, if finally unsuccessful attempt to revive its old power; its endeavours to regain Amphipolis
however failed. Potidaea and Eion became the main bases of the newly activated Athenians policy in
the region during the second quarter of the century. In Chalcidice Olynthus experienced a short period
of might at the head of the Chalcidian League. Thasos entered a long period of prosperity and stable
trade, reflected in the long series of stamped amphorae, in which the citizens of the island exported
their famous wine during the 4 th and 3rd century. Abdera, on the opposite, met with an unexpected dis-
aster when in 375 B.C. the Triballi reached the town in the course of a devastating raid, defeated the
citizens in a battle after these had been betrayed by some "neighbouring Thracians" who had seem-
ingly come to their help, and only the timely intervention of an Athenian fleet prevented their entering
into the wealthy town.90 The question whether and in what way this event affected the Middle Mesta
region remains completely hypothetical. In the middle of the 4th century the Macedonian invasion into
the lands of South-Western Thrace changed radically the fate of the Greek coastal cities. Many of
them, like Olynthus, were destroyed; others, like Amphipolis, were re-colonized and obtained an im-
portant role in the Macedonian administrative system in the region; others still, like Thasos and Ab-
dera, survived and adapted to the dynamically changing political and economical situation.
The Greek colonization of the coastal regions was of paramount importance for the develop-
ment of the Thracian tribes living in the near or deeper interior. Involved in intensive economical and
political relations with the colonists, the Thracians inevitably experienced their cultural influence. The
interrelations between the colonies and the Thracian tribes were complicated, many-sided and often

Isaac 1986:24-30
Isaac 1986: 51-52. A colonization move to the lands of the Bisaltae rich in silver has been placed by
Plut. Per. 11.5 in the time of Pericles.
On Amphipolis Papastavru 1936; Lazaridis 1972; Isaac 1986: 35-48, 54-58.
On Olynthus Gude 1933; the results of the long term archaeological excavations have been published
by D. M. Robinson et al. in the series Excavations at Olynthus.
Thuc. 4. 107. 3.
Thuc. 5. 6. 4.
'Thuc. 5.6. 2.
'Diod. 15.36. 1-4; cf. Fol 1975: 13-14.

//. /. The Middle Mesta Region in Antiquity (P. Delev)

contradictory, but undoubtedly they represented a factor of major importance in the historical devel-
opment of the Thracian lands from the Archaic Age onwards. The first results of the archaeological
excavations near Koprivlen have shown unequivocally that here these contacts and relations were both
of very old date and presumably most intensive, which makes the site exceptionally interesting and
promising for their future study.


The archaeological excavations near Koprivlen have proved for the first time, but categori-
cally enough, that the Middle Mesta region was part of a broader geographical area around the lower
courses of the Nestos, Strymon and Axios, which experienced during the 6' and in the first half of the
5th c. B.C. that remarkable economic, political and cultural prosperity which is reflected most clearly
in the marvellous finds from the necropolises by Sindos and Agia Paraskevi near Thessaloniki. This
phenomenon remains insufficiently studied in the specialized literature, which continues to use quite
often the evidently imprecise formula of the "Thraco-Macedonian" tribes. Together with the early
tribal coinage, which has been a subject of scientific interest for a long period of time,92 the spread of
the local wheel-made pottery with geometric decoration painted in red or brown, impressive amounts
of which have been found among the materials from Koprivlen, has only recently been recognized as
another element of the cultural community of the region in this age.93
The literary tradition creates the impression that the population in the region was subject to
dynamic changes in the course of time, and that a certain amount of ethnical heterogeneity had always
existed. The Thracian factor seems however to have been predominant in the early ages, a Thracian
affiliation being ascribed to most of the tribes mentioned by the ancient authors.94 The presence of
Paeonian tribes is also documented with certainty, especially in the region of Lower Strymon. ~ Chal-
cidians and Botiei were present in the Chalcidic Peninsula; the latter, according to the written sources,
were settlers from Central Macedonia, while the Chalcidians are differently identified either with the
Euboean colonists in Chalcidice, or as a separate group of local (and most likely non-Greek) popula-
tion.96 A vague piece of information places a Pelasgian enclave in the interior of the Chalcidic penin-
sula.97 The location of the Brygae, related by Herodotus to the Phrygians of Anatolia, remains dubi-
ous; the information of Pliny about their possible presence in the Lower Nestos region has already
been commented on above. At quite an early date, this varied enough ethnic picture was further diver-
sified with the arrival of the different Greek colonists (Euboeans, Corinthians, lonians from the islands
and from Asia, Athenians) who settled mainly along the seaside.
The reasons for the appearance, at the end of the 6th or in the beginning of the 5" c. B.C., of
the heavy silver coinage of the tribes in South-Western Thrace, remain inadequately explained.
Among the suggested ideas is the probable imposition of a royal tax after the establishment of Persian
domination in the region with the campaign of Megabazus of about 514/513 B.C.;99 this agrees with
the numerous finds of such coins in hoards from the territory of the Achaemenid Empire in Asia and
Egypt and gives a satisfactory explanation of the existence of unusually large denominations. How-
ever, the intensive development of the region was a fact long before the coming of the Persians, as be-
comes more and more evident with the accumulation of archaeological evidence. The mining of silver

" Sindos 1985; Sismanidis 1987.

On the early tribal coinage cf. Kraay 1976: 138-141; Yurukova 1992: 9-33; Topalov 1998: 22-162;
for a political interpretation of the numismatic data Zlatkovskaya 1971: 178-203;Fol 1972: 86-106.
Cf. Chapter IV. 4.2 infra.
Cf. the general review in Fol 1972: 86-108.
For example Hdt. 5. 13-16; 7. 185; 8. 115.
Harrison 1912; West 1919; Bradeen 1952; Zahrnt 1971.
Hdt. 1.57.
The earlier dates suggested once for the appearance of the coins of the tribes in South-Western
Thrace (cf. for example Raymond 1953: 43) have now been corrected on the basis of the dating of the big Asiut
hoard from Egypt (480/475 B.C., cf. Price, Waggoner 1975: 1 17 et passim).
Fol 1972: 94-95; Kraay 1976: 139.

KOPRIVLEN 1 cell. The Middle Mesta Region

and gold in the Pangaeus area should also be dated to at least the middle of the 6th c. B.C. when Pei-
sistratus received his concession there.IOC
The identification and geographical location of some of the tribes known from the coin leg-
ends remain major problems in the numismatic studies. The Edoni101 and the Bisaltae(n who are well
represented in the literary tradition are in fact the only two tribes which have been identified with cer-
tainty and have a more or less unquestionable and established territory. The tribes of the Orrescii and
of the Derroni are known only by the inscriptions on their coins, which however represent two of the
most important tribal coinages in the region. The Orrescii have often been placed provisionally in the
eastern part of the Pangaeus region on the basis of the analogies of their coins with the types of the
Edoni and of the island of Thasos.103 There are different suggestions about the location of the Derroni,
whose name appears on the heaviest coins of the whole group. The old idea placing them on the Sito-
nian Peninsula on the ground of the phonetic similarity between their name and that of the town of
Torone/Terone seems now quite difficult to sustain.104 The appearance of the epithet Derronaios on
the coins of the Paeonian king Lykkeios in the 4* c. B.C. has induced many authors to send the Der-
roni to the northern area of Krestonia in the deep hinterland of the Chalcidic Peninsula, ascribing to
them the early control over the silver mines in the mountain Dizoron. A third opinion puts them in
the region of the Pangaean silver mines and suggests, on the basis of the phonetic similarity of the
names, their identification with the Dersaei placed by Herodotus between the Sapaei and the Edoni;106
this hypothesis however leaves no room for the Orrescii who are often ascribed the same territory. The
absence of the late emissions of the Derroni (with triskeles in place of the incuse square on the re-
verse) and of the octadrachms of the Bisaltae, Edoni, and Orrescii from the Asiut hoard suggests their
dating after 480/475 B.C.107 and this adds a new aspect to the problem of their localization. The Der-
roni and Bisaltae obviously must have retained their access to rich sources of silver in the 70's and the
60's of the 5th century when, according to the literary sources, the Macedonian king Alexander I had

already established control over the silver mines in Dizoron.

Among the remaining tribal coinages were those of the Ichnaei, Tynteni, Letaei, Dionysii,
Zeeli, and a considerable number of anepigraphic coins or such with unreadable or abbreviated leg-
ends whose interpretation remains quite uncertain. 109 Some authors have ascribed the coins of the Ich-
naei, Tynteni, and Letaei respectively to the towns of Ichnae,"0 Tynde"1 and Lete"2 in the Axios val-
ley, considering them city and not tribal coinages. The similarity of the coin types of the Ichnaei and
Tynteni to those of the Edoni and Orrescii (a male figure with two bulls on the obverse, and a four
spoke wheel on the reverse), and of those of the Letaei to the coins of Thasos and their Thracian imi-
tations (Silenus and nymph/incuse square) suggests alternatively a possible localization of these tribes
further eastwards, in the Pangaeus area.
The problem becomes even more complicated if we take into account the fact that many of the
tribes whose presence in the region is well attested in the literary sources, and some of which accord-
ing to the ancient authors participated actively in the mining of precious metals in the Pangaeus, have
not left any identifiable coinages at all. Among these are the Sapaei, the Odomanti, the Satrae, the
Pieres, the Dersaei, etc. A possible explanation can be found in the suggestion that these tribes had

Borza 1990: 116-117; Cole 1975.
On the Edoni cf. Fol 1972: 104 - 106. The inscribed coins of the Edoni were struck in the name of
king Getas.
On the Bisalti cf. Fol 1972: 101-104.
Kraay 1976: 139; Yurukova 1992: 16.
Katsarov 1922: 7. The location of the Sithones on the peninsula seems much more likely; cf. on them
Detschew 1976:441-442.
Yurukova 1992: 12 with lit.
Hdt. 7. 110; cf. Detschew 1976: 120, 128.
Kraay 1976: 141.3.
Hdt. 5. 17;cf. Thuc. 2. 99. 4-6.
Svoronos 1919 remains the most exhaustive study of this materials; his attributions however are in
many cases unreasonable and unreliable.
"°Papazoglou 1988: 154-156.
'"Zahrnt 1971:247.
Papazoglou 1988: 154-156.

//. /. The Middle Mesta Region in Antiquity (P. Delev)

remained out of the zone of direct Persian hegemony, and consequently had no obligation to pay the
heavy taxes which are considered by some authorities as the main impulse for the striking of the
known coin emissions in the region, neither were they involved in the sphere of the Persian trade.11
An alternative solution is offered by the assumption that the same tribes might have been mentioned
with different names on the coins and in the literary tradition, although all suggested identifications of
this type remain purely hypothetical. On the whole, as has been mentioned already, the ethnic picture
of the region remains quite obscure and retains many unsolved problems and puzzles.
The relatively high stage of development of the tribes in the region of the lower Axios, Stry-
mon and Nestos is confirmed furthermore by the evidence on the development of royal power at a
tribal level in the age in question (6th - 5th c. B.C.). G<W14 and Pitakosns by the Edoni, Poles16 by
the Odomanti, Narist]1 and probably Moses who is known only from his coins' 18 by the Bisaltae, Olo-
ros the father-in-low of Miltiades the Younger 119 whose tribal affiliation is difficult to establish, are
among the names which have survived in the coin legends or in the scarce and casual remarks of the
written sources, and they all clearly characterize the general phenomenon.120 Some modem authors
have suggested the existence of a kind of tribal union or confederation, if only a loose one, which
would have united the tribes of the region about the age of the Persian invasion; the hypothesis was
inspired mainly by the considerable similarities and many common elements in the tribal coinages.121
A slightly different conception results from the idea of a certain system of inter-tribal regulation and
organization of the mining of precious metals and of the coinage; this has not been investigated thor-
oughly, but seems quite reasonable and working. In any case the active metal production in the region,
and especially the mining of gold and silver, seem certainly to have been among the major factors for
the early and considerable economic, political and cultural progress of the local population. In all like-
lihood, the early production of metals was not limited only to the famous mines of Pangaeus and Dizo-
ron which are overexposed in the literary tradition. Whether (and to what extent) this major factor
functioned in the Middle Mesta valley, remains an open question, the answer to which might be pro-
vided only by future investigations.


The Middle Mesta area has not so far been placed in any direct relation with the Odrysian
Kingdom.122 The possibilities to raise this argument come from the interpretation of two rather vague
episodes of Odrysian political history - the activity of Sparadokos in the middle of the 5 th century and
that of Berisades and his sons led by Ketriporis in the middle of the 4th c. B.C.
The personality of Sparadokos is quite enigmatic. It is known with certainty that he was a son
of Teres, the founder of the "Great" Odrysian Kingdom, a brother of Sitalces who ruled in the thirties
and twenties of the 5th c. B.C., and the father of Seuthes I who ascended the throne in 424 B.C. He was
also the first Odrysian who minted in his own name silver coins of several denominations, including
tetradrachms, which are associated with the early coinages of the tribes in South-Westem Thrace, of
the Greek colonies in the region and of the Macedonian king Alexander I.123 These coins have given
rise to the suggestion that Sparadokos, either as a king of the Odrysae after his father Teres and before
his brother Sitalces, or as a "paradynast" in the reign of the one or of the other, controlled at least par-

Fol 1972: 98.

Head: 1911 : 201.
Thuc. 4. 107.
Thuc. 5.6.2.
Athen. 12. 520 d-e.
Head 1911:200.
Hdt. 6. 39, 41.
Cp. Fol 1972: 86-106.
Raymond 1953: 43 ff.; Zlatkovskaya 1971: 187-188; Fol 1972: 96-97.
On the Odrysian Kingdom of. Fol 1972: 115-154; Fol 1975: 93-195; Archibald 1998.
On the coinage of Sparadokos cf. Yurukova 1992: 36-42, 218-223. The numismatic literature ac-
cepts the opinion associating the striking of Sparadokos' coins with the mint of Olynthus in the south-western
part of the Chalcidic Peninsula.

KOPRIVLEN1 eg II. The Middle Mesta Region

tially the silver producing region around the Lower Strymon with the rich mines in the mountains
Pangaeus and Dizoron.124
Thucydides places Abdera at the end of Odrysian political territory during the reign of Sital-
ces, and modern historians have usually considered this information as indicating the imposition of
Odrysian power over the coastal region from the mouth of the Hebros to that of Nestos in the west.126
Since the literary sources do not offer any direct information on the question, there seems however to
be an alternative possibility - that the penetration of the Odrysae into the region around Abdera was
achieved through the direct road by the western Rhodopes and the Nestos valley,127 in very similar
manner to that of Sitalces into the Upper Strymon valley which is described in some detail by Thucy-
dides,128 and starting from the same area - the Upper Hebros Valley. It should be reminded that Thu-
cydides himself in describing the territory of the Odrysian kingdom, mentioned the existence of a land
road "from Abdera to Istros", which could be covered in eleven days by a good walker.129
Berisades made a fleeting appearance on the historical scene in the critical period after the
murder of Cotys I in 360 B.C. His origin is uncertain, and so are the reasons for his claim to a part of
the political heritage of Cotys. In open dispute with Kersebleptes the son of Cotys and with Amadocos
(whom modem scholars usually affiliate to the Odrysian dynasty, though the supported stemmas are
different), Berisades imposed his rule over a part of the territories controlled by the Odrysae; the sup-
port of the Greek mercenary commander Athenodoros was of vital importance for the success of his
secession. In 357 B.C. Kersebleptes, Amadocos and Berisades were forced by Athens into a common
treaty which formally sanctioned the division of the Odrysian Kingdom; Berisades received the west-
ernmost territories, including the coastal area around the lower Nestos and Strymon.110 His subsequent
disappearance from the literary sources has usually been linked with the invasion of Philip II into the
coastal region, which could hardly have happened without a military conflict. In 357 B.C. Philip con-
quered Amphipolis on the Strymon, and in 356 B.C. he re-colonized and fortified Philippi in the plain
of Drama north-east of Pangaeus.131 Berisades was succeeded about that time by his sons lead by
Ketriporis; in the anti-Macedonian treaty of 356 B.C. with the Paeonian king Likkeios and the Illyrian
king Grabos which was fashioned with the active participation of Athens they are officially mentioned
as "Ketriporis and his brothers" .^2 After this fleeting display the sons of Berisades disappear too
from the written sources, but the coinage of Ketriporis133 and the imposing of his name over part of the
dependant territories ("Kedripalis")13 are usually considered to imply that the reign of the brothers
was not liquidated immediately and completely.135 And since the coastal region had now fallen firmly
into the hands of the ambitious Macedonian king, the remaining territories ruled formerly by Berisades
and now by Ketriporis should be sought for further into the interior and most likely due north in the
valley of the Nestos, but possibly also through this and the Western Rhodopes into the westernmost
areas the Upper Hebros Valley. A suggested reading of the place name Ketripara in a 1 st c. A.D. in-
scription from the Nevrokop (Gotse Delchev) region would be a proof in support of this idea.136 A
fragmentary inscription from Batkun in the region of Pazardjik might also be related with Ketriporis;
the preserved part of the text mentions honours conferred by an unknown Greek city to an unknown

Tacheva 1990. On the basis of the suggestion that Sparadokos took part in the defeat of the Athenian
colonists at Drabeskos in 464 B.C., M. Tacheva relates his presence in the region of Lower Struma between 464
and 444 B.C.
Thuc. 2. 97. 1.
For example Fol 1972: 142-145.
About this road cf. Chapter II.5 infra.
Thuc. 11.96.3,98.1.
Thuc. II. 97.1.
Tonev 1942: 197-199; Fol 1972: 113-115; Delev 1997: 8-11.
Diod. 16.8.2-3, 6-7.
Dittenberger 1915: no. 196; Diod. 16.22.3.
Yurukova"l992: 68-70; 244.
Detschew 1976:243.
Dittenberger 1879;Tonev 1942: 198.
Mihailov 1966: 2338; cf. Detschew 1976: 238.

ILL The Middle Mesta Region in Antiquity (P. Delev)

Thracian ruler and his brothers; the paleographical peculiarities of the inscription point to a date be-
fore the time of Alexander the Great.137
These rather vague and indefinite pieces of evidence provide the reasons to suggest tentatively
the possibility that Odrysian control might have been imposed over the road leading through the West-
ern Rhodopes and the Nevrokop basin to the Aegean coast in the period between the middle of the 5th
and the middle of the 4" c. B.C. Only future archaeological excavations in the region, new numismatic
data or a fortunate epigraphical find could eventually through more light into this obscure problem.


During the 5th and the 4th c. B.C. South-Western Thrace was experiencing an aggressive pres-
sure from the west, which ended with its political integration in the Argead Kingdom of Macedonia. In
the 6" century the expansion of the Macedonian political territory in a north-eastern direction had ex-
tended to the lower course of the Axios (Vardar) and may even have reached over it to the nearby ter-
ritories of Amphaxitis and Anthemous. The problem, which was usually discussed in the light of the
dubious interpretation of the scarce written evidence, has been resuscitated by the recent excavations
of the amazingly rich necropolises at Agia Paraskevi south-east of Thessaloniki (6th c. B.C.) and at
Sindos north-west of Thessaloniki (end of the 6th - beginning of the 5th c. B.C.).118 After the Persians
were expelled from Europe, in the seventies of the 5th c. B.C. Alexander I took advantage of the politi-
cal vacuum in the area (which might have been reinforced by the temporary withdrawal of a part of the
Thracian population 139 ), invaded the deep hinterland of the Chalcidic Peninsula (Mygdonia, Crestonia
and Bisaltia) and reached in the east as far as the Strymon valley, taking possession of the rich silver
mines in the Dizoron mountain.140 The incomes from the newly acquired silver mines (according to
Herodotus Alexander obtained from them one talent of silver per day) enabled the Macedonian king to
begin his sumptuous coinage.141
It seems however that later on the Macedonian expansion in the region met with some re-
verses at the expense of the activated position of Athens (and later Sparta), of the local Thracian tribes,
of the Chalcidians united under the domination of Olynthus, and of the Odrysian Kingdom in Thrace.
It was only in the middle of the 4 th c. B.C. that the strengthening of Macedonia under Philip II made
possible a renewal of the eastern aggression. The conquest and re-colonization of Amphipolis (in 357
B.C.) and of Philippi (in 356 B.C.) enabled Philip to settle permanently in the region of the Lower
Strymon and Mount Pangaeus, establishing his control over the gold and silver mines. The vicissitudes
of the following stages of Philip's aggression in Thrace, which ended with the establishment of his
authority over most of the main territories of the Odrysian Kingdom, have been repeatedly discussed
in the scientific literature.142 The lack of details in the extant sources prevents any reasonable assess-
ment of the involvement of the Middle Mesta region in the repeated and often large scale military
campaigns of the age. It seems perfectly plausible for Philip to have used the old road across the Mesta
and the Western Rhodopes during the great Thracian war of 342 - 340 B.C., but this cannot be estab-
lished with certainty; the establishment of the Macedonian colony in Philippopolis (Plovdiv) however
would have justified an attempt to establish firm control over the direct roads towards the Upper He-
bros Valley. Some vague passages mention the activity of Philip's commanders Antipater and Par-
menio against the Tetrachoritae presumably in the Rhodopes at the time of Philip's siege of Perinthus
and Byzantion in 340 - 339 B.C.143 The limited results of these actions however are made clear by the
explicit text of Arrian about the campaign of Alexander the Great in 335 B.C.: having passed by
Philippi and the mountain Orbelos and crossed the Nestos (presumably going along the old road

Mihailov 1961: 1114.
Hammond, Griffith 1979: 53-58; Hammond 1989: 43; Borza 1990: 88-89.
According to Herodotus, at the time of Xerxes' campaign the Bisaltae and the Krestoni withdrew
into the Rhodope mountains, Hdt. 8. 116.
Thuc. 2. 99. 4-6; cf. Hammond 1989: 45-46; Borza 1990: 119.
Hdt. 5. 17. On the coinage of Alexander I cf. Kraay 1976: 142-143.
Delev 1997; lordanov 1995; lordanov 1996; lordanov 1998: 27-58.
Theopomp. F 217, 218; Polyaen. strat. 4.4.1.

KOPRIVLEN1 03II. The Middle Mesta Region

through the Nevrokop valley and the Western Rhodopes), Alexander entered "the lands of the inde-
pendent Thracians".14'
During the Hellenistic Age the Middle Mesta region remained in the periphery of the Mace-
donian Kingdom, which had permanently turned the region around Pangaeus with the cities of Am-
phipolis and Philippi into part of its territory. The possible permanent or episodic interference of the
Macedonian kingdom or of some of the Thracian dynasties (the Sapaeian or the Odrysian one) in the
life in the region in this age remains however absolutely hypothetical due to the lack of any specific
information in the historical sources.


The name of the Bessi reappears continuously in the ancient tradition concerning the Roman
expansion in Thrace in the 2nd and 1st c. B.C., attesting the considerable efforts the Romans had to un-
dertake over a long period of time in order to penetrate the mountainous regions of Southern Thrace
and to break down the stubborn resistance of the freedom-loving highland population. At the end of
the 2nd c. B.C., after long wars in Thrace caused by the invasion of independent tribes into the territory
controlled by the Romans, the proconsul of Macedonia Marcus Minucius Rufus won a big battle
against the Skordisci, Bessi and other Thracian tribes near the frozen Hebros river, which brought him
a triumph in 106 B.C.145 Jordanes mentions some successful actions in the Rhodopes by the provincial
governor Appius Claudius Pulcher who died in 76 B.C.146 The Bessi were among the most renowned
enemies of Marcus Terentius Varro Lucullus in his great campaign in 72-71 B.C.; some late sources
(Eutropius, Eusebius) even ascribe his triumph after the successful proconsulate to the victory over the
Bessi, but this is probably a result of the expanded usage of the ethnonym in their age.147 In 60-59 B.C.
"Bessi and Thracians" were defeated in a big battle by the proconsul of Macedonia Gaius Octavius,
the father of the future emperor Augustus. Probably at the time of these events, Octavius also received
an omen about the future majesty of his son in the Bessie sanctuary of Dionysos.148 In 57 - 56 B.C.
another governor of Macedonia, Lucius Calpurnius Piso, killed perfidiously the Bessie prince Rabo-
centus who had come to his camp offering military support; according to the accusations of Cicero,
Piso was bribed with 300 talents by the Odrysian king Cotys. The Bessi seem to have taken an ac-
tive part in the unrest which followed the death of the Odrysian king Sadalas in 42 B.C.; about this
time they were in fight with Marcus Junius Brutus the murderer of Caesar and with his associate the
Sapaeian (?) dynast Rascuporis who later succeeded to the vacant Odrysian throne.150 In 29 B.C., dur-
ing his decisive campaign in Thrace, the proconsul Marcus Licinius Crassus gave the famous Bessie
sanctuary of Dionysos over to the Odrysae,151 and this act excited the great anti-Roman uprising of the
Bessi lead by the priest Vologaeses in the following decade.152
The role of the Middle Mesta region in these dynamic and large-scale events remains abso-
lutely vague. As one of the road entrances into the Rhodope mountains, already used for centuries also
as a main route towards the interior parts of Thrace, it would have been affected probably repeatedly
by the march of large armies, and perhaps even saw real military action. Although the coin hoards evi-
dence active trade contacts (but also numerous occasions for hiding treasure), the inscription of Fla-
vius Dizalas from Nicopolis ad Nestum reflects the results of the long invasions and devastation: in the
second half of the 1 s ' c. A.D. it commemorates the restoration of a desolate old sanctuary of Artemis
near the Thracian settlement of Keirpara (Ketripara?).153

Arr. anab. 1.1.5.
Dittenberger Syll? 710 for the Bessi. The remaining sources cf. in Tacheva 1997: 65-66, 76.
lordan. rom. 221.
Tacheva 1997: 78-79 with the sources on p. 80.
Suet. Aug. 3.2; 94.5-6.
Cic. in Pis. 34.
Cass. Dio 47. 25. 2; cf. Tacheva 1997: 71-72.
Cass. Dio51.25.5.
Cass. Dio 54.34.
Mihailov 1966: 2338. The tentative suggestion to identify Ketripara/Keirpara with the archaeological
site near Koprivlen seems a plausible possibility; then the ritual pits excavated there would have to be referred to
the old sanctuary of Artemis mentioned in the inscription.

//. 1. The Middle Mesta Region in Antiquity (P. Delev)

The inscription of Flavius Dizalas is important also for another part of its preserved text: the
dedicator who was a Thracian aristocrat refers to himself as the strategus of eight strategies all men-
tioned by name. The father of this Flavius Dizalas, an Ezbenis son of Amatocos, is mentioned as a
strategus together with another thirty-two colleagues by appointment in the inscription from Topeiros
dated in the age of Claudius.154 Unfortunately we do not know whether any (and which?) of these
strategies comprised the Middle Mesta valley. The question whether the region was bequeathed to the
Odrysian Kingdom (within the frames of which the strategies, which were inherited later by the early
provincial administration in Thrace, seem to have developed initially) at some stage of the Roman
penetration and when exactly this could have happened, remains also a complete mystery.


In A.D. 45 the autonomy of the tributary Odrysian Kingdom was suspended by the Roman
authorities, and direct Roman control was imposed over the Thracian territories; this was based (just as
the former Odrysian rule had been) on the conciliatory attitude of the local aristocracy. In the begin-
ning the new Roman provincial administration made use of the system of the strategies inherited from
the last period of the existence of the Odrysian Kingdom. In the 2nd c. A.D. the strategies were re-
placed by the newly established city territories; new cities were founded in the regions where no im-
portant settlements existed previously. Nicopolis ad Nestum must have been one of these new cities;
its remains are still visible by the Zagrade quarter of the village of Gurmen situated in the north-
eastern part of the Nevrokop valley.1'115 The city was founded most likely in the time of emperor Tra-
jan, as may be suggested on the basis of the legends on coins of the city which contain the epithet Ul-
pia.{3 The city territory of Nicopolis would have been centred on the fertile Nevrokop basin, but it
comprised presumably also an indefinite (probably considerable) part of the surrounding mountains,
and especially the Rhodopes; the alternative suggestion that the Nestos would have played here as in
the coastal region the role of frontier between the provinces of Thrace and Macedonia, seems less
plausible. In the latter case, the territories along the right bank of the river, including the ancient set-
tlement near Koprivlen, would have belonged to Macedonia.157 The suggested idea that of Nicopolis
ad Nestum was established in the place of an older settlement has not been confirmed definitely by
any archaeological materials.158 The inscription of Flavius Dizalas which dates from Flavian times (i.
e. before the presumable establishment of Nicopolis under Trajan) is said to have been found in the
area of the city, 159 but it might easily have been brought there from another place. The hypothetical
possibility to associate the sanctuary of Artemis at Keirpara (Ketripara?) mentioned in this inscription
with the archaeological site near Koprivlen has already been mentioned above.
The foundation of Nicopolis ad Nestum in this distant border region of the province of Thrace
should have been determined to some extent by the need of a city centre which to which the govern-
ment of the Western Rhodopes could be entrusted; however the administrative affiliation of the high-
land region remains absolutely uncertain. It might further be suggested that the establishment of the
city was connected with the need of stable control over the ancient road through the Nestos and the
Rhodopes connecting the Aegean littoral with the Upper Hebros Valley. The city life in Nicopolis
during the Imperial Age is represented with little detail in a series of inscriptions in Greek containing
very often local Thracian names161 and in the autonomous bronze coins minted at the end of the 2"
and at the beginning of the 3rd c. A.D.162

Lazaridis 1955:238.
On the remains of Nicopolis ad Nestum and the archaeological excavations of the ancient city cf.
Chapter ff.4.2 infra.
On the frontier between the provinces of Thrace and Macedonia cf. Gerov 1979: 212-240.
Mihailov 1966: 285.
Ibid. no. 2338.
About the road cf. Chapter II.5 infra.
Mihailov 1966: nos. 2335-2348; cf. Gerov 1961: 220-225.
Head 1911:287.


Krasimira Gagova
(University of Sofia "St Kliment Ohridski")
Since ancient times, the Middle Mesta region seems to have held a prominent position as a
communications centre. The valley of the Mesta river linked it with the Aegean littoral, and a well-
developed road network provided connection with the interior parts of Thrace and with Macedonia
(both names are used here in accordance with the late antique and medieval geographical nomencla-
ture). The road west to Melnik, and another one leading to Bansko, connected the region with the
Struma river valley. The large and important Byzantine fortress of Tsepena and the Diagonal road
from Belgrade to Constantinople were attainable via Dospat. Also by way of Dospat, the region had a
connection with the old Roman road which crossed the Rhodopes, gaining Didymoteichon via the for-
tress of Povisd (probably near Smolyan) 1 and Kurdjali. Another line of communication lead in a
southern direction via Xanthi, connecting the region with Perithereon (a fortress of considerable sig-
nificance in the 14th century), Mosynopolis (Komotini), the entire Aegean littoral and the islands of
Thasos and Samothrace.2
The Mesta river, which takes its sources (the Byala Mesta and the Cherna Mesta) in the East-
ern Rila Mountains and runs through the whole region, has always been the main waterway here.
Flowing south, it divides the Rila and Pirin Mountains from the Rhodopes. The river waters a fertile,
though not vast valley. Strabo describes the Mesta as a border river between Thrace and Macedonia.
The hydronym is generally considered of Thracian origin.
So far as settlement life is concerned, the importance of the region is easily explained by its
geographical position, which predetermined the appearance of many prosperous commercial centres,
comprised in a well-organized church diocese. Unfortunately, the information of medieval authors
about the region is insufficient and often vague, and for that reason there are many unclear points in its
A Roman colony founded in the time of the Emperor Trajan and known later as Nicopolis ad
Nestum (NiKOTtoXiq r\ Kepi NeaTOu) was the biggest settlement in the valley. It is mentioned by
Claudius Ptolemaeus among the cities of inner Thrace. Dexippus tells an interesting story about the
inhabitants Philippopolis, who took refuge in Nicopolis and settled there permanently when their own
city was besieged by the Goths about the middle of the third century.6 In view of the relative proximity
of the two cities and the greater security in the closed riverside region of Mesta, the story seems very
Late antique inscriptions from the city and its vicinity offer some evidence about its admini-
stration (T) poi)A,f| KOCI 6 SfuaoQ NiKcmoA,eiTG)v)8 and about the religious biases of its inhabitants.9
The wars against the tribes coming from the north were arduous and long. Except for direct
military counteraction, the policy of Constantinople staked much on enrolling allies, who were then
settled along the border and in the interior of the Empire, the practice being aimed at their easier as-

' Gagova 1995: 256.

Soustal 1991: 136.
Strabo 323.
Detschew 1980: 299-300, 329; Soustal 1991: 360.
Ptol. 353.
Dexip. 177.
Velkov 1977: 125,256,247.
Mihailov 1966: n. 2335.
Mihailov 1966: n. 2338, 2339, 2341, 2352.

11.2. The Middle Mesta Region in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages (K. Gagova) _

similation. The Middle Mesta region could not have remained beyond the reach of the Gothic incur-
sions in the 4th century. The invaders raided the lands of the Empire almost untroubled, sacking eve-
rything in their way. The emperor Valens, who tried to oppose them, was defeated and died himself in
the great battle at Hadrianopolis. As a result, the Goths dispersed all over Thrace.
The "Synecdemus" of Hierocles informs us that Nicopolis was a city in the province of Rho-
dope. Hence, it must have been under the ecclesiastical administration of Constantinople. The name
of a city bishop in A. D. 431 is known: Polycarpus, who was born in Sexaginta Prista. He is mentioned
in a document of the Patriarchate, which deals with a reshuffle of ecclesiastical seats and the appoint-
ing of bishops.11 According to the diocesan lists of the Constantinopolitan Patriarchate, from the 7th till
the 9' century Nicopolis had the statute of autocephalous archbishopric within the diocese of Thrace.12
Since the city name reads NiKOTroAiQ Toi) BoJiepoi) in a notitia dated to the 8th or 9th century, 13 the
region certainly belonged to the theme of Boleron. The advanced position of Nicopolis in the ecclesi-
astical hierarchy implies the existence of a certain number of churches and monasteries in its vicinity.
The nearby Mount Papikion (Peperuda) is known to have gained great importance in the spiritual life
of monks and hermits some time later. The Constantinopolitan patriarch Philotheus Coccin, who lived
in the mid- 14th century, explicitly states in his sermon dedicated to St. Gregorius Palama, that "since
ancient times (7iocA,at) Papikion, which lies between Thrace and Macedonia, is a sacred mount (ayiov

The region is represented in a somewhat strange manner in the treatise "De thematibus" of
Constantine Porphyrogenitus. Surprisingly, Nicopolis is listed there among the thirty-two cities of the
province of Macedonia Prima, which was governed by a consiliarius, together with Thessalonica,
Pella, Amphipolis, Beroea, Edessa, etc.15 Only five cities are mentioned within the limits of Thrace - a
province also administered by a consiliarius. These are Klima Mestikon and Acontisma, Philippopolis,
Beroea, and the islands of Thasos and Samothrace.1 Philippopolis is almost certainly Plovdiv but not
Philippi, since Philippi is placed together with Seres in the province of Rhodope. Bepori ought to be
identified with modern Stara Zagora, while the homonym Beppota (modern Ber) stands for a city in
the province of Macedonia Prima. The question about Klima Mestikon and Acontisma is still open.
Although explicitly stated in the text, the existence of such a city may not be taken for granted.
Constantine Porphyrogenitus uses the term KA,ip_a elsewhere in his works to denote a particular zone
or district: TOC evveot KAiiacaa tr\c, Xa^apiac; - "the nine districts of Chazaria".17 In fact, this is pre-
cisely the original Greek meaning of the word. The relation between KAijia ("a district") and
otKOVTiau-a ("a spear throw") is unclear. It is difficult to make out whether both words constitute a
single place name or stand for two different geographical or administrative subjects. Since the dis-
cussed toponyms are not attested in other sources, no identification with any particular site or district
can be suggested. On the whole, the royal writer - who is well-known for his archaizing inclinations -
is of no great use in revealing the administrative and geographical division of the Empire in the 10lh
In the following centuries, the region remained aside from the political events (or rather from
the range of interest of their chroniclers - the Byzantine historians). Piecemeal informations about Ni-
copolis appear only in the Acts of the Constantinopolitan Patriarchate. The documents prove that the
city and its vicinity were incorporated at times in the bishopric of Seres, at others in that of Philippi.18
An interesting piece of information from 1 365 points out that the archbishop of Maroneia was sent to
fill a vacancy on the island of Thasos in the diocese of Nevrokopia (em tote, NeupOKOTUOii;).19 It is
out of doubt that the Nevrokop region and the islands remained closely bound to each other throughout

Hier. 635.
"Darrouzes 1984: n. 73.
Darrouzes 1981: 19,32,45.
Darrouzes 1981:32.
Tzamis 1985:441.
Const. Porph. de them. 88.
Ibid., 86.
Const. Porph. de admin. 64.
Darrouzes 1979: n. 2497; Hunger, Kresten 1981: 552-557.
Darrouzes 1979:2497.

KOPRIVLEN 1 call. The Middle Mesta Region

the history of Byzantium and maybe even later. The latest notice dates to Ottoman times and attests a
change in the ecclesiastical statute of Nicopolis: the latter was already a metropolis known by both
names of Nicopolis and Nevrokop (NtKO7i6A,eco<; r\ioi NevpOKOTttot)).20
Though direct information is far from being sufficient, it is still possible to assess the overall
significance of the Middle Mesta region in medieval times. It often remained aside from the major po-
litical and military events and consequently rarely attracted the attention of Byzantine authors. Never-
theless, the available evidence gives enough grounds to believe that the region sustained throughout its
position as an important commercial, administrative and ecclesiastical centre.

Darrouzes 1981:505.



Vladimir Stanev
(University of Sofia "St Kliment Ohridski")


The Middle Mesta valley and its administrative centre - the town of Nevrokop (from 1950:
Gotse Delchev), lie at a distance of some 200 km from the capital of Bulgaria - Sofia, at 210 km from
Plovdiv, and at 112 km from Blagoevgrad. The distance to the town of Drama in Greece is only 75
km, and to the Aegean Sea - 101 km. The region of Gotse Delchev includes 36 settlements in the
Western Rhodopes and some other 21 situated on the flanks of the Pirin Mountain and along the right
bank of the Mesta.1
The area is a typical river valley stretching from northwest to southeast, surrounded by
mountains and high hills on all sides. It is closed on the east by the western parts of the Rhodopes and
on the west - by the abrupt flanks of Southern Pirin." The Pirin ridge is extremely steep in the section
between Gotse Delchev and Koprivlen, slanting at some 70 degrees, and reaching even 80 degrees
around the village of Musomishte. The Gotse Delchev (or Nevrokop) basin ends in the south-east in a
narrow gorge, which delimits the Rhodopes from Mount Bozdag. In the north, the 24 km long defile of
Momina Klisura, about 200-300 m. deep and that much broad at the bottom, separates it from the
Razlog basin.4
The Nevrokop basin is rather narrow, level and some 20-30 km long. It slants slightly towards
the river and in southern direction. The land north of the town, near the village of Gospodintsi, is more
undulating. There are no uplands within the basin. The flatland is most broad and level between the
villages of Koprivlen and Dubnitsa, where the valley is about 8-10 km wide. It narrows to 1-2 km to
the north and south, towards the defiles.5 The overall area of the basin amounts to 81 square km, its
altitude is 540 m. above sea level.6
The specific relief has determined the insufficient development of the infrastructure and trans-
port in the Middle Mesta valley. Connection with the nearby regions and the interior of the country is
realised by means of several highland passes. Fifty years ago only one bus daily connected the town
with the rest of the world. The road system within the basin is also less developed compared to the
other parts of Bulgaria, again due to the peculiarities of relief.7 The state frontier with Greece, which
has remained closed for a long time, the remoteness from railway communications (the nearest railway

Danilevski, Kiselov 1969: 12-14, 52, 51.
Pancheliev 1970: 17.
Kanev 1988:61.
Bulgaria 1961:341-342.
Kanev 1988: 60.
Beshkov 1934: 160.
Danilevski, Kiselov 1969: 80, 161.

11.3. Koprivlen and the Middle Mesta Valley in Modern Times (V. Stanev)

station is 44 km away at Dobrinishte) and the lack of convenient connections with the Struma valley
have affected in a most unfavourable manner the economic development of the region.8
However, the relative isolation of the area affords certain advantages as well. It has contrib-
uted to the early establishment of stable inner links and the cultural unification of the whole region.
The varied relief and the altitude affect the climate in the region. The latter has been differently de-
fined as either transitional-Mediterranean,9 sub-Mediterranean,10 or continental-Mediterranean." Any-
how, all the authors are unanimous in describing the peculiarities of the regional climatic conditions: a
rainy, warm winter, almost without snowfall; a hot, arid and sunny summer; small annual amplitude of
air temperatures.12
Though revealing certain differences, the Mesta valley falls within the same climatic zone as
those of Struma and Arda, the southern parts of the Maritsa and Tundja valleys, Mount Strandja and
the Bulgarian Black Sea littoral. 13 Because of its greater altitude (500-600 m. above sea-level), the
Nevrokop basin is distinguished for a cooler summer and a colder winter compared to the river valley
of Struma (only 150-200 m. above sea-level). On the other hand, it is somewhat lower than the Upper
Mesta basin and the snow cover holds here for a shorter time than in Razlog and Bansko. The climatic
conditions in the region of Nevrokop differ considerably from those in the temperate-continental cli-
matic zone of Northern Bulgaria, which is characterized with a much more frigid winter. Compared to
the Mediterranean climatic zone on the other hand, which is typical for Greece, the climate here is
much less hot.14
The favourable temperature conditions in the Middle Mesta valley are due to the penetration
of mild and warm Mediterranean air currents from the south; this affects the average winter tempera-
tures, which are normally above zero degrees centigrade.'" The considerable mountain barriers, espe-
cially on the west, impede the penetration of cold air currents from the northwest and west, which are
prevailing in South-Western Bulgaria. The Balkan Mountains and the Rhodopes provide further pro-
tection against the cold continental air masses coming from the north and northeast. However, the
minimum winter temperature measured in Gotse Delchev is surprisingly low - 29,6 degrees below
zero.16 This is due to temperature inversion, a winter phenomenon originating in the closed character
of the basin, shut up as it is by narrow defiles to the north and south: the valley retains large masses of
cold air, which cannot be evacuated easily downstream and which is even colder than the air high on
the summits of the Pirin Mountain.17
The valley runs transversely to the main direction of atmospheric transportation from the west,
and this accounts for the great number of calm days per year. The average wind speeds are also the
lowest in Bulgaria - less than 5 m/s.' 8 The standard mean temperature in the area of Gotse Delchev
stays above zero for 360 days, and above 15 degrees - for 144 days annually. The maximum summer
temperatures often measure beyond 35 degrees centigrade.19 The sunshine duration measured in the
Mesta valley both in summer and winter is also one of the longest in Bulgaria.20
The Mesta river is the main hydrological feature of the basin. It is one of the big rivers in Bul-
garia, with a total length of 273 km from its sources to the Mediterranean coast; some 126 km of this
length are within Bulgarian territory. 21 Its catchment area lies entirely in the mountainous region of the
Rila, the Pirin and the Rhodopes, where the mean annual precipitation is very high. As a result the

Kiradjiev 1977:95-96.
Dimitrov 1960: 130-131.
Dimitrov 1974:241.
" Stanev 1991:79.
Velev 1990: 113.
Subev, Stanev 1959: 134.
Stanev 1991: 80-83.
Pancheliev 1970: 17.
Subev, Stanev 1959: 135-136, 152.
Pancheliev 1970: 18.
Velev 1990:204.
Geografia 1982: 188-189.
Lingova 1991: 113.
Danilevski, Kiselov 1969: 14.

KOPRIVLEN 1 call. The Middle Mesta Region

Mesta is among the most affluent rivers in Bulgaria,2" ranking sixth by amount of water outflow after
the Maritsa, the Struma, the Tundja, the Arda and the Iskar. The Mesta has got several important
tributaries in its middle reaches. It used to be one of the clearest rivers in Bulgaria, until mining and
industrial enterprises stirred up pollution in recent times.~~
Autumnal and venial high waters and flooding are characteristic of the rivers in the transi-
tional-Mediterranean climatic zone. The abundant precipitation in late autumn and winter and the
quick thawing of the snow caused by the warm foehn winds call forth violent overflows of the river,
especially typical in the vicinity of Gotse Delchev.24 Floods have happened in other seasons as well. In
the higher parts of the Rila and Pirin mountains the thawing of the snow starts only in summer, and
this results in high flood waves in that season. Overflows along the course of the Mesta occur at the
rate of about 3 to 6 times yearly. They are usually of short duration but dangerous.25 In high water
years the amount of water in the Mesta can treble and the river overflows its banks. This used to cause
the loss of vast areas of arable land in the past. The river has created a rather broad bed in the valley,
which often changed its outlines through the ages." All this imposed the undertaking of special activi-
ties in order to regulate the riverbed. Between 1920 and 1963 working plans were drawn up for the
construction of 19 km of dykes along the Middle Mesta south from Gotse Delchev and another 20 km
of dykes along some of its tributaries as flood protection for over 1 000 hectares (2 500 acres) of ar-
able land.27 It was not until the last decades, however, that this idea was carried into effect.
The activity of the river has resulted in the accumulation of large alluvial deposits over the
riverside terraces. The strip of alluvium along the Mesta is up to 7 km broad and from 6 to 20 m.
The river is not the only cause of natural disaster inflicting economic losses and damage to the
region. Devastating earthquakes are also a frequent phenomenon here. The intense wood-cutting and
the extension of pasture-grounds have brought about deforestation and soil erosion on the slopes of the
Pirin Mountain, the Rhodopes, Mount Sturgach and Mount Slavyanka (Ali Botush, Orvilos). As a re-
sult, mud torrents which heap up alluvial deposits and inflict considerable damage to settlements, ar-
able fields, bridges etc. are often witnessed in the valley of Mesta."^
In summertime the Mesta usually remains the only deep-water river in the area. Summer
droughts are quite common, although not so frequent here as in the Struma, Maritsa and Tundja val-
leys or in neighbouring Greece. The aridity in summer and autumn is favourable to viticulture, to-
bacco growing and the harvesting of the summer crops, but interferes to some degree with vegetable
gardening, fruit growing and autumn ploughing.
The maroon soils (light, ventilated and deficient in humus), the transient snow cover and the
warm winter create optimum conditions for the cultivation of high-yielding thermophilic crops, which
ripen here earlier than elsewhere.32 The shorter period of vegetation which is due to the earlier begin-
ning of spring makes it possible to raise two harvests of different crops. The cultivation of olives and
citrus fruits is however impeded by the considerable altitude and the sudden drops in temperature.11
The region of Gotse Delchev is rich in various natural resources. The highland pastures pro-
vide feed for stockbreeding from early spring till late in the autumn.
The region is rich in forests and especially in coniferous ones, which form ten per cent of the
coniferous woods in Bulgaria. White and black pine, fir and spruce are widely distributed, and from
the deciduous species - oak, beech, hornbeam, chestnut, maple, sycamore and ash. It is hardly sur-

" Bulgaria 1961: 19.

Danilevski, Kiselov 1969: 44-47.
Dimitrov 1974:97.
Ziapkov 1989:218.
Danilevski, Kiselov 1969: 44-47.
Radoslavov 1963: 17,21.
Nenov, Blagoeva 1977: 24.
Filipov et al. 1963: 151-152.
Geografia 1981:79.
Dimitrov 1974: 176-177.
Dimitrov 1960: 138.
Dimitrov 1974: 243.

II.3. Koprivlen and the Middle Mesta Valley in Modern Times (V. Stanev)

prising that timber industry and woodworking have been flourishing in the valley since ancient times.
The waterway of the Mesta was used in the past for rafting down logs.34
There is an abundance of building materials: granite, limestone, rhyolite. The sediments of the
Mesta provide huge amounts of sand and gravel. The marble conglomerates found near Koprivlen,
Hadjidimovo and Sadovo are a valuable decorative material. Pieces of marble coloured in different
shades of snow-white, grey, red and pink are found in the vicinity of Gotse Delchev.35 Small bits of
differently coloured marble, limestone and quartz were used for the making of mosaics in the ancient
city of Nicopolis ad Nestum.36
Clays are widely distributed in the basin; they were utilised in antiquity and are still subject to
industrial exploitation nowadays.37
There are iron-ore deposits near the villages of Paril, the abandoned one at Lyalevo and De-
bren. Chromium ores has been discovered near the village of Pletena.38 The deposits of non-ferrous
metals are poorly studied and less known in the region. Information is available about lead and zinc
lodes near the villages of Obidim, Skrebatno and Paril,39 while deposits of lignite coal have been
found and are in exploitation by the village of Baldevo.
By virtue of the numerous thermal springs and its benign climate, the region is a well-known
health resort. The contrasting climate, which combines the warmth of the valley with the cool and
fresh mountain air of the Pirin and the Rhodopes, has a marked prophylactic effect. The conditions
here are recommended for treatment of arthritic-rheumatic, chronic lung and nervous diseases.


The past of the region is rather dynamic and interesting. People of different ethnicity have
lived here, imposing their peculiar customs and political systems - pre-Thracian and Thracian tribes,
Romans, Slavs, Byzantines, Ottoman Turks, Bulgarians. From times immemorial they used to grow
cereals, flax and hemp in the river valley; cotton was introduced much later.41
The history of the town and its vicinity fades back in the ages. The earliest preserved Ottoman
documents mentioning the Nevrokop region date to the second half of the 15th century. They mention
Nevrokop as the centre of a "nahi" - the smallest administrative unit in the Ottoman Empire. Repre-
sentatives of the imperial administration, taxation and judicial officials resided in the town. A military
garrison was also stationed there by the end of the 15th century. The town gradually rose to an impor-
tant centre of craft industry.42
The lack of sufficient amounts of fertile land and the remoteness of the region from the main
military roads prevented the mass settlement of Muslim colonists: the latter gave preference to the
richer and more urbanised regions in Thrace and the Aegean littoral. However a restricted number of
colonists settled in Nevrokop and some of the nearby villages.
In spite of its remote position, the Nevrokop kaaza (district) became the largest one in Mace-
donia, comprising 133 settlements. Goods from Austria-Hungary, Saxony and Britain were traded at
the famous fairs held regularly in Nevrokop and Turlis. The export of the region was directed south-
wards - to Thessaloniki, Drama, Seres, and northwards - to Serbia and Austria-Hungary. During the
Bulgarian National Revival the valley maintained vigorous economic relations with the south, and
cultural and spiritual ones with the north. Schoolteachers mostly came here from Pazardjik, while the
young people from the region usually continued their education in Bansko.45

Danilevski, Kiselov 1969: 47-50.
Nenov, Blagoeva 1977: 21-23.
Georgiev 1987: 106.
Nenov, Blagoeva 1977: 21.
Iovchev 1961 a: 104, 122, 126.
Iovchevl961 b: 65.
Ivanov et al. 1963:8,84,91.
Kolev 1980: 76.
Dimitrov 1968:70-74.
Markov 1988: 100.
Danilevski, Kiselov 1969: 158.

KOPRIVLEN 1 cell. The Middle Mesta Region

The travelling masons from Kovachevitsa, Skrebatno, Ilinden and Gaytaninovo were well
known for their skill during the Bulgarian National Revival. They used to earn their living carrying out
building work all over the region of the Aegean littoral.46 Nevrokop was a famous centre for the pro-
duction of "chans" (bells for domestic animals). Leather industry also prospered in the town until
The region affords favourable conditions for the development of metallurgy: rich ore deposits,
availability of coal and timber, abundance of water, suitable places with the requisite slant.48 C. Jirecek
relates Nevrokop to the biggest and most renowned Western Group of the old iron-production industry
in Bulgarian lands; this group included the mines near Samokov, the silver ores of Mount Pangaion
and the deposits in the valleys of the Struma and Mesta.49
Iron-production was practised on a large scale in the mountainous area between the rivers of
Mesta and Struma (the southern branch of the Pirin Mountains, Mount Sturgach, Mount Ali Botush,
etc.). The region was known once by the name of "Murvashko" (from "murva" - cinder, coal dust).
The appellation "tnurvatsi" (plural) with the meaning of "people who melt ores and produce iron " has
spread over the whole population around the southern reaches of the Pirin Mountain.50 There are a
number of villages belonging to this population in the Nevrokop region: Musomishte, Lyaski,
Teshovo, Gaytaninovo, Paril, Luki, Lovcha, Libyahovo, Belotintsi, Turlis, Starchishta, Zurnevo, Dolni
Brodi, Karakioy etc.51
The ancient inhabitants of the region - the Thracians, were also engaged in metallurgy.52 An-
cient mining has been attested near the village of Luki, where slag deposits contained pieces of pre-
Roman pottery. The galleries near Gospodintsi and the iron slag accumulations at Teshovo, Muso-
mishte and Debren also provide evidence of developed metallurgy in antiquity.53 An ancient settle-
ment, whose inhabitants must have worked the nearby mine, existed in the vicinity of the modern vil-
lage of Paril.54
Mining and metal-production in the Murvashko region were further promoted at the beginning
of the 13th century with the invention of the device called "samokov". Saxon master-medallists arrived
and settled here in the 14th century. It is presumed that the Thracians usually used open quarries to ex-
tract the ores, the Romans introduced the galleries, while the Saxons were the first to put into practice
deep shafts going down beneath the level of subsoil water.55 In 1347 the murvak village of Turlis was
given to the Great Lavra monastery in Athos for the purpose of working the local ore deposits. The
right-bank area of the Middle Mesta around the foothills of Mount Ali Botush became in the 17th-18th
century one of the most thriving centres of iron-production in the Balkan Peninsula, surpassing in im-
portance even Samokov. The Murvashko region ranged with the main suppliers of iron within the vast
Ottoman Empire.55 In the second half of the 19th century, the increasing influx of cheaper European
iron put an end to this flourishing local metallurgy. The last samokov in the area (the one in the village
of Teshovo) stopped working in 1916. That however was not the full end of local metallurgy: the ex-
ploitation of the iron mine near the village of Paril continued until 1961.57
Panning for gold is also familiar in the Nevrokop region. It is a craft inherited from the past.
The auriferous and argentiferous sand deposits along the lower reaches of the Mesta and Struma were
well known in antiquity. The situation must have been the same upstream, in the Middle and Upper

Moskov, Tsankov 1980: 203-204.

Pancheliev 1968: 166-170.
Ivanov 1996: 14.
'Jirecek 1899:449-451.
'Ivanov 1996: 143.
Shopov 1893: 114.
Ivanov 1917: 4.
-- Georgiev 1987: 98.
Georgiev 1978:6,21.
Georgiev 1987: 98.
Georgiev 1953:6,21.
Ivanov 1996: 14, 140.

II.3. Koprivlen and the Middle Mesta Valley in Modem Times (V. Stanev)

Mesta areas. Gold panning has been practised in the vicinity of the village of Gurmen.58 A gold de-
posit exploited from ancient times has been localised between the villages of Osikovo and Skrebatno.59
The gold flakes are obtained by sifting the sand of such rivers and streams, which drag down
granites and crystalline schists from the high mountains. All the operations are done manually and no
special devices are needed. Therefore no ancient remains from these activities have survived, except
for the stone troughs for gold panning discovered near the locality "Beshkovitsa", between the villages
of Osikovo and Skrebatno.60 The skills however have been preserved through the ages and panning for
gold remained an important occupation for the inhabitants of certain villages, as for example Skre-
batno and Baldevo. The local people were considered in the past great experts in gold extraction and
have practised their skills in many other regions. Nevrokop, Razlog, Drama and Bansko were also im-
portant and renowned as goldsmith centres during the Bulgarian National Revival. 61
The economic decline of the region began after the Crimean War (1853-1856). The impor-
tance of the fairs dropped, metallurgy almost ceased and trade deteriorated. The Russian-Turkish War
(1877-1878), which brought liberation to a great part of the Bulgarian people, had a negative effect on
the valley of Mesta. The Ottoman authorities increased the taxation and the administrative burdens of
the population.62 The artificial border with Bulgaria in the north hindered the development of trade
The Nevrokop region suffered other blows as well. By the end of the 19th and in the beginning
of the 20th century the phylloxera destroyed the local vine plantations. Their subsequent replacement
with American vines inevitably took much time and resources.
The wars of the Balkan countries against the Ottoman Empire in the beginning of the 20'
century resulted in an economic deterioration of the region, mass displacement of population and long-
lasting administrative incertitude.64 A new period in the economic development of the area set in about
that time. Fruit growing and viticulture gradually gained much greater popularity. From the beginning
of the 20th century, the cultivation of tobacco, potatoes, beans, cabbage, carrots and aubergines was
introduced in the lowlands of the Mesta valley, while potatoes and oats were grown in the higher parts
of the region.65
Nevrokop was declared a district centre and a military garrison was stationed in it. New town
quarters were erected. The resettlement of refugees from the Aegean littoral increased the population
of the town by the end of the 20s. Since most of the newcomers traditionally had earned their living by
tobacco growing, that predetermined a new trend in the economic development of the region.
The arable land per head of the population is less in the region of Gotse Delchev than any-
where else in Bulgaria. It is a region of smallest-scale farming. This explains the absence of cereals
and pulses, which moreover do not give high yields here. As a matter of fact, the entire Pirin region is
highly dependent on the import of cereals from other parts of Bulgaria. The small amount of arable
land, the predominant small-scale farming and the specific climatic and soil conditions have set the
pattern for the agricultural development of the region in the first half of the 20lh century. Thermophilic
industrial and oil yielding crops, mulberry-trees, fruits and vines were chiefly cultivated here. The ba-
sic branch of agriculture however became tobacco growing, which was high yielding and engaged the
spare labour force. The local tobacco brand called "Nevrokopska basma" is renowned for its quality.
Although the region was rich in forests and pastures, stockbreeding remained poorly devel-
oped. The abundant mineral resources were not used adequately either. Industry was almost missing,
and with regard to transport the basin remained isolated, having been cut off from its natural outlet to
the Mediterranean.

'"Georgiev 1987:20,78.
This information was kindly provided by the international company MINORCO.
Now examples of those ancient appliances are kept in the Historical Museum in Gotse Delchev.
Bonchev 1920: 4, 34, 44, 45.
Pandev 1988: 156, 164.
Geografia 1981:298.
Danilevski, Kiselov 1969: 60.
Bulgaria 1961:342.
Daiiilevski, Kiselov 1969: 89.

KOPRIVLEN 1 eg II. The Middle Mesta Region

In the 30s of the 20th century the region ranked last in Bulgaria in respect of agrotechnics. The
agriculture was of an extensive type. More lands were left fallow here in comparison with other re-
gions, and no agricultural machines at all were in use.67

The modem village of Koprivlen is situated at the foot of the Firm Mountain, 10 km south-
east from the town of Gotse Delchev. Its location has been specially chosen. The natural advantages of
the site were estimated already by the earliest population of the region. Judging from the archaeologi-
cal remains, the vicinity of the village was inhabited in the Bronze Age, in Thracian times, in late
antiquity and the Middle Ages.70 The village is surrounded by fertile lands, which are far enough from
the Mesta to avoid flooding in time of river overflows. The steep heights of Eastern Pirin rise in the
immediate vicinity of the village, affording a good opportunity for evacuation and defence in case of
The name "Koprivlen" is first mentioned in a document dating from 1366, when the posses-
sion of the village was ceded by the despot loan Uglesha to an Athos monastery. The name is of Sla-
vonic origin and probably derives from the word "kopriva" (nettles). 71 Koprivlen is not among the
known centres of recent metallurgy in the Murvashko region, although it is situated in the close vicin-
ity of some of these — Lyaski, Musomishte, Teshovo, Paril, Gaytaninovo, etc. Since all the necessary
conditions are at hand, it seems only too probable that metallurgy and metal-working were practised in
the past also here. The pieces of iron slag found in Thracian ritual pits during the archaeological exca-
vations support this statement.72 An old mine still functioned until recently some 2,5 km south-west
from Koprivlen, and an iron mine of open type exists some 7 km west from the village. 73 A similar
mine is situated on the slopes of the nearby mountain top called "Lyaskovski vruh"; although the ore
contains a high percentage of iron, it is not worked at present because of the high transport expenses.
The deposits of marble in the immediate vicinity of Koprivlen are also well-known.
In spite of its Slavonic name, by the end of the 19th century the population of the village con-
sisted mainly of Turks. The eminent Bulgarian historian and geographer Vasil Kunchov suggests that
the Turkish population was settled along the Middle Mesta and in Nevrokop at the time of the Otto-
man conquest.75 That explains why the name of Koprivlen is not mentioned in the Ottoman taxation
registers from the 15th and 16th century: as a rule they listed only the main taxpayers - the Christians.
The history of the village is eventful. In 1913 it was burnt by the advancing Greek troops. Al-
though the Turkish population later returned, the village gradually acquired a Bulgarian appearance.
This was due to the numerous Bulgarian refugees from Aegean Thrace and Aegean Macedonia, who
were settled here in the period from 1913 to 1925.76 In the early 1970s Koprivlen numbered some
1620 inhabitants and was a municipal centre. The Mesta and its tributaries generously water the vil-
lage fields, which are among the best fertile lands in the valley. High-quality tobaccos, fruits and
vegetables are cultivated here. The village also offers different products of animal husbandry. To-
gether with neighbouring Gotse Delchev, Dubnitsa and Hadjidimovo, Koprivlen is also a well-known
centre of tobacco growing. 77

Beshkov 1934:23, 163-170.
Cf. Chapter III infra.
Cf. Chapter IV infra.
Cf. Chapter V infra.
Ivanov 1996: 29, 124.
Cf. Chapter IV.3 and Chapter VII.4 infra.
Ivanov 1996:93, 196.
Pancheliev 1988: 13.
Kunchov 1900:58, 194.
"'Ivanov 1996:29, 193.
Danilevski, Kiselov 1969: 77, 178.



Yulia Tsvetkova
(University of Sofia "St Kliment Ohridski")

H.4.1.1. Archaeological Investigations in the Area

The Gotse Delchev valley has been relatively scarcely and unsystematically investigated by
archaeologists, most likely due to the fact that it is situated far from the larger modern towns, isolated
between the Pirin mountain and the western flank of the Dubrash ridge which forms part of the Rho-
dopes. Until recently only chance finds suggested its exceptional importance as part of the Thracian
It was such finds - the famous grave finds from Gornyani (the present town of Hadjidimovo)
and the helmet from Kovachevitsa — which provoked the interest of Vassil Mikov, the first archaeolo-
gist to explore the region. He undertook a limited investigation, collecting information mainly about
the archaeological sites around Hadjidimovo, and published several stray finds from that area.' The
tradition of collecting and publishing chance finds survived during the next decades. Archaeological
excavations were undertaken at some Roman and Medieval sites,2 but no investigations were aimed at
providing a more complete picture of the development of the region in the period lasting to the end of
the 1 st millennium B.C.
Only in the 1970's did systematic investigations of the archaeological monuments in the val-
ley of the Mesta river start at last as a consequence of the growing interest in the settlement system in
the lands of the ancient Thracians and the cultural processes in the different historical periods. A re-
search team of the "Mesta" expedition lead by Dr. M. Domaradzki made a detailed field survey and
documented the archaeological sites along the left bank of the river. Trial excavations were undertaken
at some of the sites (near Ablanitsa, Babiak, Vulkosel, Kochan, Osina, Pletena, Satovcha, Skrebatno,
Tsruncha and Furgovo) in order to establish their character and chronology. A Thracian mound ne-
cropolis between the villages of Kochan and Satovcha was excavated at the same time.4 In the mean-
time, the registration of the archaeological monuments on the territory of the district of Blagoevgrad
lead to the appearance of the first published general archaeological survey, which includes the Middle
Mesta area.5
In the middle of the 1990's the implementation of a scientific project for the archaeological
investigation of the Nevrokop basin permitted the renewal of the systematic field examinations in the
region, including this time mainly the right bank of the river. The area of the settlements to the south

Mikov 1927; Mikov 1937; Mikov 1938; Mikov 1950.
" Georgieva 1965; Vuzharova, Chacheva 1968; Cf. also the review in Dremsizova-Nelchinova 1987: 3-
14 and references.
Domaradzki et al. 1999.
Gergova 1980; Gergova, Angelova 1975; Gergova, Kulov 1977; Gergova, Kulov 1979; Gergova,
Kulov 1982.
Dremsizova-Nelchinova 1987.

// 4. Archaeological Overview: Prehistoric and Thracian Periods (Y. Tsvetkova)

of Gotse Delchev was surveyed intensively and trial excavations were undertaken at a burial mound
near the town of Hadjidimovo and at the antique site near the village of Koprivlen.6
While the first stage of the archaeological investigations, including the registration of Thra-
cian archaeological sites, has already provided noteworthy results, the systematic archaeological exca-
vations are only in their initial phase. The only site within the chronological limits of the period dis-
cussed here Which has been investigated more thoroughly is the mound necropolis near Kochan and
Satovcha, but even this has not been published in details yet.
The 1998-99 rescue excavations of the Thracian settlement near Koprivlen are so far the only
systematic large-scale archaeological investigation in the region. The first results support the prelimi-
nary conclusions about the importance of this site as a regional Thracian centre and suggest the neces-
sity of investigating the cultural environment in which the settlement existed and developed.
The field surveys of the teams working in the region during the last few decades permit some
general conclusions about different components of the settlement system in the Gotse Delchev valley
such as settlements, necropolises, sanctuaries, and about the tendencies in the development of this
system during several successive periods (Fig. 3). In the present general review of the settlement sys-
tem mainly the major sites documented in the course of the field surveys have been included. Certain
problems result from the fact that no exact dating could be suggested for some of the established sites.
Information provided by casual single finds from the area has also been included. The Prehistoric Period

The earliest traces of human life in the Gotse Delchev area have been discovered along the
river Kanina, where flint tools from the Early Paleolithic Age have been found.7
The Gotse Delchev valley was inhabited during the Late Neolithic Period. The settlements
near Pletena8 and Gotse Delchev were inhabited in this age.9 Both continued into the Eneolithic Period
when the number of the settlements increased - on the right bank of the Mesta river eneolithic materi-
als have been found at the site Klisurata near the village of Ilinden, 10 and on the left bank - near the
villages of Ognyanovo,11 Kovachevitsa,12 Kochan,13 and Osina. 14
The eneolithic settlements are not very big - 30 to 40 ares, and are situated in most cases on
riverside terraces (Ognyanovo, Kovachevitsa, Osina) or on small detached hills (Zaimova Chuka by
Kochan, Klisurata by Ilinden). The tell type of settlement has not been attested here. The greater num-
ber of settlements situated along the left bank of the Mesta river and along its tributaries up to the first
slopes of the Rhodopes mountains is noticeable, and especially in the region along the river Kanina
where the ancient settlers could have been attracted by the hot mineral springs. Some of the sites (Ilin-
den, Kochan) were inhabited during the subsequent historical periods too.
Without systematic archaeological excavations any comments on the stratigraphic sequence or
the thickness of the cultural accumulations at the prehistoric sites in the area would be as superfluous
as the attempts to trace their links with contemporary sites in other regions of the Balkan Peninsula. The Thracian Period

No archaeological sites from the early stages of the Bronze Age have been found in the Gotse
Delchev basin. This might be due to a break in the occupation of the valley or to insufficient investi-
gations in the region. Traces of habitation in some parts of the valley evidence the reappearance of
population in the Late Bronze Age. The evidence on different types of settlements, necropolises and

Unpublished field surveys of the research team led by Dr. A. Bozkova. All data concerning archaeo-
logical sites on the right bank of the Mesta in the text below is a result of these surveys. Their publishing is
Dremsizova-Nelchinova 1987: 17.
Domaradzki et al. 1999: 96, Site 3.
Serafimova 1988: 17.
Pancheliev 1992: 15; unpublished results of field surveys.
Domaradzki et al. 1999: 94, Site 1.
Domaradzki et al. 1999: 91, Site 5.
Dremsizova-Nelchinova 1987: 75, No 146; Domaradzki et al. 1999: 41-42, 92, Site 4.
Domaradzki et al. 1999: 95, Site 5.

KOPRIVLEN 1 egII. The Middle Mesta Region

sanctuaries permits a more detailed picture of the settlement system in the period including the second
half of the 2nd and the whole 1 st millennium B.C. Settlements
During the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages the settlement system in the area was of com-
paratively low density. Late Bronze Age sites have been located near the villages of Ablanitsa,
Brashten, Debren and Osina,15 and Early Iron Age ones near Ablanitsa, Vaklinovo, Valkosel, Zhiz-
hevo, Krushevo, Pletena, Slashten on the left bank of the river16 and probably near Sadovo and Had-
jidimovo on the right bank, where some materials suggest a dating in the second phase of the Early
Iron Age.17 The finds from four other sites - near Brashten, Gorno Dryanovo, Debren and Skrebatno -
do not permit to refer them definitely to either the Late Bronze or the Early Iron Age.18
The site located in the place Zaimova chuka to the south-east of the village of Kochan is of
particular interest. The archaeological materials found on the plateau of a conical hill rising some 20
m. above the surrounding terrain and ranging from the Eneolithic and Late Bronze Ages to the Medie-
val Period witness continuous life at this place. An interesting fragment of an amphora-like vessel
found there seems to be an imitation of Mycenaean ware from the Late Helladic III A-B period and
suggests possible relations with Northern Greece and the lower Vardar where production centres for
this type of pottery are known to have existed.19
The number of known settlements from the Late Iron Age is considerably greater. Fourteen
new settlements on the left bank of the Mesta and another eleven on the right bank can be added to the
mentioned ones near Vaklinovo, Valkosel, Zhizhevo, Kochan, Krushevo, Pletena, Slashten and Had-
jidimovo, which seem to have continued their existence into this period. In most cases, life in these
settlements continued in later Antiquity and the Middle Ages, which is the reason why the earlier cul-
tural strata are usually seriously damaged.
From a geographical point of view, most of the settlements from the Late Bronze and Early
Iron Ages are situated in the first mountain belt of the hill Dubrash and along the left tributaries of the
Mesta river, away from the central river bed. Places with higher altitude seem to have been preferred.
Settlements appear in the lower parts of the valley, near the river, only in the Late Iron Age, probably
as a result of the increasing population of the valley.
Naturally defended places above rivers, on the ridges and slopes of the hills were preferred for
the settlements.20 The right bank of the Mesta river seems to have been less populated than the left one
during the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages. This picture changed considerably in the Late Iron Age
when more settlements appeared along the right bank, near Hadjidimovo, Petrelik and along the river
Except for Zaimova Chuka near Kochan there seems to have been little topographical conti-
nuity between the Late Bronze and the Early Iron Ages. This fact authorises the suggestion that a new
settlement system was created at the beginning of the Early Iron Age.21 This settlement system sur-
vived during the following periods of the Late Iron Age when life continued in the major settlements
already established in the area.
The number of settlements gives some information about the demographic changes and the
development of the settlement system. In contrast to the observations made in the valley of the Stru-
meshnitsa river which seems to have been less inhabited during the Early Iron Age than in the previ-
ous and following periods,22 the survey along the Mesta valley has provided information of five set-
tlements with materials from the Late Bronze Age, ten - from the Early Iron Age and four with uni-
dentified finds related to either one or the other. The fact shows a gradual increase of the number of

Domaradzki et al. 1999: 82, Site 1; 88 Site 6; 95, Site 4.
Dremsizova-Nelchinova 1987: 51, No. 54; Domaradzki et al. 1999: 83, Site 7; 85, Site 1; 90, Site 1;
92, Site 2; 100, Site 1.
Vulcheva et al. (in press).
Domaradzki et al. 1999: 84-85, Site 1; 87, Site 2; 88, Site 3; 99, Site 1.
Domaradzki et al. 1999: 10, 41-2, 92, Site 4, 135 Fig. V 5.
Domaradzki et al. 1999: 9, 10.
Gergova 1990: 20
Gergova 1995: 34.

11.4. Archaeological Overview: Prehistoric and Thracian Periods (Y. Tsvetkova)

settlements (respectively of the overall population) and a move to a more compact settlement system.2"
This process can be traced into the Late Iron Age, when the settlement system reached its highest den-
sity. The simultaneous existence of groups of several settlements situated close to one another in this
age, like the ones near Ablanitsa and Vulkosel, Pletena and Dolen, Petrelik, Sadovo and Hadjidimovo.
suggests the appearance of specific systems of associated and mutually related settlements.
Without systematic archaeological excavations it is impossible to draw more detailed conclu-
sions about the character of the sites and their position in the settlement system. Fortifications built of
stones without mortar have been observed at the sites near Vaklinovo, Kochan, Ablanitsa and Vul-
kosel. However, since these places were inhabited during the whole 1 st millennium B.C., it is impossi-
ble at the present stage of investigation to establish the date of their construction.
There is some evidence which suggests that at least a few of the sites could be interpreted as
metallurgical centres. Pieces of iron slag have been found at almost all of the sites, but were markedly
abundant at those by Dolen and Petrelik where iron melts were also present. Together with the pre-
sumably thin cultural accumulations these finds suggest that the two settlements were rather short-
lived and belonged to iron-producing communities. As they are dated in the Late Iron Age, the ques-
tion about the probable existence of earlier centres of metallurgy and metal-working remains open. Necropolises
Both tumular and flat necropolises have been attested in the Gotse Delchev basin. As elements
of the settlement system they can also provide some important information about the development of
settlement life in the valley. Unfortunately it remains rather difficult to establish their chronology,
since just a few have been excavated. So from the considerable number of necropolises registered in
the area, only those with a certain or probable dating in the period examined here will be included in
the analysis. At least some of the remaining necropolises must be related to the Roman Imperial pe-
riod, to Late Antiquity or the Middle Ages.

II. Tumular Necropolises

Very few necropolises can be attributed indisputably to the Late Bronze Age. The burial under
one of the thirteen tumuli excavated in the large necropolis between Kochan and Satovcha (tumulus
No 7) is of Late Bronze Age date; the ritual was cremation and the bones were gathered in an urn.24
Materials from this period have also been found in the embankment of some tumuli from the necropo-
lises at Osina and Pletena, which allows to date them tentatively to the Late Bronze Age.25
More information is available about the burial practices in the Early Iron Age and especially in
its second stage. Seven of the tumuli excavated in the necropolis near Kochan and Satovcha (Nos 2, 3,
4, 7, 8, 10, and 11) are from this period.26 Situated on the ridge between the two villages, this ne-
cropolis comprises over one hundred mounds piled in different periods till the end of Antiquity; it il-
lustrates in the best way the development of the various burial practices in the area. Single, double and
collective graves were excavated in the necropolis and both inhumation and inumed cremation were
used. In five of the Early Iron Age tumuli the central grave belonged to a woman and only in one case
- to a man.27 The burials in tumulus No 4 are particularly interesting. A rich female grave was found
in the centre of the tumulus, above it were two male graves and a re-burial of a woman's bones; the
mound was last used in the 1st c. B.C.28 A double female burial discovered in tumulus No 2 was inter-
preted by the archaeologists as representing a specific aspect of Thracian religious beliefs." The sec-
ondary burial of human bones (in tumuli Nos 2, 3, and 4) is among the interesting practices witnessed
in the necropolis; it is still applied in our days in some parts of the Rhodopes. Other peculiar funerary
practices displaying original aspects of the cult of the dead were the replacing of the bones with stones

Domaradzki et al. 1999: 9.
Gergova 1995:34.
Domaradzki et al. 1999: 11, 95, Site 4, 96, Site 5.
Gergova 1980; Gergova 1995: 34.
Gergova 1989: 238.
Gergova 1989: 237.

KOPRIVLEN 1 C2ll. The Middle Mesta Region

and partial burial/ The burial ritual was accompanied quite often by a fire as shown by the numerous
remains of pyres in or near the centre of the mounds or at different levels in the embankments (tumuli
Nos 2, 7, 8, 10).31 Some elements of the burial practices characteristic of this necropolis find parallels
at Patele in the valley of Bistritsa (Haliacmon).32
A spectacle-fibula and a bronze bracelet from Ribnovo published by V. Mikov33 and dating
from the 8th c. B.C.34 probably come from a destroyed necropolis of small mounds. Two graves weie
discovered in a demolished mound south of Lyaski on the right bank of the Mesta; the one dates from
the 8 th or 7 th c. B.C. (Gergova's stage Ila) and the other from the last decades of the 6 th c. B.C.35 The
finds found in the embankment of one of the tumuli south of Sadovo suggest that it also belongs to this
In accordance with the increased number of settlements, the number of Late Iron Age mound
necropolises in the area is also considerably greater. Necropolises were developing close to most of
the settlements (Fig. 3). The necropolises near Kochan - Satovcha and Ribnovo continued to be used,
as evidenced by the six torques found at Ribnovo. A secondary grave in the burial mound at Lyaski is
dated in the Hellenistic Period.37
A new type of burial construction - the monumental stone tombs - appeared in tumuli of the
Hellenistic period. There is information about stone burial constructions in at least three mounds in the
area south of Hadjidimovo, in the localities Kutubara, Tumbite and Zad Manastira.38 Unfortunately, all
these have been the object of unprofessional excavations since the beginning of the 20' century. Ac-
cording to the information of V. Mikov, rich grave finds were found by the excavators. Bronze, silver
and ceramic vessels, silver and gold jewellery and an iron sword were reportedly found in the Kutu-
bara mound and later confiscated by the then Turkish government. A bronze situla is said to have been
found in the Zad Manastira tomb, and gold earrings in one of the mounds at Tumbite. In 1995 the
authors of this volume re-excavated partially one of the two burial mounds at Tumbite and revealed
the rains of a destroyed hypogeum stone tomb. The architectural construction illustrates the links be-
tween South-Western Thrace and Hellenistic Macedonia.39 Mound tombs have also been reported
along the left bank of the Mesta, near the villages of Valkosel (a bronze helmet was allegedly found
there) 40 and Dabnitsa,41 but there is no available information about their design and the type of con-
The tumuli are usually situated at high places with good visibility such as the crests of the
mountainous ridges; sometimes they are single, often in small groups or larger necropolises which
could have been used for quite a long time. The number of tumuli registered on the right bank of the
Mesta is smaller - about thirty, 42 while more than eighty are known on the left bank even without the
large mound necropolis at Kochan - Satovcha and the destroyed one at Ribnovo. Another conspicuous
difference is that along the right bank of the river there are no large necropolises like the one at Ko-
chan - Satovcha.43

Gergova 1989: 239.
Domaradzki et al. 1999: 12.
Mikov 1938, 344; Dremsizova-Nelchinova 1987, 105, No 257. Attention has already been drawn to
the fact that the materials published by V. Mikov as a single find from Ribnovo - a spectacle fibula, a bronze
bracelet and six bronze torques - belong in fact to two different chronological periods - the fibula and bracelet to
the Early Iron Age and the torques to the Late Iron Age (Gergova 1987, 6; Domaradzki et al. 1999, 11). Doma-
radzki found no traces of burial mounds at Atkova plevnia, the alleged place of the find (Domaradzki et al. 1999,
97). The necropolis could have been destroyed by modern land cultivation.
Gergova 1987: 53.
Gergova 1987: 1 If.
Vulcheva et al. (in press).
"Gergova 1987: 11.
Mikov 1937: 212; Dremsizova-Nelchinova 1987: 127, N° 332.
Vulcheva et al. (in press); Cf. Chapter I infra.
Dremsizova-Nelchinova 1987: 51, to No 53.
Dremsizova-Nelchinova 1987: 69.
Vulcheva et al. (in press).
Vulcheva et al. (in press).

II.4. Archaeological Overview: Prehistoric and Thracian Periods (Y. Tsvetkova)

The size of the mounds varies between 0.80 and 9 m. in height and between 5 and 40 m. in di-
ameter. The lower mounds consist of stones and ground and the higher ones usually only of ground.
The embankments of all of the excavated mounds from the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages at the
necropolis of Kochan - Satovcha consist of stones and ground.44 Many of the bigger mounds are situ-
ated in the lower parts of the valley, partly in the area around the Roman town of Nicopolis ad Nes-
tum, and their piling might be referred presumably to the Imperial Period.45
The systematic investigation of the necropolis at Kochan - Satovcha has furnished some more
detailed information about the burial practices in the region. The burials rites included both cremation
or inhumation and their simultaneous practice continued throughout the Early Iron Age, just like in
other parts of Thrace.46 Cremation is considered more typical of the earlier stage of the Early Iron Age,
which suggests continuity from the Late Bronze Age.47 During the second phase of the Early Iron Age
inhumation seems to have prevailed.48
The burial constructions also show some similarities between the Late Bronze and Early Iron
Ages. Cremation burials in situ or in urns were practised in the Late Bronze Age.49 Inurned cremations
remained in use in the early phase of the Early Iron Age.50 The greater variety of burial constructions
is typical of the mounds from the second phase of the Early Iron Age, which contain pits, cist graves,
graves surrounded with stones, and oval platforms, 51 suggests significant changes at the end of the 9'
and in the 8th c. B.C.52 These traditions were preserved in the Late Iron Age, when mound burials in
urns appear often along the predominant cist graves/

II. Flat Necropolises

In addition to the mound necropolises, flat ones consisting of cist graves are also quite com-
mon in the Gotse Delchev basin. Cist grave constructions under tumuli were already usual in the Early
Iron Age. The emergence of the large flat necropolises with cist graves in the region can be referred to
the end of this period. A flat necropolis is situated in the vicinity of the settlement site from the begin-
ning of the 1st millennium B.C. at Pletena,54 but its use during that period has not been attested with
certainty. Judging by the Late Iron Age finds in the two graves excavated there, the whole necropolis
might rather pertain to a later stage in the development of the settlement.55 The case with a presumably
Early Iron Age cist grave in the locality Tesnikola near Kochan is also ambiguous; it was defined as
belonging to a necropolis of the Early Iron Age,56 but a later field survey did not confirm this informa-
tion.57 The only flat necropolis certainly related to the Early Iron Age is situated near the village of
Ilinden, on the right bank of the Mesta; it seems to have existed simultaneously with the settlement at
Koprivlen during the Archaic Period (7th - 6th c. B.C.).
During the Late Iron Age flat necropolises were in use all over the region. They were situated
near the settlements and, just like the burial mounds, usually on the crests of the nearby ridges. In
many cases flat necropolises developed round one or several tumuli, for example at Drezhno near
Ablanitsa,58 at Lungurevi Tumbi near Vulkosel,59 at Poseki near Pletena,60 or at Borova Koria near

Gergova 1995: 34.

Domaradzki et al. 1999: 13f.
Gergova 1990:21.
Domaradzki et al. 1999: 12.
Gergova 1990:21.
Gergova 1989:233.
Gergova 1989: 234.
Gergova 1989: 237; Gergova 1990: 21.
Domaradzki etal. 1999: 12.
Stoianova-Serafimova 198la: 211.
Mikov 1927
Zhuglev 1977.
Stoianova-Serafimova 1975; Vasilev 1975.
A bronze bracelet with rectangular cross-section, ends in the shape of lizards' heads, and decoration
of relief ribs and engraved lines, was allegedly found in the same locality (Domaradzki et al. 1999, 92, Site 3).
Domaradzki et al. 1999: 83, Site 6.
Domaradzki et al. 1999: 85, Site 1.

KOPRIVLEN 1 call. The Middle Mesta Region

Chance finds from the flat necropolis at Drezhno near Ablanitsa provide new information
about Thracian culture in the region in the 4th and 3rd c. B.C.62 Some of the fibulae discovered in a fe-
male grave suggest parallels with Celtic ornaments of this kind. This might be explained with the in-
fluence of Celtic decorative art rather than with a real presence of Celts in the valley and would show
the region's awareness of new cultural trends.63
Quite a number of warrior burials have been found in cist graves in the Gotse Delchev valley.
Most of these are concentrated along the left bank of the Mesta river, at Kovachevitsa,64 Gorno Drya-
novo,65 Stanchovitsa66 and Ilinden 67 near Pletena, and Debren.68 Judging by a helmet found near Sa-
tovcha or Slashten, there was such a grave there too, but the information about the find is unfortu-
nately not clear. 9 Only one warrior grave has been found so far on the right bank of the river near the
village of Sredna.70
These warrior graves are dated generally in the 5 th and 4th c. B.C. (Kovachevitsa) and until the
first half of the 3r c. B.C. (Sredna). The grave goods found in them are not excessively rich, but they
must have belonged to Thracians with a relatively high social status.71 The grave finds provide evi-
dence for the reconstruction of the elements of Thracian warrior equipment. It usually included a hel-
met with cheek-pieces (bronze ones were found at Gorno Dryanovo, Debren, Kovachevitsa and at
Ilinden near Pletena, and iron ones at Stanchovitsa near Pletena and at Sredna), several torques which
seem to have been worn not so much as a sign of noble descent but mainly to protect the neck (two
examples come from Gorno Drianovo, one from Debren, two from Kovachevitsa, six from Pletena,
and one fragment of an iron torque from Sredna), a cuirass (one example from Gorno Dryanovo ), and
greaves (a pair from Pletena). Long sword-spears (romphaeae) were found in graves at Gomo Dri-
anovo, Debren, Pletena and Sredna. The six torques from Ribnovo ~ probably represent part of the
finds from a similar grave.
Almost all of the helmets found in the area pertain to the so called "Thracian type". Only the
helmet from Ilinden near Pletena shows some parallels with the Chalcidian type - arcs above the eye-
brows, a nose-protector and a frontal. 73 Precise technological investigations of the helmets found in the
region of the Rhodopes suggest a common model and warrants the definition of a local typological
group.74 The bronze and the iron helmets were produced simultaneously by the same specialized local
metal workers who also repaired the armour damaged in the course of long use.75 The iron helmets
from Stanchovitsa near Pletena and from Sredna and the information about iron-extraction at some of
the settlements imply the existence of local workshops for armour in the region (probably at
The 4!h c. B.C. grave from Hadjidimovo (former Gornyani) can be set apart from the standard
warrior graves, and should be ranked rather among the rich graves of the age. The Gornyani grave
finds include a gold pectoral, a silver kantharos, a silver jug, a silver ring, an iron bridle-bit, gilded
buttons, clay and bone objects, tetradrachms of Phillip II and a horse skeleton by the grave;78 they

Domaradzki et al. 1999: 97, Site 14.

Domaradzki et al. 1999: 92, Site 2.
Chacheva 1970: 30If; Stoianova-Serafimova 198la: 210
Stoianova-Serafimova 198la: 211.
Mikov 1927.
Zhuglev 1977.
Stoianova-Serafimova 1975; Vasilev 1975.
Domaradzki et al. 1999: 95-96, Site 2.
Zhuglev 1970; Domaradzki et al. 1999: 89 Site 16.
Stoianova-Serafimova 1975; Zhuglev 1979; Vasilev 1980: note 13.
Kulov 1990.
Domaradzki 1998:28.
Mikov 1938: 345f
Vasilev 1980: 15.
Vasilev 1980:7.
Vasilev 1980: 15.
Stoianova-Serafimova 1975:48.
Domaradzki et al. 1999: 13.
Mikov 1937: 207-212.

//. 4. Archaeological Overview: Prehistoric and Thracian Periods (Y. Tsvetkova)

demonstrate explicitly the high social status of the deceased - most likely a representative of the ruling
Thracian aristocracy.
Also in contrast with the cist graves, but in the opposite direction, are the much poorer Late
Iron Age burials in urns or simple pits. Such graves have been discovered together with cist graves or
in separate necropolises and probably display different modes of burial associated with the ordinary
members of Thracian society.79 In this way the funerary practices reflect clearly the social differentia-
tion of Thracian society.
The review of the necropolises as part of the settlement system sheds some light on the grad-
ual development of the latter. In comparison with the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages, in the Late
Iron Age the number of necropolises kept increasing proportionally to the increase in the number of
settlements, and they are normally found together, the necropolises occupying usually an elevated and
exposed position in the vicinity of the respective settlements. The mound necropolis at Kochan - Sa-
tovcha, which was used during a very long period of time, could be an exception to the rule, for no
traces of any settlement whatsoever have been found in its vicinity; it has been suggested that this par-
ticular necropolis could reflect a different level of social organisation, based on a territorial, tribal or
religious principle, which determined its central position in the whole region.80
A specific concentration of at least six separate Late Iron Age necropolises has been observed
around Pletena on the left bank of the Mesta. Two of the helmets mentioned above were found here.
The facts confirm the importance of the Pletena settlement during that period.81 Another group of
burial sites - a mound, a flat necropolis and a built tomb - have been registered near Vulkosel and
should in all probability be linked with the settlement at the locality "Popa" where the handle of a col-
umn krater was found. *
A most important settlement centre of the Early Hellenistic Period must have existed in the vi-
cinity of Hadjidimovo on the right bank of the Mesta river, as can be judged by the rich burial finds
from the area and the remains of monumental tomb architecture which are exceptional in this parts of
ancient Thrace.

H. Cult Sites

A number of sites in the Gotse Delchev valley and on the slopes of the surrounding mountains
have been interpreted as cult ones. Two such sites, at Osina83 and Tsruncha,84 were already in use
during the Late Bronze Age according to the archaeological material; both however continued func-
tioning during the following periods of the Early and Late Iron Age. A ritual pit complex seems to
have existed near Hadjidimovo in the Early Iron Age.85 The cult sites at Kovachevitsa86 and Ilinden87
can be dated generally in the 1st millennium B.C.
From a topographical point of view the sanctuaries are situated mostly in the mountains, and
especially in the first mountain belt above the valley. At least in several cases they seem to have de-
veloped around distinctive rock formations (at Osina, Tsruncha, and Kovachevitsa). The cult site near
Ilinden is located on a rocky cliff surrounded on three sides by the river Mutnitsa; the remains of a
stone wall are still visible at some places.
The archaeological finds show that the cult sites were used during long periods of time. They
seem to have been situated away from settlements and this might imply their functioning at a regional,
multi-settlement level.
The pit sanctuaries have a different character. Two ritual pits dug below the level of the an-
cient terrain were discovered during the archaeological excavations of a large burial mound at Tumbite
near Hadjidimovo. The archaeological materials in the pits were much older than the tumulus itself;

Domaradzki et al. 1999: 14.
Domaradzki et al. 1999: 12
Domaradzki et al. 1999: 13.
Mladenova 1967: 15 ff.
Domaradzki et al. 1999: 73-74, 95, Site 1.
Domaradzki 1986b; Domaradzki et al. 1999: 101, Site 5.
Cf. Chapter I supra.
Domaradzki et al. 1999: 91 Site 2.
Vulcheva et al. (in press).

KOPRIVLEN1 asII. The Middle Mesta Region

their date in the later Early Iron Age coincides with the earlier materials from the Hadjidimovo settle-
ment, and this implies the existence of an early cult site associated with the settlement and situated at
the place of the later mound necropolis.
More sanctuaries were discovered on the left bank of the river. The close proximity of the
sanctuaries at Tsruncha and Osina and the Kochan - Satovcha necropolis suggests the existence of a
specific cult and burial area in this part of the valley.89 Another similar area might be suggested be-
tween Hadjidimovo and Ilinden on the right bank of the river.

II.4.1.4. Conclusions
The review of the elements of the settlement system permits some general conclusions about
the development of settlement life in the Gotse Delchev valley.
The first settlements in the region were situated in the first ridges of the western slopes of
Mount Dubrash. During the whole period discussed here, the concentration of sites here remained
greatest. Only from the end of the Early Iron Age onwards did the settlements start to "move down-
wards" into the valley, increasing simultaneously in number. Even then hill sites like the one near
Hadjidimovo were preferred. The inhabitants seem to have avoided intentionally the open spaces,
looking for natural defence, but the selection of sites might have been connected with the peculiarities
of their economy as well. The geographical factor should not be underestimated - the frequent floods
of the Mesta were a very good reason for placing the settlements in higher places.
The greater density of the settlements on the left bank of the river is a noticeable fact. This
might be due to the better natural conditions on this bank - the low and accessible slopes of the West-
ern Rhodopes, crossed by the numerous tributaries of the Mesta river, are almost reaching its bed. On
the opposite right bank the situation is different - the broad and flat valley between Gotse Delchev and
Hadjidimovo is abruptly limited to the west by the almost vertical slopes of Pirin. Suitable settlement
places existed in the valley of Mutnitsa, the only right tributary of the Mesta in the area; its middle and
lower reaches run through lower mountain grounds where a concentration of archaeological sites has
been noted.
Most of the sites - settlements, necropolises, sanctuaries - show a long period of occupation,
and this could be taken to imply ethnical and religious continuity in the area.
From a demographic point of view, there seems to have been a continuous rise in population
starting in the second stage of the Early Iron Age and increasing in the Late Iron Age when the settle-
ment system was most densely packed. The tracing of this process has provided information on several
areas which seem to have had some kind of leading, predominant position in one or another period. In
the Late Bronze Age such an area is outlined around Osina, Tsruncha, Kochan and Satovcha. At least
some of the sites there were related with cult and religious activities, and this seems to offer an expla-
nation for the importance of this area, which remained pronounced in the following periods.
In the Late Iron Age areas of specific importance seem to have been established for economic
as well as religious reasons. Metallurgy and metal-working must have become much more important
for the local population,90 and the large settlement sites at Pletena on the left bank of the Mesta and at
Hadjidimovo on the right bank of the river should be considered in close relation to the neighbouring
metallurgical centres near Dolen and Petrelik. Thus, two areas of regional importance can be estab-
lished for this age - one between Pletena and Dolen and the other around Ilinden, Petrelik and Had-
jidimovo in the valley of the river Mutnitsa. The importance of the area around Hadjidimovo is con-
firmed by the rich grave finds which illustrate its prosperity in the Early Hellenistic Period.
Another concentration of archaeological sites has been noted in the area around Ablanitsa and
Valkosel on the left bank of the Mesta and Teplen on the opposite right bank. The river does not seem
to have hampered the constant contacts among the settlements on its two sides in this area, and this
idea is confirmed by the remains of a bridge (presumably of later date) at Valkosel.91

' Vulcheva et al. (in press).

Gergova 1995:38.
' Domaradzki et al. 1999:32
Dremsizova-Nelchinova 1987: 52, No. 56.

II. 4. Archaeological Overview: Prehistoric and Thracian Periods (Y. Tsvetkova)

Besides the rich grave finds,92 the coin hoards from the Gotse Delchev basin also bear witness
to the economic prosperity of the ancient population in the Late Iron Age. The coin circulation in the
region snows the dynamics of the economical development in this period. The hoards from the vicinity
of Gotse Delchev include early coins of Thasos, of the Orescii, and of the Thracian dynast Saratokos
and should be connected with the Late Iron Age settlement on the site of the modern town.93 A find
from Skrebatno consisted of drachms of an anonymous Thracian tribe of the "Silenus abducting a
nymph" type and tetroboli of Thasos.94 The finds with tetradrachms of the Macedonian rulers Philip II
(Ribnovo and Gospodintsi)95 and Philip V and Perseus (Ablanitsa)96 attest the links of the region with
the Macedonian state. The increased coin circulation between the 3rd and 1 st c. B.C. reflects the eco-
nomic and political development of the region which became a zone of contacts between the Thracian
lands and the Macedonian state, and later on with the Roman province Macedonia.97
From the Late Bronze Age till the end of the first millennium B.C. the Gotse Delchev valley
was developing as a part of the cultural zone of the Norm-Western Aegean. The imported ceramic
vessels and the coins suggest the permanent relations of the Middle Nestos area with the North Aegean
cities and with the coastal regions around Mount Pangaion, the Chalcidic peninsula and the lower
Axios (Vardar). The excavations of the Thracian settlement near Koprivlen which are published in a
preliminary form in this volume have confirmed beyond doubt this general affiliation of the area, pro-
viding at the same time an invaluable insight into the peculiarities of the local Thracian cultural devel-

In addition to those mentioned above note also the two gold bracelets published by V. Mikov (Mikov
1950: 151-153) which probably come from a rich grave.
Gerasimov 1950: 317; Gerasimov 1939; Dremsizova-Nelchinova 1987: 58f., Nos 76, 77, 80;
Domaradzki et al. 1999: 32.
Gerasimov 1964: 240; Kolev, Slavcheva 1972.
Mushmov 1921/22: 242; Gerasimov 1950: 321.
Gerasimov 1940/42: 282.
Domaradzki et al. 1999: 33.


Mihail Vaklinov
(Institute of Archaeology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences)

H.4.2.1. Historical and Archaeological Investigations

Though rich in archaeological monuments, the Gotse Delchev region remained for a long time
aside from the routes of travellers and annalists. The first to give some information about the Middle
Mesta valley was Konstantin Jirecek in his book "Travels in Bulgaria" published in 1888. He identi-
fied incorrectly Nicopolis ad Nestum with Nevrokop (the present Gotse Delchev) mentioning the ruins
at "Gradishteto" near the modern town. Jirecek also mentioned that the ancient city minted coins.1
The information offered by V. Kanchov in his book "Travel along the Valleys of the Struma,
Mesta and Bregalnitsa" is much more detailed. He mentions the fortification walls of Nicopolis ad
Nestum which were 1.30 m. thick and still preserved to a height of over 2 m. Kanchov was impressed
by the architectural fragments, slabs of marble and other remains scattered over the site. He has given
a description of the road through the Rhodope mountains connecting Nicopolis with the Maritsa val-
The French numismatist P. Perdrizet dedicated an article to the autonomous coins of Nicopolis
ad Nestum, minted in the reign of the emperors Commodus, Geta and Caracalla.
K. Nikolov described in great details the ruins in the villages of Gospodintsi, Ognianovo,
Marchevo, Gurmen, Leshten, Kovachevitsa, Skrebatno. He also traced the route of the old road going
through the Rhodope mountains to Dospat, parts of which have been preserved to this day.4
During the Balkan Wars, B. Filov made a survey in the region and described with great preci-
sion the visible fortification walls of Nicopolis and several basilicas in the vicinity of the city."
A detailed description of the ancient city and its region was made by I. Todorov. He suggested
that Nicopolis was founded on the place of an older Thracian settlement (Alexandropolis) and paid
great attention to the coins minted in the city. His research touched also on the hydronym Mesta.6
Most of the evidence about the archaeology of the Middle Mesta region in Antiquity and the
Middle Ages is confined to publications in periodicals describing chance finds preserved mainly in the
National Archaeological Museum in Sofia and the local museum in Gotse Delchev.7
Between 1960 and 1962 S. Mihailov and S. Georgieva organized an expedition for the study
of medieval archaeological monuments in the Rhodope mountains. They discovered several necropo-
lises around Satovcha and studied the fortress above the village of Dabnitsa.8
S. Mihailov effected trial excavations of the late medieval churches "St Nedelya" near the
village of Kribul and "St Archangel" in the fortress above the village of Dabnitsa, complementing the
history of the region with some evidence about this period which had remained insufficiently studied

'Jirecek 1974:448.
Kunchov 1970: 137 sqq.
Perdrizet 1906:217-233.
Nikolov 1909: 155-177.
Filov 1993:86-89.
Todorov 1940: 493-497, Todorov 1940/41: 101.
Beshevliev 1934: 465-466; Venedikov 1946: 233; Velkov 1921/22: 250; Velkovl934: 465; Velkov,
Danov 1938: 447-449; Gerasimov 1937a: 319, 322; Gerasimov 1938: 455; Danov 1937: 309-310; Dechev 1938:
285-286; Katsarov 1919/20: 10-12, Katsarov 1934: 58-59; Filov 1917/18: 169-170.
'Georgieva 1961: 12-13.
'Mihailov 1969: 147-163.

II.4. Archaeological Overview: Roman Period, Late Antiquity, Middle Ages (M. Vaklinov)

The epigraphical monuments from the region have been collected, dated and annotated by G.
Z. Vuzharova and D. Stoianova-Serafimova excavated two early medieval necropolises near
the villages Ablanitsa and Tuhovishte.11
The archaeological activity in the region became more active in the seventies when several
expeditions of different profile were launched. The expedition "Mesta " lead by M. Domaradzki car-
ried out a large scale field survey along the left bank of the Mesta river; among the registered sites and
monuments many pertained to Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages.12 Three early Christian basilicas
were studied archaeologically in the same period.13
In 1980 a team lead by A. Milcheva started regular archaeological excavations of the ancient
city of Nicopolis ad Nestum. These proceeded with some breaks until 1987. The excavations revealed
the whole south fortification wall of Nicopolis and some private and public buildings from the 4 - 6
century A.D.14

II.4.2.2. The Roman Imperial Period and Late Antiquity

The ancient and medieval history of the Gotse Delchev region is closely related with the his-
tory of Nicopolis ad Nestum (NvKOTioAiq Tipoq Neons) - the largest fortified city in the Middle Mesta
basin. The ruins of the ancient city are situated close to a detached part of the village of Gurmen
known as Zagrade. The town was mentioned for the first time in the 2nd c. A.D. in the Geography of
Claudius Ptolemy among the cities founded by the emperor Trajan in honour of his victory over the
Dacians. The foundation of the city in a region with troubled Thracian population must have been
aimed mainly at the establishment of control over the major roads, and mainly the one connecting via
the Rhodope mountains the Via Egnatia with Philippopolis and the Central (Diagonal) Road. 3 The
ancient city spread soon far beyond the fortification walls, and the city territory included many small
satellite industrial settlements. The significance of Nicopolis for the economy of the region is con-
firmed by the bronze coinage of the city in the 2nd and early 3rd century A.D., inscribed with the legend
'Oo^Tiiaq NiKO7c6X,eex; npoq MsoTax16 The epigraphical monuments attest the existence of a religious
society consecrated to the cult of the health deities, which seems to have exercised a great influence
over the administration of the city. This cult must have been related with the hot mineral springs by
the neighbouring village of Ognyanovo, famous for their healing properties and functioning to this
day; in ancient times the mineral water must have been piped to the city.
Nicopolis ad Nestum was described by Socrates in the 5th century as one of the seven episco-
pal centres in the province of Rhodope; he also mentioned by name a bishop Polycarp who had come
to the city from Sexaginta Prista came.17 The same was confirmed by an inscription found during the
excavations of the fortified territory of the city. 18 In the 6 century, the city was placed in the same
province of Rhodope in the "Synecdemus" of Hierocles. During the great Slavic invasions of the be-
ginning and middle of the 6th century, it escaped the fate of the big fortress Topeiros near the mouth of
the Mesta river which was taken and sacked. Nicopolis was destroyed most probably during the later
invasions of Slavs and Avars in the second half of the 6th century A.D., possibly in the time of Justin II
and Sofia as suggested by a coin hoard found among the ruins of the city."
The archaeological excavations have not been able to identify with certainty the territory of
the Roman city between the 2nd and 4th century. The preserved parts of the fortification walls were

10 Mihailov 1966: 285-298, tab. 162-170.

Vuzharova, Chacheva 1968: 27; Vuzharova 1976: 447; Stoianova-Serafimova 1979: 789-804; Stoia-
nova-Serafimova 198 Ib.
Domaradzki et al. 1999.
Popova 1979; Dimitrova-Milcheva 1980.
Dimitrova- Milcheva et al. 1981, 1982, 1983, 1987.
Asdracha 1975:35-42.
Perdrizet 1906: 217-233.
Socrates. -THEM 2, 1958.
Dimitrova-Milcheva et al. 1982.
Hierokles. Sinecdemus. - FHEH2, 1958: 89.
Kuzmanov 1994:34.

KOPRIVLEN I cell. The Middle Mesta Region

built at the earliest in the middle of the 4th century.7' The earlier city must have comprised a greater
territory if we judge by the fact that the fortification walls lie on older buildings or comply with their
plans. However, for the moment there is no material evidence of earlier fortifications.
The general plan of the fortress represents an irregular polygon and comprises an area of 11
hectares (about 27 acres). In spite of the even terrain, the fortification walls are not straight. The ar-
chaeological excavations have revealed the whole south wall and parts of the east and west ones.22 Six
towers were excavated along the south wall which had a length of 271.75 m. and a width of 2.40 - 2.50
m.; four of these were of circular plan and the remaining two, flanking the south gate, were square. All
towers were projecting outwards from the fortification wall; their proper walls were 1.60 m. thick.
There was at least one large rectangular tower along the eastern wall which is situated for the longer
part under inhabited parts of the modern village of Gurmen. The tower was connected constructively
with the wall, which ran at this place along the foundations of a big peristyle building, and had a stone
staircase from which seven steps were preserved. Only the inner side of the western fortification wall
was uncovered during the excavations. At about 100 m. from the south-western corner tower, an U--
shaped tower was attached to this wall, the only one of such form studied so far; this was accessible by
two staircases on both sides, eight steps being preserved from the south one and nine - from the north
one. The tower lies on a destroyed earlier building with a mosaic floor. The only excavated city gate
was on the south wall, some 50 m. from the south-western corner tower. The gate is shaped like a deep
semicircular exedra turned inside, with the two towers situated at both ends and the 4 m. wide entrance
right in the middle of the curve. The towers are of almost quadrangular shape, of relatively large di-
mensions (4.26 by 4.16 m. and 7.10 by 5.20 m) and have one-side staircases.
The fortification wall of Nicopolis ad Nestum is built entirely in opus mixtum - a building
technique characteristic of the eastern provinces in the late 3rd and early 4th century. The combination
of round and square towers was very popular in Thrace in this period.23
So far there is no reliable information about the town-planning. The fact that the excavated
parts of the fortification walls were built compliant with existing earlier buildings suggests that in the
4 th century, when the fortified territory was reduced, the town plan was not changed radically. The
street system has not been uncovered yet with the exception of a part of the cardo inaximus excavated
by the south gate; this was some 6 m. wide.
Only two buildings have been studied thus far inside the fortified city. A bath complex was
wholly excavated by the southern fortification wall; it antedates the wall, which makes a detour round
thefrigidarium with a semi-circular niche. The earliest find in the bath is a bronze coin of Licinius II
(A.D. 317-324).24 The situation of the bath on the town plan before the construction of the fortification
walls cannot be established with certitude, but judging by its dimensions, at least one of its entrances
should have been facing the central square, which was the typical location of the larger public baths in
Roman town-planning.25 The bath in Nicopolis was burnt at the end of the 4th or the beginning of the
5th century, probably during the Gothic raids which followed the end of the Second Gothic War; it was
restored later, in the last quarter of the 5th century, as shown by a gold coin of the emperor Zeno (474-
491) discovered in thefrigidarium. The bath was finally destroyed and abandoned in the time of Justin
II and Sofia when the whole town was razed by the Slavs."
Another big and representative building, most likely contemporary with the bath, was uncov-
ered partially in the south-eastern corner of the fortified city. This had a large peristyle court with a
row of single rooms to the east and a big hall with benches along the walls to the south. Millstones
were found on the brick floor of the latter. To the west of the hall were excavated two store-rooms
with pithoi dug into the ground. This building was also constructed before the 4th century fortification
wall, as evidenced by the fact that the eastern wall was built following its outline. The portico was
constructed with columns, bases and plinths of different types and sizes.~
Dimitrova-Milcheva 1992: 268.
I am most grateful to Prof. A. Milcheva who kindly gave me access to the original documentation of
the excavations.
Dimitrova-Milcheva 1992: 266.
Kuzmanov 1994: 34.
Vacheva 1994: 147.
Kuzmanov 1994: 34.
Dimitrova-Milcheva et al. 1983.

II. 4. Archaeological Overview: Roman Period, Late Antiquity, Middle Ages (M. Vaklinov)

No temples have been excavated so far on the territory of the fortified city. Among the in-
scriptions from Nicopolis there is a list of the members of a religious society worshipping Asclepius;
there are also dedications to Zeus, to Pluto and to the Thracian horseman (Hpmt ITopu£poi>A,a).28
With the establishment of Christianity as an official religion in the 4th century began the con-
struction of large and representative Christian cult buildings. Several richly decorated basilicas from
the 4' and 5' centuries have been excavated in the vicinity of Nicopolis ad Nestam, Numerous ar-
chitectural fragments with typical ornamentation, probably the produce of local workshops, are among
the remains of these churches.30 The rich decoration of these early Christian basilicas speaks of the
important role of the new religion in the life of the city in Late Antiquity. 11
The region of Nicopolis ad Nestum was densely populated during the Roman Imperial and the
Early Byzantine periods. There are many settlements and necropolises from that period in the area,
which unfortunately have not been seriously excavated. Fortresses guarding the valley and the city
were situated on many of the surrounding mountain heights of the Rhodope and Pirin mountains.
Among the best preserved and partially excavated mountain fortresses are the one near the village of
Gospodintsi at the exit from Momyna Klisura, the "St. Archangel" fortress near the village of Dab-
nitsa, the fortress above the Mesta near the village of Vulkosel, the fortress "Momina kula" above the
town of Gotse Delchev. Around these fortresses were developing settlements and necropolises. Such
settlements were situated near many of the fortresses and in most cases they succeeded older places of
The information about the burial practices in the period discussed is scarce and difficult to in-
terpret. Most of the necropolises are flat, though mounds are also found around the city. The typical
graves were pits dug into the ground, surrounded with stones and covered with stone slabs. Although
much more rarely, graves covered with tiles or constructed of bricks were also used. The deceased
were most often buried with their personal belongings - jewellery and vessels. There are also graves
without human remains - cenotaphs. Despite the establishment of Christianity as an official religion,
some burial practices typical of the 1 st millennium B.C. were preserved till the beginning of the 5 th
century A.D. The practice of burying the deceased in cist graves has been preserved in the Rhodope
mountains till nowadays.31
The pottery production is also marked by conservatism. The old Thracian traditions of ceramic
production were still alive throughout Late Antiquity. The only certainly identified ceramic imports in
Nicopolis come from North Africa and Asia Minor, but in contrast to the situation in other contempo-
rary city centres in Thrace, this import did not influence the local production. The high percentage of
vessels with typically Thracian shape and decoration suggests the preservation of the ethnic composi-
tion of the region during the Early Byzantine period. Despite the relative proximity of the Aegean
ports, the transport tare is almost totally absent from the local ceramic complex. Obviously Nicopolis
had a degree of self-sufficiency and the needs of its population were satisfied within the frames of its

II.4.2.3. The Middle Ages

Nicopolis is mentioned in written sources from the 9 th century as an independent episcopate in
the Thracian eparchy at the time of Nicephorus the patriarch of Constantinople (806-815) and again in
the second half of the century in the church lists of the Byzantine Empire from the time of patriarch
Photius.35 In 837 Khan Presian reached as far as Philippi and most likely that was the first time when
the Bulgarians entered the region of the Mesta river.

Mihailov 1966: 2337, 2340, 2343, 2344.
Pillinger et al. 1999: 81-83, Taf. 43, 44.
Vaklinova 1980.
Chichikova 1972a:251.
Dremsizova-Nelchinova 1987.
Domaradzki et al. 1999: 14-15.
Kuzmanov 1993: 43-44.
NotitiaeEpiscopatum.-rHEH4, 1961: 149-156.

KOPRIVLEN1 eg II. The Middle Mesta Region

In the 10" century Nicopolis was mentioned by the Byzantine emperor Constantine Porphyro-
genitus in his treatise "De thematibus" among the thirty-two cities in the province Macedonia Prima.
Byzantine bishops of Nicopolis were mentioned till the beginning of the 11th century, despite the ter-
ritorial advance of the Bulgarian kingdom.37
After the devastation of Nicopolis in the 6th century, the town territory remained uninhabited
for another four centuries. The town was rebuilt only at the end of the 10th century. The fortification
system was reconstructed on the remains of the Late Antique walls but in much coarser technique and
without bricks. Some of the towers were used as-if] pottery kilns. The peristyle building and the bath
were reconstructed into workshops and dwellings.
The archaeological finds attest trade relations with the big centres to the south (Philippi, Thes-
salonica). The presence of Bulgarians in the region in the 10th century is confirmed by some fragments
of house pottery. The analysis of the medieval ceramic complex shows a relatively low percentage of
luxury vessels which were typical of the Byzantine ceramic production in the 11* and the 12th centu-
ries - sgrafitto, vessels covered with golden or red slip or with drawings in red paint. The numerous
farm tools serve as proof of the intensive agricultural production in the region of the city during this
period. Probably Nicopolis developed as a centre of crafts and trade satisfying the needs of the popu-
lation in the region.
The medieval necropolises continue to use the cist graves typical of the region. Most likely the
Slavs inherited this practice from the older Thracian population which they gradually assimilated.
Graves built of stones appear also, if more rarely (e. g. in the necropolises at Tuhovishte and Kopriv-
len). The graves usually contain single inhumations. Sometimes two, three or more skeletons are
found together in the same grave, some of the cases representing secondary burials (in the necropolises
at Ablanitsa and Koprivlen).40
The final abandonment of Nicopolis is marked by a layer of burnt remains dated by a hoard of
Byzantine coins, the latest of which are from A.D. 1204. The devastation of the city could be related
with one of the Catalanians raids in this period.41
The old Late Antique fortresses in the region were partially reconstructed in the Middle Ages
and had mainly a defensive function. In the 13th and 14th centuries some of them were probably used as
castles by independent feudal rulers. The fortress "Momyna kula" above Gotse Delchev, the fortress
near Hadjidimovo, the fortified settlement near Tuhovishte, the fortress near Vulkosel present some
typical examples.
In 1329 Nicopolis was mentioned as subordinate to the bishop of Philippi, and later to the
bishop of Seres; the name of the bishopric may have been transferred to either Xanthi or Gotse
Delchev (Nevrokop). '
With the invasion of the Turks, who must have taken the Middle Mesta region between 1373
and 1376, almost all fortresses and settlements were devastated and abandoned and their population
gradually settled at new places, often in the near vicinity of the old ones, setting the beginnings of the
settlement system which has survived till the present day.

Constantinus Porphyrogenitus. De thematibus. - THEM 5, 1964: 196.
Dimitrova-Milcheva et al. 1983: 74.
Vaklinova 1992: 181.
Vuzharova 1976: 267, 270-292.
Vaklinova 1985.
Tsvetkov 1981.
Lemerle 1945: 274; Vaklinova 1992: 180.
Angelov, Cholpanov 1994: 226-227.


Peter Delev
(University of Sofia "St Kliment Ohridski")

Hristo Popov
(Institute of Archaeology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences)

The investigations in recent years have put forward a number of problems concerning the his-
torical development of the region of Middle Mesta in antiquity. The archaeological finds from the vi-
cinity of the village of Koprivlen proved the existence there of an important settlement centre, which
maintained active trade relations with the Aegean littoral in the Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic pe-
riods. These active relations are rather surprising in the early period, between the 8th and 6th c. B.C.,
when they are positively attested by abundant imported pottery and early coins, and reveal a phe-
nomenon which requires some explanation. The hypothetical existence of an early and highly devel-
oped metal industry (extraction of gold or silver?) in the region seems a plausible explanation. The
identification of Koprivlen as an important road junction, controlling the access into the interior of
Thrace, offers another possible answer.
The ancient road system in the Middle Mesta region is rarely mentioned at all in the available
scientific literature. The situation is easily explained, if we take into account the deficiency of any di-
rect and reliable evidence in the ancient literary sources and the scanty archaeological, numismatic and
epigraphical finds. Some ancient roads are discussed briefly by B. Gerov and M. Domaradzki in their
works on South-Western Thrace.1 The evidence provided by Y. Ivanov in his recently published study
on the place names in the Gotse Delchev region is also of importance." The remaining cases when the
problem is mentioned at all in existing publications, whether in a more general context or in connec-
tion with a particular historical event (e. g. the Thracian campaign of Alexander the Great in 335
B.C.4), are limited to general remarks without any attempt at the tracing of definite route itineraries.
The juxtaposition of the scanty antique evidence with the information about the traditional
lines of communication in the Middle Ages and more recent times affords an opportunity to get a bet-
ter idea of the ancient road network in the region; the procedure has proved rather successful else-
where, but has not been attempted yet for the Mesta valley. The available detailed accounts from the
late 19th and early 20th century left by S. Verkovich, captain A. Benderev, V. Kunchov, etc.5 provide
rich material for such a study. All these writings establish the picture of a rather developed traditional
road network, in which Koprivlen seems definitely to have played the role of a communication junc-
To the south-east of the Nevrokop Plain, the Mesta river enters a long and impassable canyon
wedged between the northern slopes of Mount Bozdag (Falakron) and the south-western ridges of the
Rhodopes. Travelling through the narrow gorge was impracticable and the roads in the area had to

Gerov 1961: 216-217; Domaradzki 1995: 37-39; Domaradzki et al. 1999: 19.
Ivanov 1996.
Spiridonov 1982: 56; Spmdonov 1999: 61; Dimitrov 1989.
Vulic 1909: 490; Georgiev 1962: 6; Tacheva 1987: 29; Spiridonov 1992: 9; Popov 1996: 18-21, 22-
Verkovich 1889: 67-81; Benderev 1890: 461-470; Shopov 1893: 72-83; Kunchev 1895: 235-249;
Kunchov 1896: 323-355; 1898: 11; Perdrizet 1900: 548-552.

77.5. The Ancient Road Network in the Middle Mesta Region (P. Delev, H. Popov)

take a different direction, away from the river course.6 Several alternative routes, well described in the
above-mentioned publications, were used in the past as the main ways out of the region in a southern
direction, towards the Aegean littoral.
The old road which connected Nevrokop with Drama by way of Koprivlen, Libyahovo (Ilin-
den), Vezme (Exohi), Vulkovo, Zurnovo (Kato Nevrokopion), Gyuredjik (Granitis) and Prosochen
(Prosotseni) seems to have been the most important land route in the area. A well preserved section of
this road is still to be seen south from Koprivlen, running for several kilometres in a north to south
direction and having a 4 m. wide stone pavement with kerb stones on both sides. A part of the same
road near the Kendika Heights between Koprivlen and Libyahovo was called "Arabayoli" in Ottoman
times, which means "cart road" in Turkish.7 It is difficult to establish without archaeological investi-
gations whether the road is of Turkish or earlier (possibly Roman) date. The archaeological materials
from the wider roadside area provide however enough evidence about the existence of very early and
active trade relations with the Aegean; these are exemplified by the finds of red-figured pottery around
Gotse Delchev8 and especially by the impressive results of the recent archaeological excavations in
Koprivlen which have yielded considerable quantities of imported Mycenaean, Archaic, Classical and
Hellenistic pottery.9 The numismatic material supplies further evidence.10 A dispersed coin hoard of
exceptional scientific importance found in 1978 in the vicinity of Gotse Delchev consisted of more
than 30 pieces, including early issues of Thasos and of the Thracian dynast Saratokos.11 Another coin
hoard containing silver staters and drachms of Thasos and a stater of the Orescii was found in the same
area in 1939.12 In addition to these casual finds, the rescue excavations near Koprivlen have yielded in
the last few years a certain amount of early coins from the late 6th and 5 th c. B.C. from a pertinent ar-
chaeological context. 13
On Bulgarian territory the Second World War German road which will be followed by the
new road connection between Gotse Delchev and Drama from the Second World War takes an alter-
native parallel course and runs a few kilometres to the east of the old route, passing through Sadovo
and bypassing Ilinden (Libyahovo).
Preserved remains of an old (probably Roman) paved road have also been noticed in the area
of the Gyuredjik Pass in Mount Bozdag.14 The modern road between Drama and the closed valley of
Zurnevo (Kato Nevrokopion) in Greece follows the same itinerary. An alternative road branch started
once from the village of Zurnevo and headed south between Mount Sturgach and Mount Bozdag, de-
scending into the Drama Plain down a small river. 15 Another side-road branched off at Exohi and,
passing between the modem villages of Teplen and Petrelik, crossed the Mesta by a bridge, the ruins
of which are still visible near the mouth of the tributary Mutnitsa south-east from Hadjidimovo, head-
ing directly into the Western Rhodopes.16
The road to Drama was of paramount significance for the whole Middle Mesta region in the
past, before it was closed by the establishment of the modern state frontier between Bulgaria and
Greece after World War I. According to the available evidence, previously the bulk of the export pro-
duction of the Razlog and Nevrokop basins and the neighbouring mountain districts was transported to
the port of Kavala by means of this road.17

Kunchov 1895:238.
Ivanov 1996: 68.
Reho 1990: Tav. II, V; Reho 1992: 14.
Cf. Chapter IV.4.2-4 infra.
The present paper does not aim at a specific analysis of the numismatic material from the region.
Only finds of relatively early coins, dating from the end of the 6th until the first half of the 4* c. B.C., are men-
tioned in the text. The abundant numismatic material from later periods is not discussed at all.
" Yurukova 1979: 59. Prof. Yurukova who had the chance to examine only a few of the dispersed coins
suggests that two staters of the Orescii from an unknown place in the district of Blagoevgrad might have been a
part of the same hoard.
Gerasimov 1939: 344.
Cf. Chapter IV. 1 infra.
Shopov 1893: 83, 87; Perdrizet 1900:551.
Kunchov 1896: 334.
Unpublished field survey from 1995.
Shopov 1893:49.

KOPRIVLEN 1 eg II. The Middle Mesta Region

Remains of another paved road called "Kaldaruma" by the local inhabitants have survived
south-west from Koprivlen, at the foot of the Pirin Mountains and to the west of the preserved section
of the Drama road (Colour Plates, Fig. 285).18 Its direction corroborates the 19th and early 20th century
evidence about the existence of a road link between Nevrokop and Seres. V. Kunchov and S. Verk-
ovich give detailed accounts of this route. It separated from the Drama road at Koprivlen and took
for the old village of Turlis by way of Staro Lyaski, Lyalevo, Luki, Gaytaninovo and Lovcha. At
Turlis the road bifurcated; the western branch ran through Karakyoi and Krushevo (Ahladohorion),
descending into the Struma valley near Demir Hisar (Siderokastron). The other road branch made an
eastern detour round Mount Cherna Gora through Starchishta and Dolno Brodi, then headed south-
west between Mount Sharliya (Vrondu) and Mount Zmiynitsa (Menikion) and descended directly in
Seres via Banitsa and Rahovitsa. Kunchov writes that the western road branch was straighter but
steeper and unusable in winter because of the height of the pass between Mount Cherna Gora and
Mount Ali Botush; the longer but lower and much more convenient eastern branch of the road was
preferred in that season.20 Paul Perdrizet mentions the information of a French engineer engaged at the
time in the construction of the railroad between Drama and Seres about a preserved section of an old
Roman (?) road, some 300-400 m. long and heading due north from the village of Banitsa;21 the re-
mains fit well at the southern end of the eastern branch of the discussed road.
The village of Turlis, where the ancient road to Seres bifurcated, appears to have been an im-
portant road junction in the past, and it is no wonder that one of the major regional fairs was held
there.22 It is mentioned as one of the wealthiest villages in the Murvashko region. Iron metallurgy and
iron-working were practised on a large scale in Turlis, Gaytaninovo, Teshovo and other neighbouring
villages, and the whole region was traditionally established as one of the main centres of local iron-
production in the Balkans.
The two branches of the road to Seres had an additional connection between them by way of a
track in the vicinity of Gomo Brodi, which crossed the pass between Mount Cherna Gora and Mount
Sharliya. Another side-road branched off in the region of Gaytaninovo and gained the Struma valley
near Marikostino and Kulata, making use of the high Paril Pass to cross the main ridge of the Pirin.
A possible connection existed also between the two main roads connecting the Nevrokop Plain alter-
natively with Drama and Seres, which approached one another in the region of the villages of
Starchishta and Zurnevo; this lowland connection was facilitated by the short distance between the two
villages (Vasil Kunchov estimates it at 2 hours walking).
The main communication lines in the region - the Drama and Seres roads -joined at Kopriv-
len and ran together further north to Nevrokop. In Ottoman times there was an inn at the outskirts of
the village, marking the important crossroads.25
The available information reveals thus the picture of a rather developed traditional road net-
work, with many alternative routes in the section between the Nevrokop Plain and Drama and Seres.
The preserved remains of old paved roads still visible here and there by the end of the 19th century and
even nowadays also suggest a long tradition and continuity of the road system in the area.
The valley of the Mesta becomes again less passable north of Gotse Delchev, in the 40 km
long Momin Prohod gorge ("Kiz dervent" in Turkish). An old road followed the river course through
the pass, but according to 19th-century information the road was impracticable for carts in this age.
Because of the unfavourable conditions in the gorge, an alternative road existed high up in the slopes
of the Pirin, but this was also a bad and difficult one.26 Some old travel books mention preserved road
sections with remains of ancient pavement,27 and captain Nikolov even writes directly of "an old Ro-

Unpublished field surveys from 1995; 1996: 114.
Verkovich 1889: 80; Kunchov 1896: 323-354.
Kunchov 1896:323.
Perdrizet 1900: 548-552.
Kunchov 1896: 338. The author gives evidence that the entire trade in Eastern Macedonia was con-
centrated in four main fairs, held in Seres, Turlis, Nevrokop and near Melnik.
Kunchov 1896: 346; Kunchov 1898: 3, 5.
Kunchov 1896:334.
Benderev 1890: 463; Kunchov 1896: 354.
Benderev 1890: 462; Shopov 1893: 102; Kunchov 1895: 238; Nikolov 1911: 154-157.
Benderev 1892: 462; Nikolov 1911: 156-157.

//. 5. The Ancient Road Network in the Middle Mesta Region (P. Delev, H. Popov)

man road", paved with big stones. Despite the fact that they offered a possible link with the region of
Pazardjik via Avramovi kolibi and even with Samokov by way of a now obsolete route through the
Rila Mountains,28 these roads were used mainly by the local population; the communications between
the Razlog and Nevrokop basins seem therefore to have been underdeveloped and of hardly more than
local significance.
Another old road, connecting the Nevrokop Plain with the valley of the Maritsa river around
Pazardjik and Plovdiv through the Western Rhodopes, seams to have been traditionally much more
important. The exact course of this road is not known in details, and alternative routes existed possibly
in some sections. The modern road from Gotse Delchev to Pazardjik and Plovdiv via Dospat, Batak
and Peshtera follows one of the variant routes used in the 19* century. 29 The late 19th and early 20th
century travel books mention two main road-courses for the southern part of this road, above the left
bank of the Mesta and in the Dospat branch of the Rhodopes.30 After crossing the Mesta near Nev-
rokop, the first one passed through Dubnitsa, Krushovo and Dolen, and climbing up the valley of Bis-
tritsa gained Satovcha. From Satovcha the road went on through the so-called Yayla towards the cen-
tral Rhodopes massif and the Bulgarian-Turkish frontier of 1878-1912. The second course after
crossing the Mesta passed by the aiins of Nicopolis ad Nestum and rose up to Karaorman on the Du-
brash ridge either by way of Fotovishta (modern Ognyanovo), Skrebatno and Kovachevitsa, or more
directly via Leshten and Kovachevitsa. Thence it descended into the Dospat valley near the inns (the
so-called "Han Dospat") where the old Turkish custom-house was placed. From there the road contin-
ued towards the central massif of the Rhodopes and the old frontier, merging eventually with its other
branch. In the old travel books both roads are described as "horseback", inconvenient and narrow;
travelling by cart seems to have been impossible. However, the importance of the road across the
Western Rhodopes was evidently on the decline in the late 19th century, and the situation has surely
not always been the same. In the 16* century for example it was known by the name of "The Great
Road",31 which seems rather instructive of its importance during the Ottoman period. The road must
have lost much of its former significance with the establishment of the modern political frontier in
The old roads are difficult to trace in the uninhabited central mountain area of the Western
Rhodopes, but their vestiges have been reported or are still to be seen at many places along the above-
described routes in Mount Dospat and the Dubrash ridge: the remains of an old road track and of an
old arched bridge near Debren,32 those of a "Roman" road in the locality called "Druma" ("The
Road") 10 km north from the village of Dolen,33 those of an old paved road, of a bridge and several
ancient inscriptions east or north-east from the village of Kovachevitsa.34 One of these inscriptions is a
Roman milestone from the time of the emperors Constantine, Constantius and Constans (A.D. 333-
337), re-inscribed 46 years later (in A.D. 383) during the joint reign of the emperors Valentinian, Gra-
tian and Theodosius.35 Unfortunately the editors of the inscription have not been able to pinpoint its
exact finding place: the general locality "Karaorman" is mentioned, and an approximate distance of
3,5 hours east from the village of Kovachevitsa.36 Another antique inscription, this one in Greek,

Benderev 1890:461-464.
Benderev 1890: 469-470; Shopov 1893.
Benderev 1890: 469-470; Kunchov 1898: 12-13; Nikolov 1911: 172-173; Zlatarev 1912.
Petrov 1965: 33.
Stoianova-Serafimova 1965; Ivanov 1996: 114. Yordan Ivanov mentions a locality called "Kaldar-
mite" (most probably deriving from the word "kaldurum" meaning "pavement") 500 m. west from the village.
Ivanov 1996: 104."
Nikolov 1911: 173; Zlatarev 1912: 87.
Perdrizet 1900: 547-549; Nikolov 1911: 172; Gerov 1961: 216. The inscription is first mentioned by
Perdrizet, who published it after a copy placed at his disposal, hut without personally seeing it. A few years later
captain Nikolov saw the inscription in the church yard in Kovachevitsa, where it had been brought from the
Karaorman locality. In his study on the western Thracian lands, B. Gerov agrees in general with the earlier
comments of Perdrizet. He adds only that the time of the construction of the road remains uncertain, while the
two inscriptions on the stone mark two repairs, the first in the last years of the reign of Constantine the Great,
and the second under Theodosius II.
Nikolov 1911: 172-173; Zlatarev 1911: 64; Zlatarev 1912: 117; Dremsizova-Nelchinova 1987: 75.
The Karaorman locality and the finding place of the inscription - "Manastirishteto" ("The Old Monastery") -

KOPR1VLEN1 eg II. The Middle Mesta Region

comes allegedly from the same site east from Kovachevitsa; 37 although its text is not directly con-
nected with roads, its very presence sustains the idea of a Roman road station somewhere in this vi-
Two very impressive coin hoards have been found near the village of Skrebatno, quite close to
Kovachevitsa. The first one is reported by T. Gerasimov in 1964;~l8 it was partly dispersed but a bulk
of 192 Thasian silver coins was saved, including 5 staters and 187 tetrobols. The other hoard remains
unpublished; it was found in 1989 and contained 200 Thasian coins of different denominations.39 Of
course, these very rich coin hoards do not fix precisely the road tracks of the age, but they illustrate the
actual existence of trade (?) links which would be impossible without a developed road system. The
same is valid for the Attic pottery found near Dospat, Chavdar and Borino;40 in view of the present
state of exploration it could be considered only in a general context. The location of Nicopolis ad
Nestum (near the modern village of Gurmen) is of little help in solving the problems of the ancient
road system in the region, since all the road-courses mentioned so far (including the one via Dubnitsa,
Dolen and Satovcha) are equally accessible from it. The location of the city is probably in relation
only with the thermal springs in the vicinity of Gurmen and Ognyanovo.
The information about remains of ancient roads and bridges near the villages Ablanitsa, Kribul
and Bogolin41 refer to a section of another road, connecting the main Western Rhodopes road via the
bridge near Hadjidimovo with the already described road branch which ran south between Petrelik and
Teplen to Exohi and Zurnevo. This would have been the shortest, but hardly the most convenient road
link between the Western Rhodopes road and the Aegean coast. Either by way of Satovcha and Do-
spat, or making a link with the more western routes in the vicinity of Kovachevitsa, it proceeded fur-
ther north to Batak and the upper Maritsa valley. A hoard of 5 silver Thasian coins found in 1998 near
the village of Furgovo can be connected generally with this road section.42
The ground surveys carried out in the 70s by a research team conducted by M. Domaradzki
have established the existence of another ancient road, which passed near Brashten, Vaklinovo and
Osina. Ruins of old bridges were discovered in the vicinity of Brashten and Osina and remains of an
old paved road were registered near Vaklinovo. 4 ' A stray Thasian silver coin was found near the vil-
lage of Tuhovishta, in the presumable direction of the same road.
This short review shows clearly that the available information is insufficient for the full eluci-
dation of the problems pertaining to the ancient road network in the Middle Mesta valley and in the
Western Rhodopes. It seems probable that several alternative routes through the region were simulta-
neously in use in antiquity, but the matters needs further systematic exploration, including the ar-
chaeological excavations of the preserved road sections, of the remains of bridges and of the presumed
road stations. The available evidence, although scarce and fragmentary, is enough however to sustain
positively the great importance of the Western Rhodopes road linking, through the Middle Mesta val-
ley, the Aegean littoral and the Upper Thracian Plain since at least the Archaic period, but possibly (if

are situated east-north-east from the village. S. Zlatarev writes that there were "ruins of a monastery and worked
stones with Latin inscriptions on them" at that place. The information of captain Nikolov is also interesting and
important to note: he points out that the remains of the big stone bridge in the region of Kovachevitsa were situ-
ated near the "Manastirishteto", north-east from the Karaorman. According to S. Zlatarev the road which left the
village and ran across the Karaorman was paved, especially along the mountain ridges. It has already been sug-
gested that a Roman road station must have existed there. The site is located with more precision by Tsvetana
Dremsizova-Nelchinova: 10-11 km north-east from the village, above the Veslets forestry enterprise.
'"Mihailov 1966:2349.
Gerasimov 1964: 240; Kolev, Slavcheva 1972: 26-29. According to K. Kolev and T. Slavcheva, the
coins amounted to about 250. There were also 3 golden earrings together with the coins in the same vessel.
Our thanks to Miss Spaska Paskova, curator of the Historical Museum in Gotse Delchev, who kindly
placed at our disposal the information about this find. The coins are kept at present in the Historical Museum in
Domaradzki 1995:35.
Ivanov 1996:77, 161.
Five Thasian silver hemihectae of the "Silenos/crater" type were found. The hoard is now kept in the
museum in Gotse Delchev.
Domaradzki et al. 1999: 19.
A Thasian obolos was donated to the museum in Gotse Delchev.

//. 5. The Ancient Road Network in the Middle Mesta Region (P. Delev, H. Popov)

the finds of Mycenaean pottery at Koprivlen are taken into consideration) even since the Late Bronze
The predominance of Thasian coins in the hoards from the region is rather noteworthy. The
situation is similar to the one registered in the Central and Eastern Rhodo'pes, where the prevalent
finds of the coins of Abdera and Maroneia reflect their respective commercial domination. The Middle
Mesta valley sustained permanent contacts with the Aegean world, and moreover played the role of an
intermediary between the Aegean and the upper Maritsa plain. The latter can be asserted definitely for
the 5th and 4th c. B.C. on the basis of the rich coin finds from the region of Pazardjik45 and the pre-
sumed establishment of the emporion Pistiros near the modern village of Vetren.
The other basic conclusion refers to the Thracian settlement near the village of Koprivlen,
which appears to have been an important junction in the ancient road network. As already mentioned
above, the roads leading south towards Drama - Kavala (i.e. Neapolis, Thasos and Abdera) and Seres
(i.e. Amphipolis and the Chalcidice Peninsula) forked there. The ancient road in northern direction
must have crossed the Mesta river also somewhere in the close vicinity of Koprivlen.

Gerasimov 1937: 249-257; Gerasimov 1955: 576-578; Yurukova 1992: 11-16.


Stefan Alexandrov
(Institute of Archaeology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences)

The site was discovered in 1998 during a preliminary survey of the future road area. The prin-
cipal purpose of the five trial trenches excavated in 1998 along the roadbed was to clarify the nature
and size of the site, which proved to be a Late Bronze Age settlement situated between axial points
Nos 46 and 51. Rescue excavations were undertaken in 1999 in order to study the whole area affected
by'the imperfmrr^
The site is located on an inclined terrace to the south of the early Thracian settlement site
which was identified since 1995.1 The rescue character of the excavations and the existence of a 1 m.
sick recent alluvial accumulation established during the trial excavations in 1998 permitted the use of
machines for the removal of the surface strata. For the sake of convenience, in the initial stage of re-
search a special grid was set up, based on the general 5 m. one but with larger, 10 m. squares. A total
of 40 "large" squares were laid out on the terrace; in the course of the excavations it was established
that the site is situated within the limits of squares Nos 12-35. The correlation between the "large"
squares and the general 5 m. grid is shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Correlation between the "large" squares and the general grid

Square N°12 Square Ms 16-1 7 Square N°2J Square Ne26 Square N°29
39-T-X1I1- -10 39-T-XIlI-n-8 39-T-XIII-S-2 39-T-XIII-1-3 39-T-XlII-u-l
39-T-XIH--11 39-T-XIII-0-5 39-T-XIII-1-7 39-T-XIII-U-2
39-T-XIII--12 39-T-XIII-0-6 Square N«22 39-T-XHI-t-8 39-T-XIII-U-5
39-T-XIII--14 39-T-XHI-s-S 39-T-XIlI-t-ll 39-T-XIII-U-6
39-T-XIII--15 Square Nsl8 39-T-XI11-S-4 39-T-XI11-M2 39-T-XIII-U-7
39-T-XIII- -16 39-T-XIII-n-l 0 39-T-X11I-S-7 39-T-XIII-t-l 5
39-T-XIII-n-2 39-T-XIII-n-l 1 39-T-XlII-s-S 39-T-XIII-t-l 6 Square N°30
39-T-XIII-n-3 39-T-XIII-n-14 39-T-XIII-p-9 39-T-XIII-y-10
39-T-XIlI-n-4 39-T-XIII-n-l 5 Square N°23 39-T-XIII-p-13 39-T-XIII-y-ll
39-T-XIII-t-l 39-T-XIII-y-l 2
Square Nsl3 Square Nsl9 39-T-XIIR-2 Square N°27 39-T-XIII-y-l 5
39-T-XIII-J-13 39-T-XIII-n-12 39-T-XIII-t-S 39-T-XIII-y-l 39-T-XIII-y-l 6
39-T-XHI-o-l 39-T-XIII-n-l 6 39-T-XIII-t-6 39-T-XIII-y-2 39-T-XIII-U-13
39-T-XIII-0-9 39-T-Xlll-y-5 39-T-XVIII-e-3
Square N° 14 39-T-XIII-0-13 Square N$25 39-T-XIII-y-6 39-T-XVIH-e-4
39-T-XIII-m-4 39-T-XIII-t-9 39-T-XVlII-a-l
39-T-XIII-n-l Square N°2Q 39-T-XIII-t-10 Square N»28
39-T-XIII-n-5 39-T-XHI-o-lO 39-T-XHI-t 13 39-T-XIII-y-3
39-T-XIII-o-ll 39-T-XI1I-M4 39-T-XIIl-y-4
Square N°15 39-T-XIII-0-14 39-T-XIII-y-7
39-T-XIII-n-6 39-T-XIII-0-15 39-T-XIII-y-8

The excavations in the sector established the existence of two successive horizons from the
Late Bronze Age; later in the Early Iron Age the area was used for sacrificial and burial purposes. In
the second phase of the existence of the Late Bronze Age settlement (first building horizon, Late

Cf. Chapter II supra.

///. The Late Bronze Age Settlement at Koprivlen (S. Alexandras)

Bronze Age II or Koprivlen If) the whole architectural plan was changed, stone building foundations
were introduced and the greatest part of the previous (second) building horizon (Late Bronze Age I or
Koprivlen /) was levelled and destroyed. The cult practices during the Early Iron Age made use of the
stone foundations of the Late Bronze Age buildings and thus the greatest part of the Late Bronze Age
II horizon was also destroyed. In the 1950s, the local administration initiated a project for the mod-
ernization of the western periphery of the village. A new water pipe was laid in a 0.80 m. wide ditch
which crosses the whole site in a north to south direction. At about the same time, work on a later
abandoned ring-road led to considerable bulldozing of the area, large quantities of soil being dug out
from some places and used as a fill in others in order to level the terrain. During the 1970s, an under-
ground telephone cable was laid by the frontier police in a ditch parallel to the water pipe, which also
destroyed a part of the settlement. A number of recent repairs of the water pipe resulted in the excava-
tion of a series of large pits (each measuring at least 2 by 3 m.) and further destruction of the archaeo-
logical site. All these recent modernization and economic activities have severely damaged the site
and disturbed its stratigraphy. The settlement plan of the Late Bronze Age site, especially that of the
earlier phase, is almost beyond reconstruction, and the situation is quite similar with the topography of
the Early Iron Age cult structures.


The archaeological structures established on the site during the rescue excavations in 1998 and
1999 are listed by period, building horizon and square.

Early Iron Age

Square 19
Structure 19-10 (Grave No 1). The grave was found at 1.20 m. below the modern surface
level, near the north profile of the square. The eastern part of the grave was destroyed by the ditch of
the water pipe. The form and size of the grave pit could not be established (Fig. 4.) The grave con-
tained a cremation burial - fragments of burnt bones and ashes deposited in a deep vessel. No traces of
a pyre were attested. The grave contained no burial goods.
Structure 19-30 (Grave No 2). This grave was situated at a distance of 2 m. south-west of
grave No 1. The form and the size of the grave pit could not be established. The grave contained a
cremation burial with fragments of burnt bones and ashes deposited in a deep vessel placed next to the
stone wall 19-20 from the first Late Bronze Age horizon (Fig. 4). No traces of a pyre were attested.
The grave contained no burial goods. The size of the bones suggests that the buried person was a child.
Structure 19-51 (Grave No 3). Another almost entirely destroyed grave was uncovered at a
distance of 2.60 m. south-east of grave No 2. It also contained a cremation burial with fragments of
burnt bones and ashes placed in a vessel. Another ceramic vessel had been placed next to the urn
probably as an offering. The two vessels had been placed next to stone wall 19-20 of the first Late
Bronze Age horizon. Unfortunately, the form and size of both vessels were beyond reconstruction
(Fig. 4). No traces of a pyre were attested.
Structure 19-50 (pit). A 0.50 m. deep pit of irregular oval shape was located between graves
Nos 1 and 3. It had a diameter of 1.40 m. and cut through the two Late Bronze Age horizons down to
the virgin soil. The fill was composed of earth, stones and a few scattered nondescript handmade pot-
sherds. The pit was covered with a 1.50 m. circle of stones of medium and large size (Fig. 4).
Structure 19-30 (pit). A pit of irregular oval shape filled with earth, stones and a few scattered
nondescript handmade ceramic sherds. The pit was covered with stones of medium and large size
forming an oval 1.70 by 1.0 m. (Fig. 4).
Structure 19-60 (pit). A pit of irregular oval form adjoining from the south stone wall 19-20 of
the first Late Bronze Age horizon. The pit was filled with earth, stones and a few scattered handmade
potsherds and was covered with stones of medium size forming a 0.80 by 0.85 m. rectangle (Fig. 4).
Structure 19-70 (pit). This pit of irregular elliptical section was found by the south profile of
the square. It was filled with earth containing a few handmade pottery sherds and covered by medium
size stones arranged as an oval construction measuring 0.80 by 0.90 m. An intact vessel - a one-

KOPRIVLEN 1 ess III. The Late Bronze Age Settlement

handled cup with grooved decoration — was found between this pit and the stone wall 19-90 of the first
Late Bronze Age horizon (Fig. 4).
Structure 19-80 (pit). The pit was adjoining from the south stone wall 19-90 of the first Late
Bronze Age horizon. It was filled with earth containing a few sherds of handmade pottery, and cov-
ered by stones of medium size forming an oval construction of 1.50 by 0.60 m. (Fig. 4).
Squares 16-17
Structure 16-20. The structure represents an amassment of middle to large sized stones ar-
ranged in a single layer in the shape of an oval measuring 4.40 by 4.50 m. A small number of nonde-
script handmade potsherds and pieces of clay plastering were found among the stones (Fig. 4).
Squares 20, 23, and 26
Structure 23-20. A roughly rectangular platform measuring 5.55 by 11.00 m., situated in a
northwest to southeast position along a stone wall from the first Late Bronze Age horizon which forms
its southern end. It was established that a pit was dug first next to the Late Bronze Age wall; this was
filled with pottery sherds, stones, animal bones and soil. The pit was then covered with a layer of yel-
low virgin soil over which a layer of middle to large sized stones were arranged in a rectangular shape
(Fig. 9). Ceramic vessels were deliberately broken and scattered during the construction of the plat-
form (Fig. 4). Stones and soil from both Late Bronze Age horizons were used in this structure, and a
small number of materials associated with them were interpolated among the Early Iron Age finds.
Square 28
Structure 28-30. This structure of strongly elongated oval shape measuring 11.80 by 0.80/1.00
m., was orientated from northwest to southeast. It was constructed of a single layer of stones of small
and medium size. A small quantity of handmade potsherds and an iron object, most probably a frag-
ment of an iron spearhead, were found among the stones (Fig. 4).

Late Bronze Age

First Building Horizon (Koprivlen II)

Squares 18, 19, 23, 26

Stone wall. The foundation of a stone wall running in a northwest to southeast direction was
investigated in the above mentioned squares. This was built of two contiguous rows of stones and was
between 0.80 and 1.00 m. thick. In height it contained between two and four preserved courses of
stones. The wall follows roughly the natural configuration of the terrain, the declivity between the two
end points in the northwest and southeast being only 0.80 m. (Fig. 5).
The stone foundations of several buildings were found on both sides of the wall; these will be
described below.
Squares 14, 17
Stone wall. The foundations of another stone wall, running from west to east almost at right
angle to the one described above, were uncovered in these squares. The wall was up to 0.80 m. thick,
built of two to three contiguous rows of middle and large size stones. In height the preserved part had
up to two courses of stones. The part of the wall within the excavated area measures 8.49 m. in length
(Fig. 5).
Squares 15, 16, 19
The stone foundations of an oval building were discovered in the mentioned squares south of
the long wall. The foundations were up to 0.60 m. thick, formed of two rows of middle size stones. Up
to two courses of stones were preserved in height. The foundations were greatly damaged by the Early
Iron Age structure 16-20. It could be suggested that originally the building had an oval form elongated
from north to south and measuring 9.20 by 6.50 m. (Fig. 5). All the equipment of the building which
was probably a living house was also destroyed by the Early Iron Age structure.

///. The Late Bronze Age Settlement at Koprivlen (S. Alexandrov)

Square 14
Structure 15-10 (pithos). The pithos was discovered in the south-eastern corner of the square,
situated at equal distances from the two long stone walls and the building in squares 15, 16 and 18
(Fig. 5).
Square 17
Structure 17-JO. The structure is interpreted as a part of a living house. The foundations of the
preserved backside wall, 0.50 to 0.60 m. thick, were formed by two rows of middle size stones. Judg-
ing by the remains it could be supposed that the building had an oval form with a north to south ori-
entation and a width of about 6.50 m. (Fig. 5). The place of the doorway could not be established. The
floor was made of levelled and beaten soil. No equipment was preserved in the building.
Squares 19, 22, 23
Structure 19-50, 22-10. The structure is also interpreted as a living house. The southern part
was destroyed by Early Iron Age structures and by the ditch of the water pipe. This dwelling was also
of elongated oval form, orientated from northwest to southeast with a doorway probably at the south-
eastern end. The preserved part of the building is 4.20 m. wide, and its full length was probably about
8.00 m. The foundations, up to 1.0 m. thick, were constructed of two contiguous rows of middle to
large size stones. The foundations of the stone wall in squares 19 and 23 described above were incor-
porated in the south long wall of the house (Fig. 5). The floor was almost completely destroyed by
later intrusions; the preserved part suggests that it was made of levelled and beaten soil. Several frag-
mented ceramic vessels permitting graphical reconstruction and a rim fragment from an imported My-
cenaean vessel were found inside this structure.
Square 23
Structure 23-60. The structure is identified as the foundation of another living house. The pre-
served part is of oval form, the wall is between 0.40 and 0.50 m. thick and consists of a double row of
middle and large size stones (Fig. 5).
Structure 23-61. At a distance of 1.10 m. to the south of structure 23-60, a pithos set into the
ground was uncovered. Fragments of pottery and plastering were found around the pithos (Fig. 5).
Squares 25, 28
Structure 25-10, 28-10. The structure is interpreted as the stone foundation of a wall, which
runs at a distance varying between 10.10 and 10.30 m. to the southwest of the long wall in squares 18,
19, 23 and 26 and almost parallel to it. The wall is 0.50 m. thick and was built of two rows of stones of
medium size (Fig. 5). A considerable quantity of potsherds and animal bones was recovered on both
sides of the wall. An imported Mycenaean fragment was found to the south of the wall, in the south-
eastern corner of the square.
Square 26
Structure 26-20. The structure was identified as a part of a living house. Its western and north-
ern parts have been destroyed by the Early Iron Age structure 23-10, and its eastern end lies beyond
the excavated area. The preserved southern part of the house consists of two walls. The foundations of
these are 0.60 wide and are formed of two rows of middle size stones. The entrance at the southern
end is 0.70 wide (Fig. 5). Judging from the preserved part, this house seems to repeats the form of the
almost entirely preserved one in square 35. The floor is made of levelled and beaten soil; great quanti-
ties of ceramic sherds and animal bones were found scattered over it.
Structure 26-30. This is identified as a room in a dwelling. The excavated part is situated be-
tween the long wall and the foundation of structure 26-20. An oven (26-31) abutting against the foun-
dations of the long wall was discovered in the south-eastern part of the room. The oven had a horse-
shoe shape, measuring 1.20 by 1.0 m. (Fig. 5). Pottery sherds and stones of small and medium size
were placed as a foundation of the oven. The floor of the oven was coated with well-refined clay, 0.02
m. tick. A hoard of four bronze arrowheads was discovered between the oven and the foundations of
structure 26-20. A fifth arrowhead was found on the top course of the stone wall to the south of the
oven. A considerable quantity of ceramic sherds and animal bones were found on the floor of the

KOPRIVLEN 1 eg III. The Late Bronze Age Settlement

Structure 26-40. This structure, the stone foundation of a wall, was traced for a distance of 2.0
m. to the south of the long wall. It is 0.50 wide, formed by a double row of stones of medium size
(Fig. 5}.
Structure 26-50. The stone foundation of another wall, 0.40 m. wide, runs at a distance of 2.10
m. to the southeast of 26-40. This too is formed of a double row of middle size stones (Fig. 5).
Structures 26-40 and 26-50 have been severely damaged by the ditch of the water pipe and by
subsequent repairs making their interpretation very uncertain. The preserved parts give the impression
of habitable rooms situated to the south of the long wall. Notable quantities of sherds, among them
fragments of pithoi, and animal bones were found in the rooms and on the street running between them
and the long wall. A fragment of a Mycenaean skyphos and a bronze arrowhead were found near
structure 26-40.
Square 28
Structure 28-20. The stone foundation of a wall traced in the south-western part of the square,
0.50 m. wide, and formed by a double row of middle size stones (Fig. 5).
Square 30
Structure 30-10. The stone foundations of two walls, formed by double rows of middle size
stones and from 0.50 to 0.60 m. wide (Fig. 5).
The interpretation of the structures in squares 28 and 30 is very problematic as they have been
considerably destroyed during the construction of the ring-road in the 1950s.
Square 35
Structure 35-10. The stone foundations of an apsidal building, its north-western corner being
destroyed by the ditch of the modern water pipe. The foundations were built of two contiguous rows of
stones. In depth the back wall has three preserved courses of stones due to the declivity of the terrain
to the north, and the stones used in this part are up to 1.0 m. long and 0.60 m. wide. The foundations of
the western and eastern walls have two preserved courses of middle size stones, and that of the south-
ern wall a single course of middle size stones. The entrance is in the western wall and is 1.30 m. wide
(Fig. 6). The floor was made of levelled and beaten clay. A layer of middle size stones in the northern
part of the building served apparently both to compensate for the declivity and for drainage under the
floor. In the centre of the house was placed a small, roughly circular fireplace of about 0.54 m. in di-
ameter. The foundation of the fireplace consists of particles of stone, plastered with 0.02 m. thick well-
refined clay. Three large stones were placed horizontally by and against the doorway. Pottery sherds,
including two wheelmade imported fragments, and bones were found on the floor.

Second Building Horizon (Koprivlen I)

Square 16-17
Structure 16-30, 50, 60, 70. The structure is interpreted as a part of a living house or work-
shop. It was discovered in the western part of the square. A big part of it was destroyed by the Early
Iron Age structures 16-20 and 16-80 and by the ditch of the modern water pipe which passes through
it. The remains of three fireplaces were uncovered within the structure, on the level of the floor of
beaten clay. The fireplace 16-30 was destroyed by a stone wall of the first Late Bronze Age horizon;
the preserved part of its hearth suggests that it was rectangular in form with rounded corners. Its foun-
dation was made of small particles of stone plastered twice with layers of purified clay, 0.05 and 0.03
m. thick. Fireplace 16-60 was found at a distance of 4.00 m. to the northwest of fireplace 16-30; its
preserved parts show that in had a similar shape and construction and measured some 1.22 m. from
west to east. A third fireplace, structure 16-70, was found at a distance of 1.50 m. south-west of fire-
place 16-60. This third fireplace was destroyed by the construction of stone wall 16-40 in the period of
the first Late Bronze Age horizon. The fireplace lies directly on the floor, and is similar in construc-
tion to fireplace 16-30. Both fireplaces 16-60 and 16-70 have only one top layer of purified clay (Fig.
A concentration of fragmented pottery (structure 16-50) was explored around fireplace 16-70
and in the area between it and fireplace 16-60. The concentration contained two complete vessels - an

///. The Late Bronze Age Settlement at Koprivlen (S. Alexandrov)

amphora and a jug, and fragments of another three vessels. Seven spindle-whorls had been placed in
the amphora. From a stratigraphic point of view, the stone wall 16-40 from the first Late Bronze Age
horizon overlaps both fireplace 16-70 and the pottery concentration 16-50.
Square 18
Structure 18-20. A part of a beaten clay floor was discovered in the north-eastern corner of the
square, below the stone wall of the first Late Bronze Age horizon. A footed bowl was found on this
Square 22
Structure 22-20. This was uncovered in the north-western corner of the square and identified
as a part of the/Zoor of a living house. From the south, west and north it was destroyed by stone foun-
dations of the first Late Bronze Age horizon, and from the east by the ditch of the modern water pipe.
The floor was made of levelled and beaten soil, over which a concentration of pottery sherds lay scat-
tered. The latter contained two complete storage vessels (Nos 22-22 and 22-23) and fragments of a
third similar vessel and of a footed bowl (No 22-24). A bronze needle (No 22-25) was found beneath
vessel 22-23.
Square 23
Structure 23-70. This structure, interpreted as a part of a living house floor with a fireplace,
was uncovered in the north-eastern corner of the square. To the northwest and southwest it was de-
stroyed by a first Late Bronze Age horizon wall and by the ditch of the modern water pipe, and to the
northeast and southeast - by the Early Iron Age structure 23-10. Neither the shape nor the dimensions
of this house could be determined. The preserved part of the floor was made of levelled and beaten
soil; four whole and three fragmented vessels (Nos 23-72 to 23-77) and many more pottery fragments,
pieces of charcoal and ash spots were found scattered over it. A fireplace (No 23-71) of rectangular
shape with rounded corners was uncovered on the floor level near the corner of the square; it measured
1.00 by 0.80 m. The hearth of the fireplace consisted of a layer of small to medium size stones plas-
tered with a layer of well purified clay. The backside of the fireplace was delimited by a border 0.10
m. wide and 0.02 - 0.03 m. high. No finds were found on the fireplace except pieces of burnt wall
plaster which also lay scattered over the whole floor (Fig. 7). Paleobotanical and C-14 samples from
wall plasters were taken during the excavations.
Square 26
Pottery concentrations belonging to the second Late Bronze Age horizon were uncovered all
over this square under the structures of the first horizon. Unfortunately the lower cultural layer was
much disturbed by both the stone walls of the first horizon and the ditch and repair pits of the modern
water pipe, and no preserved Koprivlen I structures could be established.
Square 30
Pieces of clay wall-plastering and pottery fragments belonging to the second Late Bronze Age
horizon were found scattered beneath and between the stone walls 30-10 and 30-20 of the first hori-
Square 35
Below the floor level of the stone building and outside it, a second horizon level was uncov-
ered, identified as a part of a living house. Fragments of burnt wall plastering, pottery sherds and
bones were found scattered on a floor made of levelled and beaten soil. Unfortunately the shape of the
house could not be established because of the destructions caused by the tracing and construction of
the modern road to the west and south and by the levelling for the construction of the first horizon
stone building to the north.
Trial trench 1A (1998)
A trial trench was excavated at axial point 53 for the purpose of establishing the limits of the
Late Bronze Age settlement site, making use of the erosion of the terrain next to the existing country
road. The trench revealed a concentration of pieces of plastering, stones and pottery sherds close to its
western end which coincided with the western limit of the roadbed. The finds suggest the existence of

KOPRIVLEN 1 osIII. The Late Bronze Age Settlement
remains of Late Bronze Age living houses to the west of the trial trench (beyond the limits of the
roadbed). The type of construction is different from that of the first Late Bronze Age horizon, which
could imply that the materials from trench 1A should be referred to the second horizon (or, Koprivlen

The analysis of the archaeological structures leads to the following conclusions. A settlement
was constructed on the south river terrace during the Late Bronze Age. Its extent has not been deter-
mined definitely because of the limited area of the excavations confined to the roadbed, but it can be
stated for certain that in a north to south direction the settlement extended over a length of at least 60
m. The full plans of the living houses could not be retrieved, but there is enough information about the
building techniques. The walls were built of poles driven into the ground, interwoven with sticks and
plastered with clay. Within the houses there were fireplaces plastered with purified clay. Some of the
fireplaces bear traces of more than one plastering which suggests a long period of use.
The circumstances which brought about the end of this settlement remain indeterminate. Sub-
sequently, but still in the Late Bronze Age, a new settlement of radically different architectural design
was built over its remains. Several parallel retaining walls running in a northwest to southeast direc-
tion were built probably due to a danger of landslides from the elevated terrain in the southwest. Two
of these walls, situated at a distance of some 10 m. one from the other, were investigated in the exca-
vated area.2 The walls were built of dry stones of medium and large size in two or three contiguous
rows, from one to four successive courses being preserved in height. Living houses and possibly also
buildings of other character were built on both sides of the walls. The type of construction - with stone
foundations and mudbricks, is unique for the Late Bronze Age in Bulgaria. The general plan of the
settlement is hard to reconstruct due to the reasons exposed above, but a certain layout is seen in the
narrow spaces (streets) separating the buildings. The latter were oval or apsidal in plan, sometimes
abutting on the retaining walls. Fireplaces were established in many of the houses, resembling in con-
struction those of the second building horizon, and also some ovens of larger size. Pithoi had been
embedded into the ground both within and outside the houses.
The site was used as a sacred place and necropolis during the Early Iron Age. Three graves
containing cremation burials were found on the southern side of the long retaining wall. Ritual pits
were attested between and around the graves; the fill of these contained debris of the Late Bronze Age
settlement. The nature of structure 23-30 remains uncertain, but despite its differences in shape and
mode of construction in comparison to the other ritual pits, it is certainly contemporary with the other
Early Iron Age cult structures.


Early Iron Age

Stones and earth from the Late Bronze Age site were used in the construction of the Early Iron
Age structures, and earlier materials appear regularly. Therefore, with the exception of the graves, the
Early Iron Age structures cannot be regarded as "closed complexes" with synchronous materials. For
this reason only the pottery which is certainly not of Late Bronze Age date will be presented here.
Bowls with S-shaped profile and two horizontal arched handles. The fabric is average. The
surface is grey-black in colour and smoothed (Fig. 37/1).
Cups with oblique mouth and one handle. They usually have three relief projections on the
body. The fabric is fine or average with small particles of stone and quartzite in the clay. The surface

The interpretation of the long walls as retaining ones does not exclude other possible explanations such
as defence. Additional arguments are needed however before this idea could be discussed seriously.

///. The Late Bronze Age Settlement at Koprivlen (S. Alexandrov)

is smooth, grey-black in colour. The decoration consists of 1 to 3 rows of fine grooves under the rim, a
zigzag line or a band of oblique fine grooves on the body (Fig. 38).
The fabric is fine or average with small particles of stone and quartzite in the clay. The surface
is smooth, grey in colour. The decoration is either of fine grooves on the body, between the two han-
dles, forming a "herring-bone" motif, or of parallel incised lines. The space around and beneath the
handles is decorated with concentric semi-circles (Fig. 38/2-7).
The fabric is average with small or middle-sized particles of stone and quartzite in the clay.
The surface is roughly smoothed, light brown in colour. A characteristic feature of the Early Iron Age
jugs is the light curve between the neck and the body. The decoration consists of cuts or small holes
placed on the mouth rim (Fig. 37/2-4).
The fabric is rough, with small or middle-sized particles of stone and ceramics in the paste.
The surface is roughly smoothed, brown in colour. The profile is S-shaped, in some cases with two
vertical handles on the belly. The decoration consists of cuts or small holes placed on the mouth rim
(Fig. 37/5-6; 36/1).
Deep storage vessels
The fabric is rough, with small or middle-sized particles of stone, ceramics and organic ad-
mixtures in the paste. The surface is roughly smoothed, grey-black in colour. The profile is elongated,
S-shaped, with two vertical handles on the belly. The decoration consists of cuts or small holes placed
on the mouth rim and a relief band on the belly (Fig. 36/1).
Fragments of several pithoi were found. Two of them are of particular interest, being deco-
rated with plastic zoomorphic patterns (Fig. 41).

The pots and storage vessels were used as urns in graves Nos 1 and 2.
Except the mentioned recoverable shapes, some more fragments can be referred to the Early
Iron Age on the basis of their specific decoration. These include fine or wide groove-like incised lines,
classical fluting and the "false corded" decoration (Fig. 39-40). A fragment combining all three men-
tioned techniques is of particular interest (Fig. 39/8).
A wheelmade fragment comes from structure 23-20. The fabric is very fine; the colour is dark
yellow. The surface is decorated with three paralleled horizontal lines in dark paint (Fig. 38/1).

Late Bronze Age

/. Pottery

1. Handmade Pottery
All the Late Bronze Age pottery is handmade with the exception of few wheelmade fragments.
The analysis shows the existence of three basic groups of clay:
Fine, well purified clay with few admixtures mainly of mica or, rarely, of small particles of
stone. The vessels made of this fabric are black or grey-black in colour. The surface is smoothed and
polished, often burnished and covered partially or wholly whit graphite.
Average, with admixtures of small and middle-sized particles of stone and rarely of ceramics.
The vessels made of this fabric are black or grey-black in colour. The surface is smoothed, rarely bur-
Coarse, with admixtures of middle-sized or bigger particles of stone, ceramics and organic
materials. The vessels made of this fabric are brown or red-brown in colour. The surface is usually
rough or imperfectly smoothed.

KOPRIVLEN 1 cig III. The Late Bronze Age Settlement

No strict relation between the type of fabric and the shapes of the vessels could be established.
However it seems that the kantharoi were usually made of refined clay, the bowls, cups and jugs - of
the average type, while the fabric of the deep pots, storage vessels and pithoi is most often coarse.

Typology of the pottery shapes

The basic handmade pottery shapes are: A - plates, B - bowls, C - cups, D -jugs, E - kantha-
roi, F - amphorae, G - deep vessels, H - double vessels, I - pithoi, J - lids.
A. Plates
The plates are made of average fabric with admixtures of small particles of stone. The surface
is grey or black-grey in colour, smoothed and very rarely - burnished. The number of plate fragments
is small in comparison with those from bowls or jugs, but the observation may be due to the limited
area of the excavations. According to the shape the following types can be defined:
Type I. Plates with inverted conical shape and straight rim (Fig. 14/1).
Type II. Plates with hemispherical shape.
Subtype HA - with a slightly thinned mouth rim (Fig. 22/2).
Subtype II.B - with an outturned mouth rim shaped like a cover-bed (Fig. 22/1).
Subtype II.C - with an incurved and thickened mouth rim (Fig. 11/4; 10/9).
Type III. Plates with elongated S-shaped profile (Fig. 11/6).
Only one fragment of type II.A is decorated with four horizontal bands of parallel incised lines
filled with red paste (Fig. 22/2). The stratigraphic data show that the dishes of type II.C are character-
istic only of the second building horizon, while the other types are met equally in both horizons.
B. Bowls
The bowls are one of the best represented shapes in the Late Bronze Age layers. Their fabric is
either fine or average. The colour is grey to black-grey. The surface is slicked and smoothed, often
burnished or with traces of graphite covering. None of the bowls found in 1998 and 1999 was deco-
rated. The following types can be established:
Type I. Bowls with an elongated S-shaped profile and a flat bottom. Two horizontal arched
handles are attached at the most prominent part of the body; they do not reach higher than
the rim level. The diameter of the mouth rim is bigger than the height (Fig. 15/2; 27/2, 3).
Type II. Bowls with an elongated S-shaped profile and a flat bottom. Two horizontal arched
handles attached at the most prominent part of the body do not reach higher than the rim
level. The diameter of the mouth rim is either smaller than or equal to the height (Fig.
22/1, 2).
Type III. Bowls with an elongated S-shaped profile and a hollow ring-foot. No handles. The
diameter of the mouth rim is either smaller than or equal to the height.
Subtype HI.A - the neck is slanting outwards (Fig. 21/1, 7).
Subtype HI.B - the neck is almost vertical (Fig. 21/1).
Type IV. Bowls with inverted conical shape, probably with a hollow ring-foot. The mouth rim
is incurved and thickened. A "wishbone" handle was preserved on one of the fragments of
this type (Fig. 11/9).
The bowls of types III and IV are characteristic of the second building horizon, those of type
II of the first building horizon, while type I is common for both horizons.
C. Cups
The cups are usually made of an average fabric with admixtures of small particles of stone;
their colour is dark-brown. The surface is roughly smoothed from the outside and rough on the inside.
The following types can be differentiated:
Type I. Cups with one handle, an oval body and a short conical neck. The curve from body to
the neck is light. There are two subtypes:
Subtype LA - with a straight rim (Fig. 15/3-4).
Subtype l.B- with an obliquely cut rim (Fig. 15/5; 25/9).
Type II. Cups with one handle and inverse conical shape (Fig. 15/1).

///. The Late Bronze Age Settlement at Koprivlen (S. Alexandrov)

The cups of type I are not decorated, while those of type II are often decorated with either cuts
or fossettes under the rim.
The jugs are made of fine or average fabric with admixtures of small and middle-sized parti-
cles of stone. The outside surface is grey to black-grey in colour, smoothed or burnished. There are
traces of graphite covering on some of the jugs. The inside surface is roughly smoothed, in some cases
even ragged. There are two types according to the mouth rim, which can be cut obliquely or straight.
Type I. Jugs with obliquely cut rim. The handle is raised over the rim level. The transition
from body to neck is well expressed, even emphasized.
Subtype LA - slightly inclined mouth rim (Fig. 15/10).
Subtype I.B - classical "cut-away" mouth rim of rectangular shape with rounded angles
(Fig. 17/2).
The only example of type I.B is decorated with roughly executed parallel horizontal grooves
placed above and below the transition from body to neck (Fig. 17/2). The jugs of subtype LA are
decorated under the rim and upon the body. The following patterns occur as mouth decoration on jugs
of this type: one to three parallel incised lines; one or two incised lines with triangles (drops) hanging
from the lower one; one to three parallel lines of dots. The second pattern is most common. Some par-
allel incised lines underline the transition from body to neck, and under this is developed a geometrical
composition of incised lines. All the incised lines are filled with either white or red paste (Fig. 27).
Type II. Jugs with straight rim, the handle is slightly raised above the rim level and the transi-
tion from body to neck is smooth.
The jugs of type I are significantly more numerous in comparison with those of type II. Type I
is represented in both horizons, but the quantity is considerably greater in the first building horizon.
The decorative patterns do not display any development between the second and first horizon, with the
exception of the red paste incrustation which is mainly found in the first horizon. Type I.B is
represented only by jug 16-50 from the second horizon.
E. Kantharoi
The kantharoi are made of fine fabric with admixtures of small particles of stone or mica.
Their surface is black-grey or black, smoothed and in many cases - burnished. A fragment from
Square 19 which is made of very fine clay without any admixtures and fired under high temperature
with oxygen access is exceptional with its light-brown colour. Its inside and outside surface is slicked
with a thick graphite coverage of dark grey colour. Both the fabric and the baking are different from
the usual local production and the fragment could be regarded as an import. Most of the remaining
fragments also display traces of graphite covering on the outside surface, and some even on the upper
part of the inside surface. The shape is numerically and typologically constant for both Late Bronze
Age horizons - an oval body with a short conical neck and a flat bottom. According to the place of
attachment of the two arched vertical handles two types can be specifies:
Type I. The handles are attached to the mouth rim (Fig. 14/5, 6, 8; 23/6).
Type II. The handles are attached under the mouth rim (Fig. 14/7; 21/3, 6; 23/1, 5).
All the kantharoi were decorated with either incised lines or furchenstich or dots. The orna-
mental patterns are situated under the mouth rim and on the body. Usually there are one or more in-
cised or dotted lines under the rim, sometimes with drops hanging from the lowest line. The transition
between the body and neck is underlined with incised lines, furchenstich or dots, and more complex
geometrical compositions are placed below this on the body (Fig. 14/4-11; 21/5, 6; 23/2-5). The in-
cised lines and dots were filled with white, red or yellow paste; sometimes all three colours were used
simultaneously (Fig. 14/6).
F. Amphorae
The amphorae were made of fine or average clay with admixtures of either small particles of
stone or mica. Their surface is black or grey-black, smoothed and rarely burnished. There are single
cases with traces of graphite covering on the outside surface. Unfortunately, only one amphora could
be restored fully, which makes the establishment of a precise typology difficult. A basic type with a
short slightly conical neck clearly separated from the body could be established with certainty. The
body is globular, with a flat bottom (Fig. 17/1). Amphorae with a foot have not been registered. Four

KOPRIVLEN1 c^III. The Late Bronze Age Settlement

vertical arched handles are usually placed symmetrically on the body of the amphora. The decoration
occupies the upper part of the body and was executed by incision or furchenstich. The main patterns
are the rectangular fields with complex geometric designs or single bands of broad hanging hatched
triangles. The incised or furchenstiched iines are filled with white or red paste. The amphorae are
evenly distributed in both Late Bronze Age horizons, without any noticeable peculiarities in shape and
decoration (Fig. 11/5; 12/1).
G. Deep vessels
This category groups the large and deep vessels which were probably intended for cooking or
storing of food and other products. All the vessels from this category are made of coarse fabric with
admixtures of middle-sized and bigger particles of stone, ceramics and organic materials. The colour is
dark-red or brown. The surface in most cases is rather rough, probably deliberately, for a better cohe-
sion in holding. The whole vessels and the better preserved sherds have each two symmetrical vertical
arched handles attached to the most prominent part of the body, in the most cases supplemented with
two symmetrical plastic knobs.
Two main groups could be discriminated on the basis of the dimensions of the vessels, the one
including those with a height of 0.80 - 1.00 m. and a mouth rim diameter of over 0.40 m., the other -
those with a height of only about 0.50 m. and a mouth rim diameter of 0.30 - 0.40 m. The function of
the vessels in the two groups was possibly different. The following types could be established accord-
ing to the shape of the vessels:
Type I. Vessels with an elongated S-shaped profiie and a mouth rim diameter larger or equal
to the maximum diameter (Fig. 19/2).
Type II. Vessels with an elongated S-shaped profile and a mouth rim diameter smaller than the
maximum diameter (Fig. 18/2).
Type III. Vessels with a short neck smoothly connected with the rounded shoulders; the mouth
rim diameter is smaller than the maximum diameter (Fig. 26/7).
Type IV. Vessels with an expressed division between the neck and body; the mouth rim di-
ameter is smaller than the maximum diameter (Fig. 26/2).
Most of the deep vessels have some decoration on or under the mouth rim - fossettes, cuts,
and rarely a horizontal plastic band. A specific ornamental technique are the finger imprints, some-
times additionally ornamented on the inside with nail marks. In some cases the decoration under or on
the mouth rim is repeated on the most prominent part of the vessel (Fig. 12/3, 4; 18; 19/2; 20; 26/2;
29/2-5). The plastic bands made by pulling the fingers over the wet surface of the vessel can also be
interpreted as a specific ornamental technique.
The vessels of this category are equally distributed in both horizons, without any noticeable
particularities of shape and decoration.
H. Double vessels
No whole vessels of this specific Late Bronze Age type could be restored, but some charac-
teristic fragments prove their presence on the site (Fig. 5/8, 10). Stratigraphically they are attested in
both horizons.
/. Pithoi
Parts of two pithoi in situ and numerous fragments were found in both horizons. Unfortu-
nately, their shape is difficult to restore, but the fragments suggest that the pithoi from Koprivlen re-
peat both the shape and size of the known examples from Central and Eastern Macedonia.
J. Lids
The lids are either round or oval in shape and have two small openings for hanging. A whole
lid from structure 16-50 of the second building horizon has an oval shape and a diameter of 6.8 by 6.5
cm. (Fig. 34/10). None of the known lids was decorated.

///. The Late Bronze Age Settlement at Koprivlen (S. Alexandrov)


Decoration techniques
The basic techniques used in the decoration of the Late Bronze Age pottery in Koprivlen are
connected to removal - incision, pricking, furchenstich, fine or wide grooves, cuts, fossettes. A char-
acteristic feature of the first three techniques is that the removed surface is actually prepared for filling
in with white, yellow or red paste. In some of the cases the paste coloured fields delineate a new deco-
rative pattern in the reserved surface of the vessel. Such patterns, for example, are the zigzag bands
formed by the free space between two rows of obverse hatched triangles.
The covering of the outside and sometimes also of the inside surface of kantharoi, bowls and
jugs with graphite can also be regarded as a specific decorative technique, designed to give the vessel
additional metallic lustre. The grey-black shining surface contrasts the light coloured paste filling the
incised or pricked patterns, increasing the aesthetic effect.
Another decorative technique is passing of the fingers over the still wet surface of the vessel.
In this case narrow relief bands are formed, usually obliquely placed on the body of the vessel.
The relief bands, usually placed bellow the mouth rim of deep vessels, are also quite current
Main decorative patterns
As a whole, the decorative patterns are of a geometric type. Most common are the bands of
cuts or fossettes; lines of pricked of dots; incised or furchenstich lines, sometimes combined with
hanging triangles or drops; zigzag lines; triangles; rectangles; horizontal S-bands. The triangles and S-
bands are hatched with incised lines or pricked with dots. A specific decorative pattern are the finger
impressions sometimes additionally ornamented on the inside with nail marks.
Main decorative compositions
The decorative compositions are always adapted to the shape of the vessel. The more sophisti-
cated compositions are to be found on kantharoi, jugs and amphorae, the simpler ones on cups, deep
vessels and pithoi. The last mentioned shapes are often decorated with bands of fossettes or cuts on or
under the mouth rim and on the belly. The finer table ware is decorated much more complicated com-
positions concentrated in two ornamental fields: bellow the rim and on the body. The upper part of the
decoration usually comprises one to three incised or furchenstiched lines, sometimes combined with
hanging triangles or "drops". The compositions on the body are usually restricted to a rectangular field
between the two handles (the kantharoi usually have symmetrical compositions on both sides) or may
cover the whole body without the handle (as in the case of jugs). The upper line of the rectangular
field usually underlines the division of the neck and body. The rectangles are usually framed with
groups of parallel lines, and the inside is filled with horizontal S-shapes or opposite triangles with a
zigzag field between them, which stands out as the real ornamental pattern, contrasting the triangles
filled in with white, red or yellow paste. In the case of S-shapes the triangles between them and the
frame represent such reserved patterns. In some cases the rectangular field is hatched with parallel in-
cised and zigzag lines. Another decorative pattern seen on amphorae and jugs consists of a horizontal
band of hanging triangles on the upper part of the body.
Different techniques were sometimes used together in the execution of more sophisticated
decorative compositions: incision, furchenstich, pricking and the filling in of different ornamental
fields with pastes of different colour. The last mentioned technique is characteristic only of the second
building horizon; so are also the zigzag bands formed by couples of fine grooves and the wide vertical
or horizontal grooves.

2. Wheelmade Pottery
Several wheelmade pottery fragments were found during the excavations of the Late Bronze
Age site.
1. The first fragment was found at the floor level in Square 26. It is part of the mouth rim of a
deep bowl (skyphos) with a diameter of 13.6 cm. The fabric is extremely good, well purified and with
no admixtures. The surface is light yellow (ochre) in colour. The decoration is painted with dark red. It

KOPRIVLEN 1 03III The Late Bronze Age Settlement

is composed of a horizontal band, 0.2 - 0.3 cm. wide, under the mouth rim, and the pattern called
"whorl-shell" in the typology of Furumark applied vertically below the band (Fig. 30/3).
2. The second fragment comes from structure 23-50/60. The fabric is very well purified, with-
out any admixtures. The surface is light yellow (ochre) in colour. It is a part of an outturned mouth rim
with a diameter of 11.8 cm., probably also from a deep bowl (skyphos). The fragment is painted in
brown, the paint covers the whole outside surface and a 0.8 cm. wide band bellow the rim on the in-
side (Fig. 30/4).
3. The third fragment, comes from structure 23-50/60. The fabric is very well purified, without
any admixtures. The surface is light yellow in colour. It is a part of the mouth rim of an amphora with
a diameter of 16.0 cm. The decoration is painted in black. The pattern is difficult to reconstruct, but it
probably covered the entire outside and partly the inside surface. The rim might have been decorated
with five transverse painted bands (Fig. 30/7).
4. The fourth fragment comes from structure 23-50/60. The fabric is very well purified, with
visible admixtures of sand. The surface is grey in colour on both sides. It is a part of the mouth rim of
an amphora with a diameter of 13.9 cm. The decoration is painted in black-brown, but the paint is
badly preserved and the pattern cannot be reconstructed definitely (Fig. 30/5).
5. The fifth fragment was discovered near the structure 25-10. It was made of very well puri-
fied clay, without any admixtures. The surface is light red in colour. The preserved part of the decora-
tion painted in dark red permits to reconstruct the "whorl-shell" pattern of A. Furumark (Fig. 30/1).
6. Two fragments were recovered from the floor of the building in Square 35. Their fabric is
very well purified, without any admixtures. The outside surface is grey in colour, and the inside is
covered with dense black-brown slip. The two fragments come from one and the same vessel, but the
shape cannot be established. The decoration is painted in dark brown and consists of parallel horizon-
tal lines 0.2 to 0.3 cm. wide and a 0.4 cm. wide wavy line (Fig. 30/2, 6).
All the fragments described above come from the first building horizon (Koprivlen II). By
their production on a wheel, the quality of the clay and the technique and patterns of the decoration
they are completely different from the local handmade pottery. This is obviously a case of imported
pottery, the characteristics of which connect it to the best examples of the pottery production in the
Mycenaean world.

II. Small Finds

1. Metal Finds
Although not numerous, the metal finds from the Late Bronze Age site at Koprivlen present
some of the most common types of bronze tools and weapons.
Type I. Arrowheads with a single tang. The blade is triangular, with wing-like barbs and a
central rib turning into a flat tang. A total of four arrowheads of this type were discovered.
The length of the blade varies from 3.5 to 4.5 cm., the maximum width at the barbs - from
1.5 to 1.7 cm., and the total length including the tang - from 5.5 to 6.1 cm. (Fig. 32/1-4).
Type II. Arrowheads with two tangs.
Subtype Il.A. The blade is triangular, with wing-like barbs and a central rib turning into
two flat tangs. A single arrowhead of this type was discovered; its blade is 4.8 cm.
long, the maximum width at the barbs is 2.1 cm., and the full length with the tangs is
6.5 cm. (Fig. 32/6).
Subtype II.B. The blade is leaf-shaped, with a central rib turning into two long flat tangs.
A single arrowhead of this type was discovered; the length of its blade is 2.2 cm., the
maximum width 1.5 cm., and the full with the tangs 4.7 cm. (Fig. 32/3).
A whole needle and fragments of four others were discovered, the former in the second
building horizon. All the needles have a round section and belong to the type with an eye characteristic
for the age. The wholly preserved example is 13.9 cm. long, with an eye length of 0.7 cm. (Fig. 33).

///. The Late Bronze Age Settlement at Koprivlen (S. Alexandrov)

A bronze hook was found in the fill of structure 23-20 (Fig. 31/1-2). It could be dated in the
Late Bronze Age on the basis of the observation that the fill of this Early Iron Age structure was actu-
ally made of Late Bronze Age debris.
A bronze ring with a diameter of 2.0 cm. (Fig. 31/4) and two beads with a diameter of 0.6 cm.
(Fig. 31/1-2) were found in Square 19. All three were made of curved bronze lamellae.

2. Finds of Stone and Flint

A piece of a stone mould probably for the casting of a knife comes from among the stones
covering an Early Iron Age pit in Square 23, The mould has a rectangular shape with rounded corners;
the preserved part is 10.2 cm. long, 7.0 cm. wide and 2.5 cm. thick (Fig. 31/7). The knife seems to
have been with a one-sided blade and a maximum width of 1.6 cm.
A single whetstone was discovered in Square 19. It has a rectangular shape with rounded cor-
ners and dimensions 9.9 by 5.5 by 1.1 cm. The whetting groove runs along the whole length of the
stone and is 0.7 cm. wide and 0.3 cm. deep (Fig. 31/6).
A flint arrowhead of a Mycenaean type comes from Square 19. The blade is leaf-shaped, with
a maximum width of 1.6 cm. and a preserved length of 3.8 cm. '(Fig. 34/11).

3. Finds of Bone
The number of bone artefacts is relatively small. Several bodkins could be identified with
certainty; their length varies between 5.0 and 6.0 cm. and their width is about 1.0 cm. (Fig. 35/6, 7).

4. Finds of Clay

The spindle-whorls are made of fine or average clays usually with quartzite admixtures. They
have been fired to a dark brown or grey colour and the surface is smoothed, without any decoration.
The shape and dimensions are constant in the two Late Bronze Age horizons, the diameters vary be-
tween 2.0 and 4.0 cm. and the heights between 2.0 and 3.0 cm. Three types could be distinguished ac-
cording to the shape of the vertical section:
Type /. Spindle-whorls of biconical shape (Fig. 35/11 -17).
Type II. Spindle-whorls of ovoid shape (Fig. 35/10).
Type III. Spindle-whorls of conical shape (Fig. 35/8-9).
The weights discovered in Koprivlen were probably used for fishing. They are made of aver-
age clays with admixtures of small and middle-sized stone particles. The surface is roughly smoothed,
possibly as a result of long use. The main colour is brown to dark brown. Two main types could be
distinguished - with or without a hole for suspending, and several subtypes according to the shape.
Type I. Weights with holes.
Subtype LA. Oval weights. The orifice is approximately in the centre (Fig. 34/4-5).
Subtype I.E. Rectangular weights. The orifice is longitudinal, approximately at the centre
of the small side (Fig. 34/1).
Subtype I.C. Weights of irregular shape with several holes. Usually these were made of
pottery sherds (Fig. 34/2).
Type II. Weights without holes.
Subtype II.A. Oval weights, usually made of pottery sherds (Fig. 34/3, 6, 7).

KOPRIVLEN I OS III The Late Bronze Age Settlement

Small cups
A considerable quantity of small cups was discovered during the excavations. Their height is
up to 3.0 cm., with a mouth rim diameter of up to 4.0 cm. The cups were made of fine or average clays
with small particles of quartzite or stone as admixtures. The surface is grey, roughly smoothed, some-
times crude. Their purpose remains unclear, but their number is constant in the two Late Bronze Age
horizons. Two types were distinguished according to the shape:
Type I. Small cups with sharp bottom and conical body'(Fig. 35/1, 3).
Type II. Small cups of ovoid shape (Fig. 35/1, 3).
Anthropomorphic figurines
Only one figurine was found during the excavations in the stone building in Square 35 which
belongs to the first Late Bronze Age horizon (Koprivlen II). The figurine resembles a five-point star
and seems to represent a male figure with suggested sex attributes. The height is 4.5 cm., the width of
the torso 1.6 cm., the maximum width 2.3 cm. (Fig. 34/9).


The examination of the separate cultural elements represented in the two building horizons at
Koprivlen leads to their definite dating in the Late Bronze Age.
The layout and settlement pattern of the first building level settlement (Koprivlen II) have ex-
act Late Bronze Age parallels in the south. Similar foundations of long stone walls with living houses
and other buildings erected around them have been described at Thermon, lolkos and at other sites.3
The excavations in Greek Macedonia have revealed similar architectural patterns at the tells of Kas-
tanas, Assyros, Thessaloniki, at Thasos and elsewhere. The apsidal and oval buildings are also com-
mon for the Late Bronze Age cultures in Macedonia. Close parallels to the structures uncovered at
Koprivlen can be found in the same Late Bronze Age tells at Kastanas, Assyros, Dikili Tash, Thessa-
loniki, etc.5 Mud-brick walls are also a typical feature of the Late Bronze Age cultures developing to
the south of Koprivlen.6
The bronze arrowheads found at Koprivlen have not so far found exact parallels. Of the five
examples from Kastanas, the nearest analogue to the Koprivlen finds is an arrowhead from horizon 15,
which belongs to type VI b in the classification of Buchholz and dates to the LH III period.7
In a wider context, and leaving aside the specific flat tang, the arrowheads of type I find nu-
merous parallels in the Mycenaean area and the contemporary civilizations of Egypt and Asia Minor.
Similar examples, but with a round tang, from two Mycenaean graves at the cemetery near Prosymna,
were attributed by Blegen to type I and dated in the LH III period.8 The arrowheads from Koprivlen
resemble the Mycenaean arrowheads of type I dated by Snodgrass in the Late Bronze Age.9 This type
of arrowheads is close to Buchholz' type VIIc, dated by him to LH II - IIIC.10 In the typology of R.
the arrowheads of type I from Koprivlen are close to group He which he dates in LH IIB -
Outside Greece, type I finds parallels at Troy VI and VII, where they are considered as im-
ports and are compared to prototypes from the shaft graves at Mycenae and from the Hittite level at
Alishar. 12 Bronze arrowheads of similar shape have also been found at Bogazkoy in Asia Minor1"1 and
in Egypt.14

' Mazarakis-Ainian 1989._

Koukouli-Chrysanthaki 1982a: 253; Wardle 1980; Andreou, Kotsakis 1996.
Mazarakis-Ainian 1989; Serenades M. 1985, Andreou, Kotsakis 1996.
Mazarakis-Ainian 1989.
Hochstetter 1987: 26, Taf. 2.
Blegen 1937: 340-342.
Snodgrass 1964: 144-145.
Buchholz 1962: Abb. 7, 14, 15.
Avilal983: 111-112, Taf. 28.
Koppenhoffer 1995: Abb. 6/2; Blegen et al 1953: 270, PI. 297, 36-377.

///. The Late Bronze Age Settlement at Koprivlen (S. Alexandrov)

The numerous parallels suggest for the Koprivlen arrowheads a date in the LH II and III peri-
ods of the Late Bronze Age. A similar dating is also feasible for the flint arrowhead found in Square
23, which belongs to the common Late Mycenaean type of flint arrowhead.15
The bronze needles found at Koprivlen are not so sensitive chronologically. The needles with
an eye of this relatively simple type are common from the Early Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age in
the vast region including the Aegean, Anatolia and the Balkans.16
The mould for a knife found in Square 23 finds parallels at Kaymenska Chuka dated to 1230-
1160 B.C. Knives of this type are known from grave No 1 in the Late Bronze Age cemetery at San-
danski, dated to LH IIIC (excavations by V. Petkov and the author) and from the Late Bronze Age
graves in the cemetery near Thasos.18
The pottery complex from Koprivlen I and Koprivlen II displays the shapes and decoration
typical of the Late Bronze Age cultures spread generally to the north of the Mycenaean civilization
and in particular in South-Western Thrace. One of the most common shapes is the kantharos. The
whole and fragmented examples from Koprivlen have a flat bottom, ovoid body, conical neck and two
handles raised above the mouth rim. This shape is characteristic for the Late Bronze Age cultures in
the Balkans.19 The kantharos decorated with incised geometric patterns is typical for the Late Bronze
Age pottery complex of Macedonia. Close analogies to shapes and decoration of the Koprivlen vessels
are known from the Late Bronze Age levels of the tells in Central and Eastern Macedonia: horizons 18
- 14 at Kastanas,20 Assiros,21 the Axios valley,22 and also from the Central Balkans,23 the so-called
Zinmicea-Plovdiv-Cherkovna group,24 the Tei and Verbicioara cultures.25
The filling of the incised ornaments with white paste is among the characteristic features of
the decorated pottery from Koprivlen. This decorative technique is called by Heurtley "the third orna-
mental style".26 The filling with white paste is already a typical feature of the decorative techniques in
the Early Bronze Age. In the Late Bronze Age, especially on the lower Strymon, Nestos and Axios,
yellow and red pastes were used for this purpose along with the white.27 Such polychrome decoration
is attested in both horizons at Koprivlen. The fine wares at Koprivlen often bear traces also of graphite
covering. This specific technique is characteristic of the Late Bronze Age in Eastern Macedonia,
where similarly to Koprivlen the bands between the incised ornaments were covered with graphite,
while some pottery shapes (e. g. bowls) were wholly covered with graphite on the outside and had a
single band drawn under the mouth rim on the inside.28
The proposed general dating of the two horizons at Koprivlen to the Late Bronze Age seems
indisputable. Their exact chronological position within the Late Bronze Age could be defined more
accurately on the basis of the imported Mycenaean pottery on one hand, and through the analogies
with the well stratified layers of Kastanas on the other.

Second Building Horizon (Koprivlen I)

The chronological position of this horizon can be defined more precisely by a comparative
analysis of the pottery with the well-stratified levels at Kastanas. The most characteristic feature of the
pottery complex of Koprivlen I, clearly distinguished from that of the later horizon, is the decoration

Boehmer 1972: taf. XVI-XXIX.
Petriel917:R 195-199.
Buchholz 1962.
Hochstetter 1987: 29 and the cited parallels; Hood 1982: Fig. 295, p. 660 with the cited parallels.
Stefanovich, Bankoff 1988.
Koukouli-Chrysanthaki 1982a: PI. 25.
Hansel 1976; Morintz 1978.
Hochstetter 1984: Taf. 8/T, 13/3-5; 18/1; 10/1-1; 11/8; 35/1-1; 39/10; 41/1-3.
Wardle 1980: Fig. 11.
"Mitrevski 1995:74.
Stojic 1997.
Bonev 1988: 55; Hansel 1976: 76; Hochstetter 1982: 110.
Leahu 1966; Morintz 1978.
Heurtley 1939:95.
Heurtley 1939: 95, Fig. 92/a, d; Koukouli-Chrysanthaki 1982: 234-235; Wardle 1980: 247.
Grammenos 1979; Koukouli-Chrysanthaki 1982: 234-235.

KOPRIVLEN1 ess III The Late Bronze Age Settlement

with fine incised lines or wide grooves (Fig. 13/16; 16). A decoration of fine incised lines forming a
zigzag band, similar to the examples from Koprivlen, is attested in the earliest Late Bronze Age level
at Kastanas - 19.29 A kantharos from the same level decorated with parallel vertical grooves is also
similar to examples from Koprivlen.30 It should be mentioned that grooves (but oblique ones) reappear
in Kastanas only in level 13 which is dated in LH IIIC.31 The analogies between the two horizons are
not yet representative enough to warrant a definite affirmation of their chronological identity, espe-
cially in view of the restricted quantity of material from Kastanas 19. However the combined data
from Koprivlen and Kastanas seems to permit a correction of the opinion that the grooved decoration
made its appearance in Central and Eastern Macedonia only in the end of the Late Bronze Age.32 Ob-
viously in terms of Late Bronze Age chronology its appearance should be sought much earlier, and not
necessary in connection with influences from the north.

First Building Horizon (Koprivlen II)

The imported Mycenaean pottery should be considered as the most reliable criterion for es-
tablishing the chronology of Koprivlen II. 3 The most precise chronological position is that of the sky-
phos fragment decorated with a "whorl-shell" pattern - Furumark No 284 (Fig. 30/3). According to
the latest studies on decorated Mycenaean pottery the "whorl-shell" pattern appears on skyphoi in the
LH IIIA2 and IIIB1 periods.34 Other scholars specify that the "vertical whorl-shell" on skyphoi is
more typical of the early phase of LH IIIB, especially when the upper part of the pattern is shaped like
a ring, which is the case with the Koprivlen fragment.3" A similar pattern is seen on a skyphos from
Mycenae dated to the middle phase of LH IIIB.36 In the central Peloponnesian areas of the Mycenaean
world the combination between this shape and decoration would be dated in early to middle phase of
In North Greece, the earliest Mycenaean imports date from LH I and II, and they spread to the
initii'Di t5 <vjt«to,\ Mrasskswi ^Kastaaias,, A.s,ska&\ ftom coastal settlements like Torone in Chalcidice
in LH IIIA2 - IIIB I.37 At Kastanas, the first few Mycenaean sherds appear in horizons 18 and 19,
dated K. Podzuweit in LH IIIA2. A considerably greater quantity of imported pottery was found in the
horizons 16 to 14 which are of LH IIIB date, while the subsequent horizons contained LH IIIC im-

ports/ At Assiros, Mycenaean pottery is found in relatively small quantities in levels preceding phase
9. From that phase on the quantity of Mycenaean sherds increases, their earliest dates being in LH
In Eastern Macedonia, relatively small quantities of Mycenaean pottery have been found at
Statmos Angista (dated in LH IIIA2 - IIIB - IIIC),40 in the necropolises of Thasos,41 in tumulus graves
near Potamoi and Exohi (from LH IIIC),42 and at some other sites.43 Generally speaking, the situation
is similar to that in Central Macedonia, the LH IIIB period emerging as the most probable time of a
\v ider distribution of Mycenaean pottery in Eastern Macedonia.
In the case of Koprivlen some retardation should be allowed owing to the geographical posi-
tion of the site which is situated further to the north, and to a probable longer life of such obviously
valuable imports. Therefore the early LH IIIB period should be accepted as a probable terminus post

Hochstetter 1984: Tafel 1/1, 2.
Hochstetter 1984: Tafel 12/10.
Hochstetter 1984: Tafel 62/7; 64/5, 10.
Koukouli-Chrysanthaki 1992: 814-815.
I would like to thank once again Dr. R. Jung for the kind help in the analyses of the Mycenaean pot-
Mountjoy 1986: 91, fig.l 10/1; 117, Fig.143/2, 5, 13.
Schonefeld, 1988: 153-211, Fig. 3-4.
Mountjoy 1976: 87-90, Fig. 6/44.
Cambitoglou, Papadopoulos 1993: 295-296.
Podzuweit 1979: 1985.
Wardlel993: 126-128.
Koukouli-Chrysanthaki 1980a: pi. 16, 17.
Koukouli-Chrysanthaki 1992: 815.
Grammenos 1979:71.
Koukouli-Chrysanthaki 1992: fig.151.

///. The Late Bronze Age Settlement at Koprivlen (S. Alexandrov)

quern for the imported pottery at Koprivlen and respectively for the first building horizon (phase Ko-
privlen II).
From the handmade pottery, some chronological indication is offered by the jugs with cut-
away neck decorated with incised lines under the mouth rim. Heurtley considers this combination a
"later" development within the Late Bronze Age.44 The pottery from Koprivlen has exact parallels
among the finds from the tells at Saratse and Vardaroftza.45 At Kastanas, this combination of shape
and decoration is typical for horizon 14, if we judge from the illustrated materials. Jugs with cut-away
necks decorated with a single incised line under the rim are attested in horizon 14b ("Haupthof'),46
with two incised lines - in horizon 14b ("Antenhaus") and 14a,47 and with three incised lines - in hori-
zon 14a.48 A sherd similar to the fragments from Koprivlen is illustrated among the finds from horizon
14a in the "Einzelhaus".49 The mentioned analogies suggest a contemporaneity between Koprivlen II
and Kastanas 14.
It is obvious that both Koprivlen I and II belong to the Late Bronze Age. The comparison of
the finds from Koprivlen and Kastanas leads to the establishment of the following chronological par-
Koprivlen I - Kastanas horizon 19;
Koprivlen II - Kastanas horizon 14.
In terms of Late Helladic chronology, considering both the dating of the Mycenaean imports
from Koprivlen and that of the layers at Kastanas,50 a synchronization of Koprivlen I with Late Hel-
ladic I - II, and of Koprivlen II with Late Helladic IIIB could be suggested. The absolute dates implied
would be c. 1600 - 1510/1500 B.C. for Koprivlen I, and c. 1340/1330 - 1185/1180 B.C. for Koprivlen


The cultural characterization of the Koprivlen I and II assemblages is hampered by the lack of
contemporary sites investigated in the region. Late Bronze Age settlements situated on slopes or river
terraces have been recorded near Ablanitsa, Debren and Brushten during field surveys along the left
bank of the Nestos."" In our opinion the cremation tumulus graves near Satovcha and Kochan in the
west slopes of the Rhodopes53 should be related to the Late Bronze Age culture of the Rhodopes and
not with the Nestos valley. The known sites in the valley of the Middle Nestos remain insufficient to
warrant a reliable solution to the problem of the cultural identification of the Late Bronze Age settle-
ment at Koprivlen. The problem could be examined in a broader geographical context, including the
valley of the Middle Strymon with the sites at Kaymenska Chuka and Levunovo and the cemetery in
Sandanski. A brief review of the excavation results at these sites will precede the discussion of the
general implications.
The Necropolis in Sandanski
The necropolis situated under the Early Christian basilica in the town of Sandanski has been
excavated since 1997 by S. Alexandrov and V. Petkov. Until 1999, a total number of eight graves
were studied in an excavated area of 60 sq. m. under the southern aisle of the basilica. Two groups of
graves were distinguished, separated by a stone assemblage. The first group consists of five graves,
and the second of three. As a part of the funerary rituals accompanying the burials, pottery vessels
were broken and their fragments were scattered in the earth over the graves and especially in and
around the stone structure. Two bronze artefacts were also found in this structure - a double axe and a

Heurtley 1939:95-96.
Heurtley 1939: Fig. 93/g; 85/d, h.
Hochstetter 1984: Taf. 51/13.
Hochstetter 1984: Taf. 40/12; 56/8.
Hochstetter 1984: Taf. 56/9.
Hochstetter 1984: Taf. 58/11.
ttoete\e\to \%1.
Warren, Hankey 1989: 168.
Domaradzki et al. 1999: 9.
Gereova 1989.

KOPR1VLEN1 OS III. The Late Bronze Age Settlement

biconical bead. All the graves contained extended inhumation burials with a predominant south to
north orientation. The corpse was usually surrounded by stones, those around the head being of much
larger size. The dead were buried with their personal possessions - bronze beads, finger rings, a
necklace of bronze and limestone elements, etc. The burial offerings were usually placed near the head
and consisted of between one and five pottery vessels. These were distributed between the eight graves
in the following manner: grave No 1 - three vessels; grave No 2 - three vessels; grave No 3 - three
vessels; grave No 4 - four vessels and a foot; grave No 5 - one vessel; grave No 6 - one vessel; grave
No 7 - one vessel; or a total number of 18 vessels and a foot from another one. With the exception of
grave No 4, where two footed bowls and the foot of a third one were found, the other graves contained
only single specimens of each pottery shape.
The vessels placed as grave offerings were made of fine or average clays, fired to a dark grey
or black colour. The surface was smoothed, rarely burnished. The most common shape is the kantha-
ros, represented with five vessels. The footed bowls are represented by three whole vessels and a foot
fragment, the bowls with a flat bottom are three, the small cups - three, the small jugs - two, and there
are also a single jug with cut-away neck, an amphora and an "alabastron". Most of the vessels are un-
decorated with the exception of two of the kantharoi on which there are finger imprints.
The pottery fragments scattered in and around the stone structure belong for the greater part to
vessels of medium and large size. The fabric is average or coarse, with admixtures of small stone par-
ticles; the surface is coarse, rarely smoothed. The mouth of the deep vessels is often decorated with an
applied plastic band. A few sherds are decorated with carelessly executed incised lines.
The metal finds are only of bronze and include personal belongings found in the graves (a fin-
ger ring, a bead, spiral pendants, "buttons"), and a part of a double axe and a biconical bead found in
the stone structure.
The analysis of the burial practices, the funerary offerings and the analogies with the adjacent
regions date the necropolis to the end of the Late Bronze Age (121 - 11' c. B.C.). The necropolis is
probably connected with a settlement of the same age established in the 1980s under the western part
of the modern city.54
Kaymenska Chuka
The settlement tops a "commanding height" some 100 m. above the flood plain of the Stry-
mon about 5 km southeast of Blagoevgrad. The excavations were carried out between 1993 and 1998
and revealed the remains of a two-storied stone building with rectangular ground plan measuring 18
by 11 m. The walls were about 2 m. thick, the space between the two faces being filled with rubble of
small and medium size. A staircase made of stone slabs and about 1 m. wide connected the two floors.
The building has been interpreted tentatively as "an emporion or a storage and distribution centre" or
as "a ruler's residence, controlling the commercial and other activities in the area".55
The finds from the building include pottery, a stone mould and several metal objects. The
pottery is most numerous, including fine ware like jugs with cut-away necks, single handed cups,
kantharoi, footed bowls and "Kugel" amphorae. The decoration is rare, just a few sherds have incised
ornaments filled with white paste.56 A distinctive flat groove on the transition from the neck to the
shoulder was noted as characteristic feature of the amphorae. Three "matt-painted" fragments were
also found. The coarse ware is represented by pithoi of different shapes and size.57
Parallels to the pottery from Kaymenska Chuka have been suggested in the Late Bronze Age
sites of Northern Greece, in the Brnica group in the Central Balkans, and in the Zimnicea-Plovdiv
complex. Among the long series of Late Bronze Age cultures in the Balkans listed (Verbicioara, Tei,
Coslogeni, Dubovac - Zuto Brdo, etc.) the North Greek analogies seem most convincing.58 An abso-
lute date of c. 1230 - 1160 B.C. has been suggested for the site.59

Gergova 1995.
Stefanovich, Bankoff 1998: 279.
Stefanovich, Bankoff 1998: 274, Fig. 24-30.
Stefanovich, Bankoff 1998: 275-276.
Stefanovich, Bankoff 1998: 278.
Stefanovich, Bankoff 1998: 279.

///. The Late Bronze Age Settlement at Koprivlen (S. Alexandrov)

The Sanctuary near Levunovo

The site is situated on a hill dominating the Strymon valley. The results of trial excavations
suggest that the sanctuary appeared in the Late Bronze Age. The published finds60 allow a synchroni-
zation of this layer with the settlement at Koprivlen.

The list of Late Bronze Age sites in the area could be supplemented with those at Marikosti-
novo, Kurnalovo, Petrovo and others recorded during field surveys.61 The published materials from the
site Marena by Marikostinovo are contemporary with those from Koprivlen. Graphite covering on
pottery sherds was observed in most of these Late Bronze Age sites.62
The analysis of the collected data strongly suggests the development of a distinct culture along
the middle Strymon and Nestos valleys during the Late Bronze Age. It is characterized, at least from
the LH III B period on, with the appearance of stone architecture and the use of stone foundations, de-
veloped settlement patterns, apsidal or oval living houses and buildings. The metal arms and orna-
ments are typical for the age, but new, local types of arrowheads appear apparently under Mycenaean
influence.63 The direct contacts with the Mycenaean civilization, especially in the LH IIIB period, are
attested by the Mycenaean pottery imports, some of which are of quality suggesting origin in the Pelo-
ponnesos. The appearance of stone architecture, the use of stone foundations and mud-bvicks might
also be attributed to Mycenaean influence or imitation, but the initial stage of the investigation does
not permit more definite conclusions in this respect.
The ceramic production shows a typical sequence of Late Bronze Age features, shapes and
trends, like the domination of the incised decoration in LH IIIB and its gradual disappearance in LH
IIIC. There are however some peculiarities which appear also in the neighbouring area to the south,
near the Aegean coast and around the lower courses of the Strymon and Nestos. The evident identity
of pottery shapes, decorative patterns and production techniques warrants the assumption that a dis-
tinct early Thracian archaeological culture developed along both the middle and lower Strymon and
Nestos during the Late Bronze Age, and we are tempted to call that provisionally the Koprivlen cul-
ture. The Strymon - Nestos area was however in direct contact with Central Macedonia and the Axios
valley. If we apply the term "archaeological culture" strictly, these three regions would represent three
distinct archaeological cultures. However, as the common features prevail conspicuously in their cul-
tural identity, we are inclined to consider them rather as three variants of one and the same archaeo-
logical culture. Within the wider geographical scope of this large cultural area, the regions along the
middle and lower Strymon and Nestos should be considered as its "eastern" variant, in which the
eponymous early Thracian site at Koprivlen evidently played a significant enough role. This statement
seems justified in view of the cultural singularity of the site as revealed by the rescue excavations. The
extraordinary character of Koprivlen, emphasized by its geographical position and possibly connected
with functions of a commercial character, was further enhanced and developed in the first millennium
B.C. as indicated by the excavations of the Thracian settlement centre situated to the north of the Late
Bronze Age site.

Domaradzki 1986a: 97-103, Fig. 10/1,4, 5, 8, 9.
Gergova 1995:32-34.
Gergova 1995: Fig. 11-12.
The arrowheads from Koprivlen find no parallels in the Central Balkans, which sustains their
interpretation as a new local type. Cp. Parovic-Peshikan 1995: 4-24.




Anelia Bozkova
i Institute of Archaeology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences)
The excavated area of the settlement at Koprivlen is still too limited, and this restricts the pos-
sibilities to analyse the character and chronology of the cultural strata. Four sectors have provided data
on the stratigraphy of the site: Sondage 1, Sondage 4, Sector "Centre" and Sector "South". However
they all belong to one and the same part of the territory of the settlement and have produced evidence
about structures from only some of the periods of habitation.
The archaeological investigations carried out so far (excavations and field surveys) have es-
tablished that the settlement structures pertaining to different periods did not occupy a constant terri-
tory and periodically changed their confines (Chapter I, Fig. 2). This is the way in which the horizon-
tal stratigraphy of the site was formed, and although its components and layout have not yet been de-
termined in full detail, it is evident that they should be taken into account in the study of the vertical
stratification. The structures of the Late Bronze Age, for example, so far as we know them, have been
discovered at a smaller depth (measured from the modern ground surface) than those pertaining to the
earliest phase of the Archaic Period in Sondage 4. What is more, there are practically no later cultural
remains above the Late Bronze Age strata in all the area where these have been studied.
The excavated plots did not contain any reliably dated layers of the Hellenistic Period, but im-
pressive quantities of finds from the pit complexes belonged to that age - over 50 bronze and silver
coins, lots of pottery fragments and various other small objects.
For reasons which we still cannot understand fully, the ancient population of the site by Ko-
privlen seems to have moved about changing periodically the confines of the inhabited area so that
these only occasionally and partially overlapped the preceding ones. The reasons might have been
economic, but perhaps also of geomorphologic character: the brook which crosses the site nowadays
seems to have changed its bed recurrently, causing sometimes devastating floods. This general conclu-
sion is based on the archaeological observations of the surface and of the cultural layers and needs a
specialized geomorphologic study, which the team intends to provide in future.


Sondage 4 is situated on the northern bank of the brook on a terrace slightly slanting to the
east and south. The place for the trial excavation was chosen randomly, on a free plot between the sur-
rounding vineyards. The studies were carried out between 1995 and 1998.
The total area excavated in Sondage 4 is about 175 square metres or seven archaeological
squares measuring 5 x 5 metres each. Dividing balks were left between the squares which were orien-
tated after the cardinal points. The depth of the cultural strata varies from place to place between 1.6

IV. 1. Stratigraphic Observations on the 7" Millenium B.C. Settlement (A. Bozkova)

and 2.1 m; the differences are due mainly to the declivity of the modern and ancient ground surface.
Some of the cultural layers are related to architectural remains.1
The systematization of the Stratigraphic observations (Fig. 42; Colour Plates, Fig. 290) and of
the data from the finds in the separate cultural layers has produced the following Stratigraphic scheme
for Sondage 4:
A. The virgin foundation within the limits of the excavated area consists of a reddish sand and
gravel alluvial deposit formed either by the ancient activity of the Mesta River2 or by that of the
neighbouring brook.
B. The first and earliest cultural layer is between 0.5 and 0.7 m. thick and contains some
fragments of local decorated pottery of the Early Iron Age and a much larger quantity of wheel-made
pottery with geometric ornamentation (Fig. 43). As far as the existing parallels of the painted pottery
can be dated,3 they belong to the late 8th or early 7th c. B.C. at the earliest, a period which most proba-
bly marks the establishment of the settlement in this part of the site. Besides pottery fragments the
layer has also yielded some biconical spindle-whorls made of clay, some of them with incised decora-
tion.4 Accumulations of lumps of clay plaster burnt into brick have been uncovered at certain places in
the upper levels. Within the excavated area this layer is not related to any remains of identifiable ar-
chaeological structures, but its objective presence corresponds to phase I of the habitation of the set-
tlement in the 1st millennium B.C.
C. The second cultural stratum overlays without any hiatus the first one and is distinguished
by the colour of the soil and the character of the pottery it contains. It is relatively thin (between 0.2
and 0.3 m) and cannot be referred to a building period. The stratum contains fragments of wheel-
made vases with geometric ornamentation which do not display any substantial differences in style
and technology from the fragments of phase I, and sherds of monochrome wheel-made ware, mainly
of grey colour, with burnished or slip-coated surface.6 The hand made pottery is plain, sometimes with
a plastic decoration of ribs with intersecting fossettes or incisions, and with tongue-shaped handles.
Fragments with incised, stamped or other decoration typical of the Early Iron Age have not been at-
This layer should be associated with phase II of the habitation of the site and should be dated
prior to the end of the 6th c. B.C. because of the presence of two or more "cups with dots" and glazed
lines 7 (Fig. 44) found at the level separating it from the next layer.
D. A sandy layer between 0.30 and 0.50 m. thick. This layer of alluvial character with light
yellow colour and a content of mixed clay and sand follows immediately above the second cultural
stratum. It contains very few finds - several pottery fragments and spindle-whorls, concentrated
mainly at the lower sedimentary level, where some material traces from the habitation period de-
stroyed by the flood have been mixed in the alluvium. The layer is relatively horizontal, however fol-
lowing the declivity of the slanting terrain and its thickness varies in different locations of the exca-
vated area.
E. The fourth stratum overlays the sandy alluvium and is between 0.30 and 0.50 m. thick. At
some places this layer is covered by a fallen tile roof while at others it is disturbed by the cultivation of
the soil. The precise Stratigraphic and chronological determination of this layer is difficult due to the
fact that it is connected to two successive phases of habitation corresponding to the two successive
stone buildings, the later of which (building B) overlays only partially the earlier one (building A). The
construction of the later building probably occasioned a partial destruction of the earlier cultural stra-
tum together with the clearing of the debris from the earlier building A.
This stratum contains plain hand-made and wheel-made (local) pottery, monochrome slip-
coated and imported red-figured and black-glazed wares. The red-figure fragments are of small size;
they exhibit however the precise drawing and pure style typical of the earlier period of red-figure

'Cf. Chapter IV.2 infra.

Nenov, Blagoeva 1973/1974: 24.
Cf. Chapter IV.4.2 infra.
Cf. Chapter IV.4.8 infra.
Cf. Chapter IV.4.3 infra.
Cf. Chapter 1V.4.3 infra.
Cf. Blonde et al. 1992: 28-31; Perreault 1990: 255-256.

KOPRIVLEN1 eg IV. The Thracian Settlement

painting (Fig. 45). Fragments from the mouth of a large black-glazed vessel, probably a column krater,
with purple lines along the edges, were found at the same level in other squares, outside the outline of
building B (Fig. 46)s This specific mode of thrifty decoration is typical of some very early Corinthian
kraters (of Early Corinthian style) 9 and of the Attic black-glazed wares of the 6* and the first half of
the 5th c. B.C.10
This fourth stratum overlying the alluvial layer corresponds to two successive phases of habi-
tation - a later sub-period of phase II and phase III; their clear distinction however remained impos-
sible at this stage of the investigations. Among the finds from this stratum were loom-weights of two
types: pyramidal and lenticular." Slight differences in the structure and colour of the soil were ob-
served in some of the squares, but the indications were not adequate for a more detailed discrimination
of the chronological sub-periods.
Remains of well-made floors of compacted clay were uncovered at two locations in this layer,
immediately above the alluvium. A part of a bronze bracelet l2 and pottery fragments with a silvery
slipped surface were discovered on one of the floor-levels.
This layer contained some coins from the Hellenistic Period 13 and Late Antiquity. 14 Their
presence here should be explained with the effects of modern agricultural activities and the transporta-
tion of archaeological material in the surface layers, as no other finds from the Hellenistic Period have
been identified. The rare fragments of late antique or medieval pottery in this and the superficial hu-
mus layer were not accompanied by any specific traces of later habitation, and should rather be attrib-
uted to the near proximity of the necropolis from the 4lh - 11th c., situated only some dozens of metres
F. The humus layer was between 0.10 and 0.20 m. thick and contained various pottery frag-
ments and finds, including coins of different periods.


Sondage 1 was excavated on a private plot in 1995 and immediately refilled with earth. It was
situated to the north of the brook, at about 150 m. east of Sondage 4. This place was chosen for trial
excavation following the surface find of a black-figure pottery fragment (Colour Plates, Fig. 292).
The dimensions of the excavated pit were 2 x 2.5 m. It did not yield any architectural remains,
but was extremely rich in pottery finds and provided valuable data about the stratigraphy and periodi-
zation of the site (Colour Plates, Fig. 291).
The depth of the cultural deposits reached 2.1 m. measured from the surrounding ground sur-
face. The observations made during the excavation and the analysis of the pottery finds suggest the
following inferences:
A. The virgin layer at the bottom of the excavated pit was identical in structure and composi-
tion with that in Sondage 4.
B. Immediately above the virgin soil followed a relatively thin layer (about 0.2 to 0.3 m) con-
taining a restricted quantity of pottery sherds, mainly wheel-made, thin-walled and with geometric
decoration of the type characteristic of phase I in Sondage 4.
C. The next cultural stratum had a thickness of between 0.5 and 0.6 m. A large and thick ac-
cumulation of pottery sherds was uncovered in the north-western corner of the trial pit. The fragments
belong to vessels of few types, and many have undergone a secondary firing. Pieces of charcoal and of
wall plaster with preserved impressions of sticks or poles from wooden constructions were mixed with
the pottery. This accumulation probably marks the destructions of the south-eastern corner of a wood-
and-clay dwelling structure, the main part of which would have remained out of the excavated area.
Cf. Chapter IV.2 infra.
Veinberg 1943: M° 233; Blegen et al. 1964: 321, x-135, PI. 89.
Sparkes, Talcott 1970: 18-19; Blegen et al. 1964: 303, Dl 1-g, PI. 98.
Cf. Chapter IV.4.8 infra.
Cf. Chapter IV.4.11 infra.
Cf. Chapter VI.2 infra. At the time when this text is going into print, the coin finds from this sector
have been supplemented with examples contemporary to phases II and III - early Thasian silver coins of the
"Silenus" series which were identified and will be published in due time by prof. Y. Yurukova.
Cf. Chapter VI.3 infra.

IV. 1. Stratigraphic Observations on the 1st Millenium B. C. Settlement (A. Bozkova)

The ceramic material from the accumulation comprises mainly fragments of large amphoroid
wheel-made vases, of which only the mouths and necks with the handles were restorable. The decora-
tion, though badly worn, is of geometric ornaments: horizontal lines and concentric circles applied in
red-purple matt paint. The ceramic finds from this layer outside the accumulation are of the same type,
also with geometric ornamentation, but their quantity is much smaller.
The overall appearance of the pottery from this layer is similar to that of the material from
phase I in Sondage 4, but the two complexes display also some formal and stylistic peculiarities.15
D. The layer between 1.40 and 1.00 m. contained various pottery types dominated by the
wheel-made fragments with geometric decoration. All the levels, but especially the higher ones con-
tained also fragments of monochrome grey (rarely red) wheel-made ware with burnished or slipped
surface, typical also of phase II in Sondage 4. The accompanying hand-made pottery pertains to types
with a long life in the whole 1 st millennium B.C.: plain, undecorated vessels or such with plastic bands
with fossettes, coarse tongue-shaped or other handles.
E. The third cultural stratum described above was covered by a level of destructions, most
clearly manifested at a depth of between 1.00 and 0.8 m. and featuring large pieces of plaster, bits of
charred wood and the preserved lower half of a pithos in situ the bottom of which is sunk to a depth of
1.40 m. The most numerous finds in this destruction layer were wheel-made pottery fragments with
slip coating, among which the parts of bowls with incurved rims and incised horizontal lines beneath
the mouth, of amphoroid vases, and of skyphoi were most easily identifiable. A miniature fragment of
a thin-walled vessel with horizontal lines in black and red-brown glaze on both sides might have be-
longed to an "Ionian cup".1 Fragments with a geometric decoration in red matt paint still occur in this
layer, although rather rarely.
F. Another destruction level was situated about 0.4 to 0.5 m. above the previous one. It was
marked in like manner by the presence of lumps of plaster, pieces of charcoal and small accumulations
of pebbles. Another pithos was broken in situ at this level, situated about 0.5 m. higher than the one in
the underlying layer and somewhat aside from it. The characteristic features of the pottery found at
both destructive levels are essentially the same.
G. The cultural stratum between the higher destruction level and the surface humus layer did
not display any noticeable archaeological structures or circumstances. The pottery material is varied,
but contains no imported pieces. The pottery is mainly plain, local and hand-made; the wheel-made
fragments are of plain or slipped wares.
The absence here of an alluvial layer or of architectural remains did not permit the ready iden-
tification of phase HI so clearly attested in the stratigraphy of Sondage 4. So far as this phase is fea-
tured by the absence of pottery with geometric ornamentation, it should probably be connected with
the levels above 0.50 - 0.40 m.


The designation Sector "Centre" was applied to a plot in the contour of the roadbed situated
to the north of the brook and between Sondages 1 and 4. A total of 28 archaeological squares were
excavated in 1998-1999 in this sector, the approximate area studied reaching about 700 square metres.
In the north the sector borders on the area of the Northern pit complex of the 1 s t millennium B.C. and
the necropolis of the 4th - 11 th centuries (Sector "North").
The determination of the stratigraphy in this sector was embarrasses by a number of
unfavourable circumstances. There were no traces here of housing structures and habitation levels, and
the cultural remains were unsubstantial. The ceramic finds were heavily fragmented and most often
uninformadve, and the cultural strata had been repeatedly disturbed on different occasions:
• the building of the stone walls17;
• the digging of waste pits in Late Antiquity;
• the planting of vines in modern time.

Cf. the pottery analysis in section Chapter IV.4.2 infra.
'Cf. Villard, Vallet 1955: 13-34; Catling, Shipley 19.89: 187-200.
'Cf. Chapter IV.2 infra.

KOPRIVLEN 1 egIV. The Thracian Settlement

Some significant facts concerning the cultural remains in the sector have nonetheless been es-
A. Slightly expressed cultural layers were registered beneath the foundation level of the walls,
evidently preceding their erection. These layers lie at the depth between 2.00 and 1.00 m. and contain
accumulations of dispersed stones mixed with fragmented ceramic tiles and bits of charcoal. The pot-
tery finds resemble those of phase I and II in Sondage 4 though the two phases could not be delimited
strati graphically.
B. Later cultural strata could not be differentiated due to the absence of any positive and reli-
able indications. The presence of fragments of silvery slipped pottery and construction ceramics (roof
tiles) in the filling of Wall Cl indicates that the latter was built at least after the beginning of phase II
and more likely only much later. The level of destruction of the remains of this wall (at a depth of 0.6
- 0.7 m. from the modern ground surface) also contains sherds of slipped and plain pottery, the latter
both hand and wheel-made.
C. Several late antique coins 18 and pottery fragments found at different places in the sector
above the 0.60 m. level and out of the pits cannot be associated with any definite cultural layer or with
the construction of the walls. Their presence should rather be explained with the proximity of the late
antique and medieval necropolis in Sector "North" and the church building evidently related with the
necropolis situated only some 10 m. to the east of the north-eastern squares of Sector "Centre".


The designation Sector "South" was given to a plot within the outline of the roadbed south of
the brook studied in 1998 and 1999. The excavated area is some 120 m. long from northwest to south-
east and about 20 m. wide. Many ritual pits and caches of ceramic and other finds which seem con-
nected with the pits were uncovered in this sector, and also zones of ordinary cultural strata, although
the role of the latter in the spatial organization of the settlement or sanctuary structures remains inde-
terminate. The only architectural structures except some ambiguous traces of much destroyed founda-
tions of quarried stones that could have belonged to eventual buildings, were two shallow founded
parallel stone walls of uncertain purpose.1' There were also no apparent traces from constructions of
transient materials.
The existing cultural layers were repeatedly disturbed by the intrusion of ritual pits or the later
construction of semi-subterranean medieval dwellings. Nonetheless the examination of the strati-
graphic sequence even if limited to the few plots with recognizable layers is justified in view of the
importance and diversity of the archaeological finds.
The difficulties in identifying the archaeological structures and layers in the sector are addi-
tionally complicated by the uneven configuration of the ancient terrain (whether natural or affected by
human activity). This conclusion is based on the fact that the virgin soil, of gravel and sand alluvium,
was reached at widely varying depths between 0.80 and 2.40 m. within a comparatively small area,
and the cultural layers above reaching the comparatively level modern ground surface were respec-
tively of very different thickness. It is evident that the archaeological studies in this sector require a
specialised geomorphologic investigation which would specify the characteristics of the ancient terrain
and the role of the brook in its formation.
Although the stratigraphic sequence in this sector does not display a substantial sedimentary
layer comparable to the deep sandy alluvium settled in the walled rooms of Sondage 4, traces of
floods could be perceived here as well. Apart from the vestiges of destructions which will be discussed
below, the presence of some finds in sterile, non cultural levels of the southern part of the sector is an
indication of the probable "transportation" of artefacts which are thus deprived of stratigraphic envi-
ronment (for example, a fragment from the mouth of a black-figure column krater,20 Fig. 47/3).
The mentioned unfavourable circumstances impose a careful approach to the reconstruction of
the cultural strata in the sector and the necessary stipulation that new observations might in the future
impose some corrections of the inferences in this text.

Cf. Chapter VI.3 infra.
Cf. Chapter IV.2 infra.
Cf. Morgan 1999: fle 51, PI. 6.

IV. 1. Stratigraphic Observations on the 1st Millenium B.C. Settlement (A. Bozkova)

A. The existence of cultural layers has been established only in the northern and central parts
of Sector "South" (Fig. 48) m a restricted area comprising the squares with indexes 39-T-n-m, -r, -x,
and -w. Some pits were dug into the existing deposits in this area but the pit field is concentrated
mainly in the southern part of the sector where the terrain is sterile.
B. Except for a specific plot in Squares w-4, w-8 and partly in x-1 to x-8, the cultural layers
have a mean thickness varying between 0.8 and 1.1 m. measured from the modern ground surface.
They overlay the gravel-and-sandy virgin soil of the basic terrain and mix partially with it with their
bottom levels.
C. The lower levels, reaching up to 0.60 - 0.40 m. under the modern ground surface, contain
exclusively early pottery typical of the Archaic Period (or, the second phase of the Early Iron Age) and
abound in amorphous accumulations of stones sometimes mixed with bits of charcoal and large lumps
of plaster. Two main ceramic complexes characterize this layer:
• local hand-made pottery with decoration typical of the second phase of the Early Iron Age;""
• wheel-made pottery of red colour with geometric decoration in purple or red-brown paint.2"
This pottery is represented in Sector "South" with an impressive number of fragments
and considerably exceeds in quantity and typological variety the materials of Phase I in
Sondage 4. The number of fine pottery fragments covered with red or red-brown paint,
applied either densely or "a la brosse", is also considerable. The same levels yielded a
fragment from an East Greek bird bowl24 (Fig. 47/1) and some metal finds such as a
bronze spiral finger ring.25
D. A second, later level of cultural deposits could be perceived immediately above the earliest
one, similarly to the situation Sondage 4, there were no susceptible distinctions in the character of the
soil and the two layers could be differentiated only on the ground of the pertaining pottery types. This
second layer is clearer at depths above 0.6-0.4 m. (excluding the west to east row of Squares w-4 -x-3
and parts of the adjacent squares, where all the cultural strata lie deeper); it is characterised by the
change in the pottery groups: the reduction or completely disappearance of the hand-made decorated
pottery of the Early Iron Age and the emergence of monochrome wheel-made slipped or burnished
wares. However this second pottery complex continues to display a considerable presence of frag-
ments with geometric decoration; the latter seems to have outlived at Koprivlen the local decorated
pottery of the Early Iron Age by at least a few decades. This second cultural layer reaches the base of
the modern humus in Sector "South".
E. With the exception of a specific plot comprising the Squares w-4, w-8 and some of those
situated to the east of them, from x-1 to x-8, no other cultural strata were discernible above those
mentioned above. There were no definite traces of occupation which could be associated with Phase
III in Sondage 4, a period in which the establishment of the pit complex in Sector "South" had al-
ready begun; the spatial arrangement of the latter seems to have had no logical or chronological rela-
tion with the described cultural layers.
Certain finds such as ceramic fragments, coins and fibulae found around the pits are dated in
the Hellenistic Age, the Roman Imperial Period or Late Antiquity.26 There seems to have been no
permanent occupation of the area during these periods, and all the observations suggest that the Helle-
nistic and Late Antique settlement structures had been displaced from the site of the earlier settlement.
The quantity of Hellenistic coins discovered by the local inhabitants in the course of agricultural work
in the fields and vineyards situated to the west of Sector "South" and of the Late Bronze Age settle-
ment prompts a possible location for the Hellenistic site.
F. A specific Stratigraphic situation is revealed on the central part of Sector "South", in a plot
including from west to east the four successive Squares w-4, x-1, x-2 and x-3. The first peculiarity
here is that the cultural layers reach a considerably deeper level, down to 2.40 m. in Square w-4 (Fig.
49). The general impression is that of some kind of linear depression in the ancient terrain resembling

Cf. Chapter IV.3 infra.
Cf. Chapter IV.4.1 Mia.
Cf. Chapter IV.4.2 Mia.
Cf. Boardman 1967: 132-134.
Cf. Chapter IY.4.10 Mia.
Cf. Chapter VI.2 and Chapter VI.3 infra.

KOPRIVLEN I csIV. The Thracian Settlement

a natural or artificial ditch (or channel?). In all four squares the layers of the Archaic Period (or the
second phase of the Early Iron Age) were thick and extraordinarily rich in pottery fragments and metal
finds, including bronze fibulae and a double pin.27 The inhumation burial of a child dated after the
scanty grave goods to the Early Iron Age, the only one of its kind so far, was uncovered at a depth of
1.60 m. in Square w-4.28 For stratigraphic and chronological reasons, a confident relation between this
burial and the bronze ornaments found in the higher layers of the same square within a synchronous
pottery context cannot be established with any degree of certainty.29
A cultural layer related from phase II has also been attested on this plot, and also at absolute
levels considerably lower in comparison with those in the remaining squares, reaches depths of 0.90-
1.10 m. A wall fragment from an archaic amphora with a trade mark (possibly from Chios), discov-
ered in the balk between Squares w-4 and x-5 at a depth of 0.70-0.90 m30 (Fig. 47/2), could be as-
cribed to this layer. Its integrity however has been greatly disturbed by the medieval structures dug
into its upper levels. The occurrence of some asynchronous finds in Square w-4, including a fibula of
Middle La Tene type, could be explained by the presence of a pit from the Hellenistic Period dug into
\hephase II layer.31
G. Some better preserved traces of late occupation were noted in the upper levels of the men-
tioned small and deeper plot comprising the four adjacent Squares w-4, x-1, x-2 and x-3. An expres-
sive cultural layer of the Middle Ages was traced here to a depth of 0.60-0.70 m. It consisted of spe-
cific grey soil and contained a thick aggregation of dispersed stones, probably remnants from the de-
struction of two parallel shallow walls of obscure function flanking the long sides of the deeper plot.32
This layer produced mainly finds of medieval date: pottery typical of the 9th-1 l lh c. (Fig. 50), and some
iron objects including an arrowhead, knives, etc. The rational explanation of this layer with its con-
centrated finds is hindered by the lack of any traces of habitation, e. g. remains of houses or other
buildings. It seems plausible to suggest the existence of structures of perishable material, occupying a
small area between the remains of the two parallel walls, which must have been better preserved and
were probably integrated in the construction of some type of partly dugout dwellings. In spite of their
definite presence, these medieval remains are isolated and should be regarded as a peripheral element
of the settlement unit related to the necropolis in Sector "North", whose nucleus has not been yet lo-
The investigations in the excavated area of Sector "South" have not permitted a satisfactory
reconstruction of the processes accompanying the accumulation of the cultural layers and the forma-
tion of the pertaining archaeological structures. Nevertheless, the field observations and the collected
material have considerable importance for the establishment of a more complete and reliable working
conception of the cultural characteristics of the site.

Cf. Chapter IV.4.10 infra.
Cf. Chapter 1V.2 and Chapter IV.4.10 infra.
Ci. Chapter IV.4.1 infra.
Cf. Lambrino 1938: 107-108, Fig. 71-72; Dupont 1982: 197.
CL Chapter [V.4.11 infra.
Cf. Chapter VI.2 infra.


Peter Delev
(University of Sofia "St Kliment Ohridski")
Various archaeological structures, belonging to the Thracian settlement near the village of Ko-
privlen, were discovered both in the course of the limited initial trial excavations in 1995-1997 and
during the extensive excavations along the bed of road 11-19 in 1998 and 1999. Some of these are dis-
cussed bellow separately (for example the Thracian ritual pits in Sector "South" and Sector
"North").1 The present chapter is dedicated mainly to the remains of stone architecture in the exca-
vated sectors of the site. The movable architectural finds (construction ceramics) will also be pre-
sented separately.2


The archaeological exploration of the Thracian settlement site near the village of Koprivlen
started in 1995 during the implementation of a field survey project in the Middle Mesta region fi-
nanced by the then National Fund for Scientific Investigation. After the location of the site and its pre-
liminary assessment through the collection of surface finds, several small trial pits were excavated at
different places in order to establish the character of the cultural accumulations. One of the trial pits,
measuring initially 5 x 5 m. and marked as Sondage 4, ran from the very surface layer into the remains
of a stone building (a layer of broken tiles and solid stone walls). In the process of excavating in depth,
the consecutive cultural strata which were revealed produced very interesting archaeological materials
attesting the considerable age of the remains and the singular character of the whole site. The evident
scientific importance of these first finds in Sondage 4 induced the continuation and expansion of the
trial excavations here in the next seasons, despite the limited funding provided under the project. An-
other five rectangular pits on a 5 by 5 metres grid (Squares 2-6) were excavated in 1966 next to the
initial one; balks were preserved between the squares. Square 6 which was excavated only partially in
1996 was finished in the next season (1997); then in 1998 another pit of the same dimensions (Square
7) was excavated and several shallow trial trenches were laid south of the main sector (Squares 8-10).
Sondage 4 is situated west of the roadbed, by the northern bank of the brook which runs
through the site and at the eastern edge of a terrace probably shaped when the surrounding modern
vineyards were planted. The terrace is separated from the lower plot crossed by the road with a sup-
porting dry wall built of stones originating in all likelihood from the destroyed ancient stone walls.
The excavated section consisting of seven archaeological squares (5 x 5 m) had a total area of 175
square meters including the balks between the pits; it had an irregular overall shape including a large
rectangle of 10 x 15 m. with Squares 6, 1 and 3 from north to south in the western row and Squares 4,
2 and 5 in the eastern row, while Square /protruded to the east in the row of Squares 1 and 2.
A strange and complicated system of stone walls was revealed by the excavations (Fig. 57;
53). The careful analysis of their orientation, structure and depth led to the conclusion that they repre-
sent the remains of two succeeding buildings with similar solid stone construction. The walls of both
buildings are very much alike, about 0.60 - 0.65 m. thick, made of medium-sized roughly hewn or un-
hewn stones without mortar (probably cemented with clay), with comparatively regular faces of rather
uneven horizontal rows on both sides. Fragments of roof tiles have been noted at several places among
the stones of the walls. The peculiar and complicated configuration of the uncovered stone walls in the

Cf. Chapter IV.3 infra.
-Cf. Chapter IV.4.9 infra.

IV. 2. The Archaeological Structures (P. Delev)

excavated area is due to the overlapping of the foundations of the two buildings which are of different
ground plan and orientation, although the deviation is of only 1-2 degrees.

IV.2.1.1. Building A
The earlier Building A includes, within the excavated area, two rooms: the south-eastern
Room Al and the north-western Room A2, outlined by four perpendicular walls, which have been
given numbers from 1 to 4 (Fig. 52; 53). The building developed possibly in the west if Walls 8 and 9
in Square 3 are a part of it. In the north-west the building extends beyond the boundaries of the exca-
vated area.

A length of 9.15 m. of this wall running from northwest to southeast (147°) has been revealed
in Squares 1 and 3 (Fig. 53; 54/1-4). The north-western end remains out of the excavated area. The
uncovered part of the wall has up to six successive rows of stones and a preserved height of up to 1.15
m. Its south-eastern end is constructively linked with the transverse Wall 2 which has considerably
deeper foundations. A length of about 0.90 m. of Wall 1 next to this juncture is also founded at a
greater depth than the remaining part, having two additional rows of stones underneath in the south-
western face (about 0.45 m. additional depth, total preserved height of the wall at this place 1.55 m).
The north-eastern (inner) face of Wall 1 goes down even deeper near the corner, and is founded at al-
most the same depth as Wall 2. At 1.40 m. from its south-eastern end, Wall 1 is crossed by the trans-
verse Wall 5 which belongs to the later Building B, the link is not constructional and Wall 5 rides over
Wall 1 which is deeper and was partially destroyed at the place of the juncture. At 5.10 m. from the
south-eastern end, Wall 1 forms a T-shaped constructional juncture with Wall 3. The intersection of
Wall 1 with the transverse Wall 7 which belongs to the later Building B near the north-western corner
of Square 1 remains out of the excavated area.

This wall has been revealed for a length of 9.05 m. in Squares 5, 2 and 7 (Fig. 53; 55/1-4; 56;
57). It is orientated from south-west to north-east (57°) and forms the south-eastern facade of the cer-
tain part of Building A. The two ends of Wall 2 meet at right angle respectively Walls 1 and 4. This is
the most substantial of the preserved walls of Building A; situated on the side of the nearby brook and
at the lowest surface level of the terrain, it is founded considerably deeper than the remaining walls of
the building (the difference in depth varies between 0.70 and 0.90 m. in relation to the base of differ-
ent sections of Walls 1, 3, and 4) and reaches a solid layer of virgin soil under all the cultural strata. Its
north-eastern end is somewhat shallower, perhaps due to an insignificant acclivity of the ancient ter-
rain. At some places, ten to eleven rows of stones have been preserved in the faces of Wall 2 reaching
a maximum height of 1.80 m.
The lower part of the wall is somewhat thicker, the difference being produced by a shelf-like
horizontal retreat on the inner (north-western) face, 3 to 5 cm. wide and situated at about 0.70 m. from
the upper end of the preserved part; it is not clear whether this should be interpreted as an original
constructive element of the wall or as a trace of reconstruction during a second building phase. The
examination of the construction of the wall shows that the part under this retreat is made of bigger and
more carefully positioned stones, arranged in more regular rows.

This wall was uncovered in Squares 1 and 4 and is linked at both ends to Walls 1 and 4, serv-
ing as an internal separation between the two rooms of Building A (Fig. 53; 58/1-2). Its full length is
7.74 m., but parts of this remain under the preserved balks between Squares 1 and 2 and Squares 2
and 4. The wall is parallel to Wall 2 (direction from south-west to north-east 57°) and has 6 to 7 pre-
served rows of stones or a height of up to 0.80 m.

KOPRIVLEN 1 eg IV. The Thracian Settlement

Wall 4
Wall 4 is the outer north-eastern wall of building A, closing on this side its two Rooms Al and
A2 (Fig. 53; 59/1-3). A part of this wall was uncovered in Squares 7 and 4, while its north-western
end remains out of the limits of the excavated area. It is parallel to Wall 1 (direction north-west to
south-east 147°). The south-eastern end of the wall joins with Wall 2 to form the eastern corner of the
building, and at 5.10 m. from this end it meets at right angle the separating Wall 3, both junctions be-
ing constructive ones. The preserved part of Wall 4 consists of 4 to 5 rows of stones with a height of
up to 1.00-1.10 m. and is conspicuously inclined outwards (to the north-east)

Room Al
This room has been completely uncovered in the excavated area,3 parts of it lie in Squares 1, 2,
3, 4, 5 and 7 (Fig. 53). It is outlined by the south-eastern parts of Walls 1 and 4 and the transverse
Walls 2 and 3. The internal dimensions measure 5.11 m. from north-west to south-east and 7.74 m.
from north-east to south-west. The preserved height of the walls does not present any traces of en-
trances, which suggests their interpretation as the substruction of the building, laid from a floor-level
situated relatively high, near the modern surface.
Traces of probable floor levels marked by amassed stones and pottery, flattened clay surfaces
and traces of fire were noted during the excavations at several locations inside the perimeter of Room
Al, mainly in its eastern half, at a depth of some 0.80 m. or more under the modern surface and below
the alluvial layer4 Although situated somewhat higher than the lower end of the walls of Room Al,
these should be interpreted rather as the traces of earlier buildings in a stratigraphical layer which had
already been closed by the overlaying alluvial stratum when the foundations of Building A were dug
down into it.

Room A2
The room has been excavated only partially in Squares 1, 4 and 6. It is limited to the south-
west, south-east and north-east by Walls 1, 3 and 4 and its north-western part extends out of the exca-
vated area (Fig. 52; 53). The internal dimensions are 7.74 m. from the north-east to south-west, and
over 7 m. from the north-west to the south-east (the distance from Wall 3 to the north-western corner
of Square 6). Along the uncovered parts of the walls there are no traces of any entrance.
In the northern part of Square 6, uncertain traces of a clay floor were noted under the alluvial
layer, somewhat above the level of those in Room A1 mentioned above (possibly because of the incli-
nation of the ancient surface). These should be referred in much the same way to a phase preceding the
erection of the stone building. Better preserved remains of another floor were uncovered on a larger
area in the northern half of Square 6 directly above the alluvial layer. This floor consists of a thick
layer (1-2 cm.) of clay plaster with a polished upper surface, lying over a foundation layer of pebbles;
traces of straw are visible in the clay. At places the surface of the clay plaster is uneven, perhaps be-
cause the sandy alluvial layer gave way under it. Fallen stones were found on this floor level. Destruc-
tion remains probably associated with it and featuring fragments of tiles and traces of fire were estab-
lished also in the eastern corner of Room A2 in Square 4. The probability that this higher floor be-
longed to Building A seems quite feasible, although the archaeological observations were not conclu-
sive in this respect.

Stratigraphic and Chronological Observations

All the walls of Building A reach with their bottom parts below the lower end of the alluvial
layer, some going much deeper probably due to declivity of the ancient terrain. This fact however does
not resolve the problem of identifying the archaeological layer corresponding to the stone building. As
already mentioned, the traces of floors found at several locations under the alluvial layer should rather
be attributed to a period of habitation preceding the erection of Building A and probably featuring

Part of the inner area remained unexcavated under the preserved balks between Squares 1 and 2,
Squares 3 and 5, and Squares 2 and 4.
About the stratigraphy of Sondage 4 cf. Chapter IV. 1.1. supra (the alluvial layer = D).

IV. 2. The Archaeological Structures (P. Delev)

building constructions of wood and clay. This period would correspond to the earlier stage of phase II
preceding the catastrophic inundation which brought in the alluvial layer.5 The idea that the preserved
height of the stone walls represents mainly the foundations of the building laid below its floor level is
further corroborated by the mentioned lack of visible traces of any entrances.
Although situated below the upper end of the preserved height of the walls (roughly at the
level of the third layer of stones from top down) the remains of a floor situated above the alluvial layer-
in Square 6 which are out of the perimeter of Building B can be attributed with a good degree of
probability to Building A. This attribution would permit to refer the erection and functioning of the
building to the chronological horizon of the later stage of phase II following immediately the flood
and the deposition of the alluvial layer.6 Then the date suggested on stratigraphic evidence for the
catastrophic inundation - near the end of the 6th or at the very outset of the 5th c. B.C. - should also
give the approximate date of the erection of the stone building. It is possible also to surmise that the
appearance of solid stone architecture at the site could have been occasioned and induced by the dis-
astrous results of the flood which would have destroyed all previous less stable building constructions.
The length of the period of time in which Building A was in use cannot be established with
certainty at this stage. The reasons for its demolition (remains of which might be identified in the de-
bris covering the floor level in Square 6) and for the subsequent erection of the later Building B in its
place remain also enigmatic. The considerable constructional (and probably also architectural) simi-
larity between the two stone buildings and the chronological homogeneity of the stratigraphic layer
presumably connected with their consecutive erection and existence 7 suggest a relatively small inter-
val of time separating the erection of the two buildings and consequently a more or less short period
for the existence of Building A.

IV.2.1.2. Building B
Walls 5, 6 and 7 belong to the later Building B which has only one partly explored large room
(Room Bl) within the excavated area of Sondage 4 (Fig. 53}. These walls display a small deviation in
comparison to the orientation of the walls of the older Building A, their foundations are somewhat
shallower, and their faces are of less regular structure. The fact that the ground plans of the two build-
ings are completely different suggests that the earlier one had been totally destroyed to ground level
before the construction of the later one started, probably because of apprehensions that the remains of
the older walls might be unstable. 8

A length often meters of Wall 5 was uncovered by the excavations in Squares 2 and 3; it runs
in a south-west to north-east direction at 58° (Fig. 53; 60/7-3). The north-eastern end is constructively
linked with the perpendicular Wall 6, forming the eastern corner of Building B, the south-western end
reaches Wall 9 near the western profile of Square 3 and probably goes over it out of the investigated
area. Almost in the middle of its excavated part, Wall 5 crosses Wall 1, visibly sitting on its lower
rows and cutting through the destroyed upper ones. Up to six rows of stones are preserved in the faces
of Wall 5 which attains a height of 0.90 m.
Traces of pink lime plaster containing particles of ground bricks are preserved on the south-
eastern face of the wall in Square 3.

Wall 6
Wall 6 (Fig. 53; 61) is perpendicular to Wall 5; it runs from north-west to south-east at 148°
and forms the north-eastern face of Building B. The wall is revealed in Squares 2 and 6 and is 7.80 m.
long. Its two ends are constructively linked with Walls 5 and 7, and roughly in the middle it crosses
Wall 3 of the older building (the intersection remains under the preserved balk between Squares 2 and

Ibid., E.
For example Wall 4 which is strongly inclined outwards.

KOPR1VLEN 1 egIV. The Thracian Settlement

4). Wall 6 has a preserved height of up to 0.90 m. at its north-western end and up to 0.65 m. at the
south-eastern one.

Wall 7
Wall 7 (Fig. 53; 62) closes the building from the north-west and has been laid open only in
Square 6. It is parallel to Wall 5; its north-eastern end meets Wall 6 at the northern corner of the
building, while its south-western part remains hidden under the preserved balk between Squares 1 and
6 and presumably continues over Wall 1 and beyond the limits of the excavated area of Sondage 4.
The exposed part of the wall has a length of 4.20 m. along its outer face and up to six successive rows
of stones or a preserved height of 0.90 m.

Room Bl
Walls 5, 6 and 7 delimitate a big room, the western end of which remains out of the excavated
area of Sondage 4 (Fig. 53). The width of the room between Walls 5 and 7 is 6.60 m. and its length at
least 9.35 m. (or more, if Wall 9 does not close it from the south-west). The preserved corners in the
north and east show that Walls 5, 6 and 7 were all outer, fagade walls of the building, which seems to
have consisted (at least in its eastern part revealed by the excavations) of this only single room, if of
considerable dimensions. There are no traces of an entrance along the preserved parts of the walls.

Stratigraphic and Chronological Observations

The foundations of the walls of Building B are laid somewhat less deeply in comparison with
those of the older Building A, and at some places they do not reach the lower end of the alluvial layer,
so there is no doubt that the erection of this building took place only after the catastrophic flood. It can
also be inferred that the floor level of Building B was situated above the upper ends of the preserved
parts of the walls of Building A, which would place it near the modern surface level. This is confirmed
also by the remains of a fallen-in tile roof uncovered in situ in Square 1, inside the perimeter of the
building. In such case (and if the identification suggested above of the remains of a floor above the
alluvial layer in Square 6 as belonging to Building A is accepted) there would have been a certain
difference in the floor levels of the two buildings. Unfortunately the heterogeneous character of the
finds in this layer which is quite near the modern surface does not permit the establishment of a defi-
nite chronology for Building B. Among the chronologically diagnostic finds from the layer underlying
the tiles in Square 1 a sizeable fragment of high quality Attic Red-Figure pottery of probable 5' c.
date should be mentioned.

IV.2.1.3. Other Walls and Structures in Sondage 4

Some of the stone structures brought to light by the excavations in Sondage 4 cannot be re-
ferred with certainty to any of the two consecutive buildings. These are grouped mainly in the south-
western corner of the excavated area (Square 3 and a small extension to the south of it, which was ex-
cavated in 1996).

Watt 8
This wall lies in Square 3; its orientation is from south-west to north-east (57°) and in the
ground plan it represents a direct continuation of Wall 2 to the south-west. The uncovered length of
the wall measures 3.40 m. However, in sharp contrast to the deeply laid Wall 2, the foundations of this
wall are very shallow and only two rows of stones are preserved, starting just above the alluvial layer.
The juncture of this wall to the corner of Walls 1 and 2 shows a clear articulation. If it belongs to
Building A (as suggested by the ground plan configuration), Wall 8 could have been part of a later
reconstruction. The shallow foundations (even in comparison with those of the walls of Building B)
placed on the unstable alluvial layer show that as an element of the structure of the building the wall
was not intended to carry weight.

' Cf. Chapter IV. 1.1 and Fig. 45 supra.

IV. 2. The Archaeological Structures (P. Delev)

The south-western end of Wall 8 breaks unevenly close to the semi-circular construction which
is described bellow. It is possible that the short piece of a wall discovered to the south-west of Wall 9
in the extension of Square 3 represents a continuation of Wall 8; it goes out of the excavated area fol-
lowing the direction of Wall 8 and has the same shallow foundations laid over the sandy alluvium and
only two preserved rows of stones, unlike the deeper Wall 9.

Wall 9 and the Semicircular Construction in the SW Corner of Square 3

In the south-western corner of square 3 and in a small extension (2.50 x 1.50 m) excavated to
the south of it in order to clear the situation, a short part of a wall orientated from north-west to south-
east (and roughly parallel to Walls I, 6 and 4) was uncovered (Fig. 53; 64). The part of this wall to the
south-east of the joint with Wall 5 measures 2.50 m. and finishes with a relatively regular end pro-
truding in front of the line of Wall 8', the probable extension of Wall 8 to the south-west of Wall 9 is
retracted with about 0.40 m. from this projecting end. Watt 9 is deeply founded and has seven pre-
served rows of stones reaching a height of about 1.10m. The foundations are deeper with one row of
stones (about 0.20 m) from those of the semi-circular construction and of Wall 5 and reach the hard
brown soil under the alluvial layer. The juncture of Walls 5 and 9 is not clear; the shallower founda-
tions of Wall 5 reach down only to the boundary between the hard soil and the alluvium. If Wall 9
belongs to Building B, its extension to the north-west would have closed Room Bl from the south-
west; this assumption however leaves unexplained the reasons for the construction of the actually visi-
ble part of the wall which projects way out south of the contours of the room. The possibility that Wall
9 could have been related to the older Building A cannot be ruled out completely at this stage; in such
a case, Walls 9 and / would delimitate between them a large room elongated in a north-west to south-
east direction, which might have remained initially open in the south-eastern facade before the con-
struction of the shallow and evidently late Wall 8 closed it.
A semicircular stone platform is appended to the north-eastern face of Wall 9 (Fig. 53; 65). It
is made of stones and clay and its structure resembles that of the walls; the length along Wall 9 meas-
ures 1.60 m. and the outward projection 0.85 m. The platform has a flat upper surface of compactly
arranged stones at a level corresponding approximately to the upper end of the sand alluvium; the
walls are vertical, with four rows of stones and a preserved height of about 0.60 m., reaching down-
wards to the lower end of the sand alluvium. "Wall 8 breaks off with an uneven end near this construc-
tion, but the two miss each other in height, the lower row of stones of the wall being placed approxi-
mately at the level of the upper surface of the platform. The purpose and function of this peculiar
structure remain unclear.

The Amassment of Stones along Wall 4

A 2 m. wide strip along the outer (north-eastern) face of Wall 4 is covered, right under the sur-
face layer, with compactly arranged stones of small to medium size (Fig. 53). Among the stones there
is some hard soil; quite a few fragments of pithoi, of other ceramic vessels and of tiles have also been
found. The thickness of this stone layer reaches 0.60 m; it is situated above a layer of dark-brown
earth. No traces of the sand alluvium established in all other sectors of Sondage 4 have been found in
this area. The stones are scattered in evident disorder, they are not compactly arranged and might rep-
resent remains of the destroyed upper part of Wall 5, the preserved lower part of which is ostensibly
inclined outwards, suggesting a possible destruction of the superstructure in this direction. The stone
covered strip in Square 7 however continues in a south-eastern direction beyond the eastern corner of
Building A, suggesting rather some kind of constructional or functional destination of the whole
structure - possibly for drainage or for consolidation of the terrain supporting the wall. It could also be
suggested that this stone structure (like similar structures in other locations on the site) might be of
quite later (medieval) date and not related directly with the two stone buildings in Sondage 4.

Pits dug into the cultural strata were discovered at several places in Sondage 4. There were at
least two pits in the northern part of Square 3, in the interior of Room Bl. The eastern one of these has
destroyed partially the south-western face of Wall 1 near its intersection with Wall 5. A relatively

KOPRIVLEN 1 egIV. The Thracian Settlement

large pit (about 1.50 m. in diameter) was visible in the profile of the northern balk of Square 2, inside
Room Al. Fragments of pottery, ceramic tiles and stones were discovered in the pits. Their function
and dating are difficult to establish, but they obviously post-date the flood which brought in the sandy
layer, being partially dug into it.

IV.2.1.4. Problems of Interpretation

The considerable dimensions of the rooms belonging to the two consecutive buildings and the
imposing character of their construction (strong stone walls, roof covered with tiles) are of peculiar
interest. Buildings A and B were both uncovered only partially within the excavated area of Sondage
4, and this prevents any more explicit observations about their ground plans at this stage. They belong
to an early period of Thracian history still inadequately investigated archaeologically, and any inter-
pretation of their character and function will depend on the eventual future establishment of their
complete plans, on the evolution of our notions on the more general issues of the character of the site
at Koprivlen as a whole, and especially on the accumulation of more specific knowledge about its ar-



IV.2.2.1. Wall Cl
The preserved part of this wall in Squares 39-O-XXI-t-16, 39-O-XXH-p-9, p-5 and p-1 is
about 20 m. long (Fig. 66; 68). Its south-western part in Squares t-16 andp-9 is almost straight for a
length of 9.20 m. and is orientated from south-west to north-east (30°). At the southern end of Square
p-5 the wall turns sharply northwards and its next part runs for another 10 m. in Squares p-5 andp-I
from south to north (357°). The northern part of Wall Cl ends at the border of Squares k-13 and p-1 in
an area with substantial scattered ruins; its continuation in a northern direction has obviously been de-
stroyed to the level of the foundations.
The wall was uncovered at a depth of between 0.55-0.65 and 0.90-1.10 m. from the modern
level and the lowest row of stones lay over an older cultural stratum which contained at many loca-
tions (including such very close to or directly under the foundations) scattered architectural rains (dis-
placed stones, fragments of tiles, etc.).
The wall is 1.05-1.20 m. thick and has mostly one or two, only at some places up to three pre-
served rows of big stones in its faces. Some of these outer stones reach a length of 0.70 m., while the
interior of the wall between the two faces is filled with smaller stones. No mortar has been used and
the stones seem to have been soldered with clay. Fragments of tiles were observed in several instances
among the stones. The preserved part of the wall is pierced at regular intervals by large and deep pits
dug out for the planting of vines in modern time.
As a result of the numerous disturbances the cultural strata are muddled, and the layer corre-
sponding to the level of the preserved part of the wall contained intermixed archaeological materials
from different periods. It should be noticed that an important part of these date from the early stages of
occupation of the settlement; fragments of vessels were more common to the west of the wall, and
fragments of tiles to the east of it.
A wall of similar structure and width joins with Wall Cl at the south-western end of its exca-
vated part in Square 39-O-XXI-1-16. The initial eastern direction of this wall turns to south in Square
39-O-XXII-p-13, describing a wide curve; its continuation in a southern direction in the neighbouring
Square u-1 has not however been preserved with the exception of scattered stones from the destroyed
parts. Before the excavation of the continuation of Wall Cl to the south-west, it is difficult to deter-
mine whether these remains are part of a round construction appended to the outer side of Wall Cl (a
tower with probable internal diameter of about 3 m. and external diameter of about 5.40 m?) or the
beginning of a separate wall, extending southwards towards (and presumably across) the brook, the
curved end of which is linked at this place with wall Cl. The junction between the two wails is not
very clear, but seems to present a constructional articulation (the end of the curved wall being added to

IV. 2. The Archaeological Structures (P. Delev)

the existing south-eastern face of Wall Cl). The stones in the outer face of the excavated part of this
curved wall (turned to the north and east) are conspicuously bigger than those in the inner face (turned
to the south and west), the latter are preserved in up to four uneven rows.

IV.2.2.2. Wall C2
This wall was explored in Squares 39-O-XXII-p-9, p-5, p-1, k-13, k-9 and 39-O-XXI-o-S
where a preserved length of 27 m. was followed (Fig. 67; 68). An almost straight 10 m. long section
was uncovered along the eastern end of Squares p-5 and/7-9 and in the neighbouring Squares p-6 and
p-11', it is orientated from south to north with a slight eastward curve in the middle and runs almost
parallel to the thicker and deeper Wall Cl which is situated at a distance of between 0.55 and 0.88 m.
to the west of it. The destroyed continuation of Watt C2 to the south has left some scattered remains in
Square p-9 and under the balk p-9/p-13; these outline a gradual curve of the wall in a south-western
direction. To the north of the described section, near the border between Squares p-1 and k-13, the
wall gradually turns to north-north-west, and then at the border between Squares k-13 and k-9 it
makes a sharper turn to the north-west, crossing the last mentioned square along its diagonal and
reaching its north-western corner. Only a small part of the wall is preserved in Square 0-8, running
along the same line. There were no remains of the wall preserved in Square o-3 which follows in the
same direction.
Both faces of Wall C2 are made of medium-sized unhewn stones in roughly levelled rows, and
between the faces there is a filling of smaller stones soldered with clay. Fragments of tiles appear at
some places in the walls. Pieces of mortar were found among the scattered debris of the wall, mostly
of white colour, in some cases mixed with some ground tile; these should however be attributed rather
to later (late Antique?) pits connected with the nearby necropolis and its basilica than with the wall
itself which bears no preserved traces of mortar or plastering.
The thickness of the wall is between 0.60 and 0.70 m. From one to four rows of stones are pre-
served in the face masonry at different places, the maximum preserved height reaching about 0.60 m.
At several places the preserved part of the wall is seriously damaged by the deep pits dug for the
planting of vines, and its two ends are completely destroyed. Scattered remains of the destroyed parts
of the wall are abundant in the neighbouring squares, especially in front of the eastern face of the wall;
fragments of tiles are frequently associated with the dispersed stones. The foundations of the wall
reach a depth of 0.60-0.80 m. from the modern ground surface, approximately at the level of the upper
end of the preserved part of the larger Wall Cl, which is obviously older and had presumably been
destroyed before the erecting of the narrower and higher Wall C2.

IV.2.2.3. Problems of Interpretation

The two parallel walls Cl and C2 are obviously of different date and correspond to two sepa-
rate stages of occupation of one and the same architectural complex. The general outline of their
ground plan draws a broad curve open to the west and surrounding the remains of the stone building
partially excavated in Sondage 4. It may be suggested that this was a kind of fence or protective wall
surrounding an area with uncertain dimensions around this building or possibly around a larger part of
the settlement.
Unfortunately the cultural strata in Sector "Centre" are very much disturbed and intermingled
as a result of the numerous and deep intrusions, and the remains cannot be dated with any certainty;
consequently no direct comparison and synchronization with the building phases of the two successive
buildings in Sondage 4 is possible. The fact that numerous finds similar to those from the cultural
strata in Sondage 4 were found, together with later materials, in the context of the stone walls in Sec-
tor "Centre", makes the general synchronization of Walls Cl and C2 with the two buildings in Sond-
age 4 which they obviously surround at least highly probable. The scattered stones and tile fragments
in the strata underlying the deeper and older Wall Cl however suggest that the two surrounding walls
in Sector "Centre" must be relatively later than the most ancient construction stages in Sondage 4
dated above about the end of the 6 th or the start of the 5th c. B.C.

KOPR1VLEN1 os IV. The Thracian Settlement



IV.2.3.1. Wall 57 and Underlying Structures

Wall SI crosses obliquely the future roadbed in a west to east direction (93°) passing through
Squares 39-T-lI-r-15, r-16, s-13 and s-14/15, and in the eastern half of the sector stepping with its
southern face into the next row of squares to the south - 39-T-II-x-l, x-2, x-3. The excavated section
is 19m. long and is made of medium-sized quarried and river stones, soldered with clay and roughly
arranged in rows in the two faces. Only one to two rows of stones are preserved making up a height of
up to 0.30-0.35 m. The wall is about 0.70 m. thick (at places from 0.50 to 0.75 m); its lower end is laid
at a depth of about 0.40 - 0.50 m. from the modern ground surface. At the eastern end of Squares s-14
and x-2, a length of 2.30 m. of the wall is totally destroyed by a modern cable. To the east of the de-
stroyed part, in the north-western end of Square x-3, the continuation of the wall has a slightly
changed east-south-eastern orientation (102°).
On the northern side of the wall, a row of mainly small stones is visible in some of the squares
under the lowest row of stones, at a depth of 0.50-0.60 m. and protruding some 0.10-0.20 m. in front
of the face of the wall above. It remains unclear whether this is some kind of substructure to the main
wall, a coating of the trench for its foundations, or part of a destroyed older wall.
A part of an older wall with deeper foundations going in the same direction under Wall SI was
uncovered in Squares s-13/x-l and s-14/x-2 (Fig. 70). This wall is built at least partially of considera-
bly larger stone blocks (one of these measures 0.70 x 0.30 x 0.30 m) and is displaced to the south of
the shallower Wall SI. At the place where both walls are cut by the trench of the modern cable (in
Squares s-14 and x-2) the lower one is 0.70 m. wide and its southern face has a preserved height of
about 0.50 m. (from 0.25 to 0.75 m. depth from the modern ground surface); the northern face is pre-
served only from 0.50 to 0.70 m. below the ground level, being partly destroyed to a depth of 0.50 m.
by the later wall which oversteps a width of about 0.30 m. from the northern half of the earlier one. To
the west the ground plan divergence of the southern faces of the two walls decreases gradually and
they come together in the north-western corner of Square x-1, but the lower wall never appears on the
other (northern) side, no traces of the older wall having been preserved in the squares situated to the
west: w-4, r-16 and r-15. A small part of the northern face of this wall was revealed at a depth of 0.50-
0.70 m. in the central part of Square s-14 after removing the stones of the later wall; it was visibly in-
clined to the north.
Concentrations of scattered stones, sometimes with a linear structure, were found in most of
the neighbouring squares (for example in r-15, r-16, x-1) at a greater depth from the ground surface
(between 0.90 and 1.40 m); in all probability these represent remains of older and deeper walls going
in the direction of Wall SI.

IV.2.3.2. Wall 52
The wall was uncovered in the southern parts of Squares 39-T-II-W-4, x-1, x-2 and partially in
the northern end of the adjoining Squares 39-T-II-W-8, x-5 and x-6 which form the next row to the
south; no traces of it were found in the easternmost Squares x-3 and x-7. The excavated section of the
wall had a preserved length of 12.5 m. Wall S2 is situated at a distance of 4.30 m. to the south of Wall
SI and is almost parallel to it (direction west to east with an insignificant deviation towards west by
north and east by south). It is made of medium-size quarried and river stones without mortar and is
about 0.70-0.80 m. wide. The foundations of the wall are laid at a depth of 0.60 m. from the modern
ground level; up to three rows of stones are preserved in the faces at some places, reaching a maxi-
mum height of 0.45 m.
In the south-eastern corner of Square w-4 a badly preserved part of a wall (?) breaks off from
Wall S2 in a north-western direction (282°); the part excavated in the square is 4 m. long. Wall S2 it-
self is better preserved in this square; it follows its main direction and has well expressed faces to the
north and south. At the western balk of the square the distance between the two walls reaches 0.40 m.

IV. 2. The Archaeological Structures (P. Delev)

Several big stones in a relatively regular row were uncovered at a depth of 0.70-1.00 m. under
Wall S2 in Squares x-2 and x-6, perhaps marking a destroyed older and deeper wall with the same
general direction.

IV.2.3.3. The Grave in Square 39-T-II-W-4

A grave with an inhumation burial from the Early Iron Age was excavated at a depth of 1.60
m. from the modern ground surface in Square w-4, between Walls SI and S2 (Fig. 72; 73). The grave
pit was rather shallow and of rectangular form, orientated from west to east and dug into a layer of
sandy alluvium. The bottom of the pit is lined at the burial level with stones placed mainly in the cor-
ners; it is 1.40 m. long and 0.60 m. wide. The pit was filled up with earth of dark brown to black col-
our mixed with small pieces of coal, very small fragments of pots (some of them with traces of fire),
shells and small bones. A layer with similar earth and materials existed in the whole square at a depth
of 0.80 - 1.20 m; the grave pit was probably dug from this level into the alluvium under it. The materi-
als in this layer are mixed, but those from the Archaic Period are prevailing (including a bronze fibula
of "Thessalian" type and a bronze double pin 10 ).
A child was buried in the grave; the corpse was laid in a supine position with the head pointing
west. The bones of the skeleton which has a preserved length of 1.03 m. were found in anatomic order
and well preserved." The head was placed on a small stone and was half-turned towards the right
shoulder, which was raised higher than the left one. The left hand was stretching along the body and
the wrist was under the pelvis. The right hand, the bones of which were collected before the complete
skeleton was uncovered, was placed on the abdomen. The legs were stretched with the feet turned to
the left. Bronze bracelets were found around both wrists, the left eye was covered with a round bronze
button, and on the right one - with a conical bronze applique.

IV.2.3.4. Chronology and Interpretation

Stratigraphic and Chronological Observations

The exact date of the burial in Square w-4 cannot be established with certainty, for none of the
associated materials have a precise chronological position. The two bronze appliques and the pair of
bronze bracelets'1 suggest for the grave a general date in the Early Iron Age, more likely in its later
stage (8th to 6th c. B.C.).
Walls SI and S2 rise much more complicated chronological questions. They are relatively
shallow, situated in strata with interrupted stratigraphy which contain mixed materials from different
periods. The walls themselves show a long period of existence implied by the numerous traces of re-
pairs and reconstructions. Many fragments of medieval pottery were found in a surface layer of grey-
black earth in the area between the two walls among scattered stones from their destroyed superstruc-
ture.14 The materials prevailing in the cultural strata of the neighbouring squares are much older and
cover a long period comprised between the second and the last quarter of the 1st millennium B.C. In
Square S-13 Wall SI overlaps partially a deep pit (Pit S I ) , but unfortunately no finds susceptible of
precise dating were found in the latter. The several coins found in the context of the walls unfortu-
nately also do not provide any ground for reliable dating. A silver Thasian hemihecte of the "Sile-
nos/krater" type (V7.7.6), dating from the end of the 5th c. B.C., was found at a depth of 0.60 m. in the
balk between Squares x-1 and x-5 under the lifted stones of Watt S2. A bronze coin of Alexander III
(V7.2.7.27) was found at a higher level (0.40 m) in Square x-5 near the same wall. A Late Hellenistic
bronze coin of the type "River God/trident" (VI.2.4.1) was found in the balk between Squares x-2 and
x-6 at a depth of 0.60 m. in a layer with scattered stones under the level of the lower end of Wall 52; a
similar coin (Vl.2.4.9) was found however above the preserved remains of Wall SI in the balk be-

Cf. Chapter IV. and Chapter IV.4.10.2 (Fig. 184/2, 5) infra.
" The skeleton belonged to a child of about 12 years of age according to the anthropological analysis of
the team of Prof. Yordanov, whom I would like to thank once more for their competent and valuable support.
Cf. Chapter IV. and Chapter 1V.4.10.6 infra and Colour Plates, Fig. 305.
About the dating of the bronze ornaments from the grave Cf. Chapter IV.4J0.3, 6 infra.
Cf. Chapter IVAA (G) supra.

KOPRIVLEN 1 egIV. The Thracian Settlement

tween Squares s-12 and x-1. It seems for the moment most prudent to date the walls in Sector
"South" tentatively to the third quarter of the 1 st millennium B.C.

Problems of Interpretation
Walls SI and S2 outline a linear structure which, according to the geophysical prospecting,
runs westward for another 30 m. beyond the excavated area of Sector "South" without changing its
due west direction.15 It remains however unclear whether the double wall arrangement existed from
the very start and intentionally, or the two walls (with their reconstructions) represent successive
stages of a single-line structure which was displaced with time to a nearby parallel location. In the
former case, the most probable interpretation would derive from to the presumed existence of a canal,
in which water diverted from the brook running through the site was running between the two walls;
the configuration of the alluvial and cultural strata in the sector suggests further the possibility that an
old natural bed of the brook itself could have been used for that purpose. The alternative interpretation
would emphasize the eventual protective or dividing function of the walls, which could be associated
with the evident differences of the archaeological situation on their two sides already mentioned
above16 - cultural strata with traces of occupation, remains of constructions and habitation levels to the
north in the whole sector between the walls and the brook, and a field of ritual pits without real cul-
tural layers to the south of the walls.

' About the results of the geophysical prospecting cf. Chapter VII. 1 infra.
' Cf. Chapter IV. I supra.


Darina Vulcheva
(Institute of Archaeology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences)
The recent developments in the field of archaeology include a remarkable comeback of inter-
est for the study of cult places and practices within a wide territorial and chronological range. Among
the various expressions of this trend in Bulgarian archaeology, probably the most singular is attested in
the investigation of the so-called pit sanctuaries. The constantly increasing number of such sites has
provoked the appearance of several comprehensive publications which summarize the observations on
ritual pits from the whole territory of the country or from separate regions." Due to the absence of a
clearly defined terminology of ritual practices and structures in Thracian archaeology, different names
have been used in these publications to designate the phenomenon: pit sanctuaries, cult places, pit
fields, etc. The recent archaeological explorations have revealed that these sanctuaries were of more
complex organization and often comprised elements other than the pits: altars of other types, caches,
and ditches. However, before a number of undecided problems concerning the emergence, chronology
and organization of such sites and the character and significance of the relevant ritual activities are
further investigated and eventually finally settled, the application of similar designations for the sacri-
ficial complexes representing or including ritual pit fields seems fully justified, at least as a working
definition. Apart from being the most recurrent elements, in some cases multiplied hundreds of times,
the pits are the final outcome of the ritual practices performed in such sanctuaries. Van Leuven as-
cribes the pit sanctuaries to the natural ones and accentuates on their popularity in the Pre-Hellenic
Aegean world/ 1 In Bulgaria, the appearance of pit sanctuaries is presumably placed in the Late Neo-
lithic period.4 Their greatest expansion was in the T' millennium B.C., which is also the period of ex-
istence of the sanctuary by Koprivlen.
The rescue excavations at Koprivlen have brought to light two sacrificial zones, both consist-
ing mainly of ritual pits. They are situated to the east and southeast of the contemporary Thracian set-
tlement, at a distance of about 200 m. from each other, on the northern and southern banks of the
brook respectively. Despite the spatial distinction, some differences in the organization, and the
chronological incongruity of the two zones, they are both essentially equivalent and represent the
evolution of the sanctuary in time and space. For the sake of convenience and clarity, the plots in
Sector "North" and Sector "South" will be designated respectively as northern and southern sacrifi-
cial complexes (or zones), and the relevant structures will be marked with the letters N and 5. (Chap-
ter I, Fig. 2).


The rescue character of the excavations confined the area available for excavation within the
strict limits of the roadbed, and this restricted the possibility to establish the genuine boundaries, sur-
face area and layout of the sanctuary. For this reason all the observations and reflections set forth here
are conjectural and could be corrected by further studies.

Domaradzki 1994:71.
Georgieva 1991; Thcodossiev 1998: 17-19; Tonkova, Savalinov (in press).
VanLeuven 1981: 13.
Raduncheva J999.

IV. 3. The Pit Sanctuary (D. Vulcheva)

IV.3.1.1. Northern Sacrificial Complex

The northern sacrificial complex occupies gently sloping ground exposed to the east and
southeast on a low foothill elevation to the north of the brook. It has been registered for a length of 65
m. in a north to south direction and for 25 m. in an east to west direction, this being the maximum
width of the roadbed (Fig. 74). Beside the pits it comprises a ditch, five pithoi and a cache.
A deep and wide ditch dug into the sterile sand crosses the northern zone in an approximately
north to south direction probably marking the sacrificial territory or a certain part of it. It represents a
wide arch open to the east. Only three pits were found to the west of it (NO, N14, N17), which are also
the earliest known structures in the sanctuary. Their general characteristics are identical and their spe-
cific arrangements distinguish them from the rest of the pits in both sacrificial complexes. The re-
maining 20 pits situated to the north of the brook are distributed in three groups immediately to the
east of the ditch. The southernmost group includes four pits (N15, N16, NJ8 and N19). The central
group is situated at about 20 m. north/north-west from the southern one and comprises seven pits (Nl,
N2, N3, N4, N5a-b, N6, NT) and two pithoi. The northern group lies at a distance of 7-8 m. from the
central one. It is rather amorphous and includes two separate concentrations of pits (N8-N10, then
more to the north Nl J-NJ2, N20-N22, and as a link between the two several pithoi). Despite the rela-
tively un'irorm formal features (Table 2), \.\vt M«iys,is, of the contents and organization reveals some
gradation in the importance of the structures within each group. A single pit (N13) remains out of the
outlined groups, being situated halfway between the southern and central ones.

IV.3.1.2. Southern Sacrificial Complex

The southern sacrificial complex occupies a part of the lower southern bank of the brook. The
terrain here is rather flat, slightly descending to the east-southeast. Remains from the sanctuary have
been attested on an area of about 90 m. length in a north to south direction and over the entire width of
the roadbed (ca. 20 m. from east to west). In the excavated part the complex is constituted of elements
analogous to those documented in the northern sacrificial complex: 87 pits, 8 pithoi, 3 caches. The
plan of the excavated structures does not prompt any definite conclusions concerning the general lay-
out of the sacrificial complex in Sector "South" (Fig. 75). It could be suggested that the northern and
southernmost structures discovered in the studied area actually mark the boundaries of the complex to
the north and south. The trial trenches out of this area did not establish any further ritual structures. On
the other hand, the numerous surface finds collected to the west and east of the roadbed provide good
grounds to suggest that the sanctuary occupied a notably larger area in both directions. The structures
in the studied area seem disorderly scattered at different distances one from the other. There are zones
of various concentrations of pits. They are most numerous on the plot including Squares 39-T-II-x/y
and 39-T-VII-d/e (Chapter IV. 1, Fig. 48; Fig. 75), and inside this there are several discernible con-
centrations. The pits in Squares 39-T-II-S-13,14,15, 39-T-H-W-4, 8, 39-T-H-x-l, 2, 3, 5, 6-14 form a
clearly distinct group, situated at a certain distance from the pits to the south. To the north of this
group there was a stretch some 17-18 m. long in which the only archaeological structures were pithoi.
It is possible that this place was avoided because of the gravel terrain which made the shaping of pits
rather difficult. To the north of this area, the northernmost elements of the complex - pits, pithoi and
caches, were situated relatively far from each other. A more loose location of the structures is ob-
served also at the southern end of the complex. The majority of pits were dug into an alluvial layer of
sandy structure. Only a few isolated pits were found in stony (gravel) plots at the southern and north-
ern ends of the complex (Fig. 76/2). Unlike the pits, the pithoi were embedded mainly in gravel layers
(Fig. 92).

KOPRIVLEN1 of IV. The Thracian Settlement



IV.3.2.1. Pits

IV. Shapes, Dimensions and Structure

The pits at Koprivlen present mainly the familiar repertoire of shapes attested elsewhere in
Thrace." Disregarding the variants in the form of specific details, the pits can be classified under the
following main shapes: cylindrical, beehive shape,6 inverted truncated cone, barrel-shape (to biconi-
cal), pyriform, inverted bell shape, hemispherical and asymmetrical (of irregular shape) (Table 2;
Figs. 76-80).
A shape that occurs rather seldom7 is that of the quadrangular shallow pits, attested only by
three structures (NO, N14, NIT) in the northern complex which produced the earliest finds in all the
sanctuary. They are elongated from northwest to southeast and have almost identical dimensions: ca.
2.2 by 1.7 m., with a depth of about 0.4 m. (Fig. 79).
The numerous pits in the southern sacrificial complex present a greater variety of sizes and
shapes, but this is probably due to the quantitative proportion between the structures studied in the two
complexes. The opening diameters vary between 0.5 and 2.00 m., the most common ones being about
1.0/1.3 m. The depth of the pits varies from 0.3/0.4 m. in the case of shallow depressions like S4, 57,
or 577, to 1.5 m. and more (Table 2). The deepest pit 547 reaches 2.1 m. No relation was established
between the shape and size of the pits. The various shapes are more or less equally presented and the
quantitative prevalence of certain shapes might be due to circumstances associated with the restraints
in the study and not to real preferences. The different shapes however cannot be regarded as the result
of casual choice or practical considerations. The question of the conception of the pits and the inten-
tional search for special shapes as a ritual element has already been commented in the relevant publi-
cations.8 At the sanctuary by Koprivlen, the pyriform pits with narrow cylindrical neck and widening
spheroid lower part are attested in variants resembling the shape of deep vessels (Fig. 77), while the
pits classified as inverted bell shapes remind of shallow bowls or cups (?) (Fig. 78). The idea of an
intentional imitation of some shapes of vessels is supported by the frequent recurrence of these two
shapes (16 pyriform and 9 bell-shaped pits). The barrel-shaped and irregular pits are the most rare.
Double pits have been registered in both sacrificial zones (Table 2; Fig. 80; 81).
The structure of the pits in the two complexes displays no substantial differences. The pit
bottoms are flat or slightly concave and do not display any relation to the general shape of the pit with
the exception of the hemispherical ones where the concave bottom is integrated in the overall silhou-
ette. Stones of different shapes and dimensions were often used in the construction of the pits. In some
cases they covered (57, S3, 55, 5/4, 524, 562, 573) or outlined (SI8, 555) the bottom, in others they
formed arcs around the pits (577, 520, 525, 567). Quite often the openings of the pits were "sealed"
with stones. Sometimes these covered the whole opening (N5a-b, NJ2, 59, 579, 549, 562, S63, 566,
S68, S71, 574, 575, 577, S80) (Fig. 82), but more frequently only its northern and western part (N3,
N4, N13, 528, 534, S38, 564, 587), and rarely single boulders and (in the northern zone) slabs were
used to mark the final stage of filling of the pit (7V2, N6, N16). There are also a few examples of the
sealing of pits with pieces of clay plastering (572, 578). In single cases, traces of the full or partial
plastering of the walls (N6, 563, 566) or of the bottoms (5/3, 548, 578) of pits with clay could be ob-
The particular details in the shaping of some elements of the pits add to the variegated picture
of their constructions. In this sense three pits are of special interest (552, 564, 577) for the large pieces

Georgieva 1991: 1.
The variants with straight walls actually have the shape of a truncated cone.
Quadrangular pits are known from the sanctuary at Babyak. I am deeply grateful to Dr. M. Tonkova
for the information.
Georgieva 1991:6.

IV. 3. The Pit Sanctuary (D. Vulcheva)

of pithoi used in their construction. The north-west wall of pit 552 was formed with the aid of a verti-
cally placed part of a pithos representing about 2/3 of the vessel's height and including its bottom re-
paired by a lead clamp. Pit S64 was initially identified as an ordinary structure of cylindrical shape,
but from a depth of 0.5 m. it was established that its lower third had been fashioned by the installation
of the lower part and bottom of a pithos, prior to the execution of the pit rituals. The lower end of a
pithos with thick cylindrical foot in normal; position was placed at the bottom of pit S71. The filling of
these three pits contained many wall and mouth fragments of pithoi, some of them presumably be-
longing to the vessels used in their construction. It should be noted however that fragments from the
mouths of two different pithoi were found in pit S64,9 which implies that at least in some cases frag-
ments of pithoi were also deposited as offerings. The peculiarities in the construction of these several
pits warrant the formulation the term "pit-pithos" for the cases when parts of pithoi were used as con-
structional elements and not merely as ritual offerings. There are other examples where smaller parts
of pithos walls were placed vertically next to the walls of the pits suggesting the idea of their con-
structional function (N4, 577, S78, 579).

IV. Modes of Filling and Contents of the Pits (Table 2)

IV. Quadrangular Pits in Sector "North"

These three pits (NO, N14, N17) are identical in their general characteristics and specific dis-
posal which distinguish them from all the other structures in the sanctuary. Their clay-plastered walls
were burnt to a red-brown colour by strong fire which in all three cases left in the interior of the pits
thick layers of charcoals and ashes with traces of burnt organic matter. Before the fire went out, nu-
merous fragments of pottery were placed (or rather thrown) into the pyre. These were mostly from
wheelmade vessels with painted geometric decoration dated to the 7th c. B.C.,10 accompanied by a few
sherds of handmade local pottery, by many pieces of clay wall or floor plastering, of clay hearths and
baking dishes, and by several animal bones. The vessels seem to have been crushed on purpose for the
ritual purposes, but not inside the pits fragments of one and the same vessel are often found scattered
at different places and levels in the filling. The archaeobotanical analysis has attested the presence of
charred grains and wood." Only pit NO yielded human bones belonging to a newly born baby which
were smoked but not burned,12 having probably been placed in the smouldering live coals. The situa-
tion demonstrates the early practice of human sacrifices in the sanctuary.13 At the end of the ritual,
stones were laid around the pits and on the remains of the pyres, covering them only partially. The ar-
chaeological materials of the mentioned categories are extremely abundant in the three pits, being
practically heaped in some places. These three pits remind of the sacrificial platforms, known from
some Archaic Greek necropolises,14 and suggest some association with chthonic rites.

IV. Round Pits

The stratigraphy of the fill in most pits does not allow a reconstruction of the process of its ac-
cumulation. Some isolated examples reveal distinct layers in the fill (Fig. 76/5; 77/1-4; 78/2, 4) and
suggest a definite sequence of the ritual proceedings.
The filling of pit 57S (Fig. 77/2), for instance, began with the plastering of the bottom with
clay. Then followed a layer about 0.2 m. thick consisting of grey-black soil; a bronze coin was found
in this, just above the clay foundation,15 together with a few pottery sherds, some of which with a West
Slope decoration. The presence of wheat grains was established in this layer, comparatively poor in

Cf. Chapter IV.4.6 infra.
Cf. Chapter IV.4.2 infra.
Cf. Chapter VII. infra.
The human skeletal remains have been analysed by Prof. Y. Yordanov, Dr. B. Dimitrova and V.
Rousseva to whom I am most thankful for the information.
Human sacrifices of the same period have been attested in ritual pits at Polski Gradets, Maritsa Iztok
Power Complex region. I am indebted for the information to Dr. R. Georgieva and Dr. K. Nikov.
Kurtz, Boardman 1971: 75.
Cf. Chapter VI.2.1.32 infra.

KOPRIVLEN1 asIV. The Thracian Settlement

archaeological finds. It was covered with a thin layer of yellow clayish earth containing ceramic
sherds. The concentration of pottery was considerably greater in the following layer, about 0.6 - 0.7
m. thick and consisting of loose black soil mixed with charcoal, bones and pieces of clay plastering; at
different places and levels this layer contained accumulations of ceramic fragments from amphorae,
bowls, oinochoai, a grey kantharos, etc. At this depth, the northern and southern walls of the pit were
fashioned with vertically placed pithos fragments. On top was a closing sequence of fired clay, almost
sterile brown soil mixed with charcoals, and again pieces of fired clay.
A layer of grey-black soil containing much charcoal and 0.10 to 0.15 m. thick covered the
convex bottom of pit S73. A large part of a skyphos coated with silvery slip was found at the southern
end.16 The overlying stratum of light brown virgin earth was of equal thickness. The fill above this was
homogenous, consisting of grey-black soil mixed with charcoal and containing the offerings (Fig.
77/4). The concentration of the latter visibly decreased in depth. Large pithos fragments were placed
against the western and southern walls of the pit.
From the bottom to a height of 0.75 - 0.80 m., pit 572 was filled with loose grey-black soil
containing most of the offerings (Fig. 77/5). This was sealed by a thin layer of charcoal, mixed with
and overlapped by stones and big lumps of clay. Above came a stratum about 0.20 - 0.30 m. thick and
similar to the lowest one, but containing less finds. At the level of the transition from the "body" to the
"neck" of the pit, a second sealing was effected by a large stone covered with a compact mass of clay
shaped like a spheroid segment.
In most cases however the fill of the pits was relatively homogeneous in structure or its differ-
ent elements did not present any regularity or recurring pattern. Even the above described rather ex-
pressive structures actually do not allow to establish any regularity in the modes of their filling, re-
spectively in the sequence of the ritual actions.
The contents of the fill did not present any radical differences between the pits in the two
complexes. The pits in the southern complex presented the same categories of artefacts as those of the
northern one, but in a rather more diversified repertoire.

The pits were filled mainly with brown to grey-black fertile soil clearly distinguished in most
cases from the alluvial sandy terrain into which they have been dug. The character of the fill must
have been completely intentional as the sand and gravel dug out in the course of shaping the pits were
rarely present in the filling even as admixtures and never represented the main contents.

The presence of stones was registered in most of the studied pits. Unhewn, river or broken
stones of varying sizes were used (Fig. 82}. Stones were attested at different places in the structures.
Sometimes they played a constructional role and sometimes were simply placed in the filling. In the
interior of the pits, both single stones and grouped assemblages occur. At different levels in the filling
of some pits there were circled of stones or single stones along the periphery. In other cases, whole
layers of stones separated parts of the fill, for example in pit SI3 where at one third of the height from
the bottom such a layer of stones covered the stratum with highest concentration of cultural materials.
In pit S14 a layer of stones was observed about the middle, between two thin layers of charcoal, while
the soil strata beneath and above were identical. In the fill of the pits, the fertile soil and the stones
most likely symbolising the rock, embodied the immanent divine essence of the producing Earth.17
A peculiarity of the southern sacrificial complex in comparison with the northern one is the
presence of hewn stones - round slabs, probably used as pithos lids. Two such slabs were discovered
in pit S18 and single ones in pit 567 and pit S71. They were placed in the pits most likely because of
their utilitarian function associated with the pithoi and sustaining the symbolism of the latter.

CL Chapter JV.4.2 infra.
Goodison 1989: 158.

IV. 3. The Pit Sanctuary (D. Vulcheva)

The absence of charcoal in the pits is rather exceptional (Table 2). The pieces of charcoal are
of different size, but mainly small, mixed into the soil. Usually they occur scattered in different quan-
tities in the soil, either evenly distributed or concentrated at some spots in the fill. Sometimes their
presence increases from the bottom up (SI, 5/9, S33, S61, 562, 565), at others in the opposite direction
(55, 547, 567). Layers of charcoal were found in some of the pits (5/4, S48, 572) (Fig. 77/5). The
burning of fire inside the pits however has not been attested. Probably in some cases smouldering live
coals were transported (548). Most likely, the pieces of charred wood came into the pits with the re-
mains of ritual fires which had burnt somewhere outside, and not as offerings.18

Ashes occur in the pits rather rarely and in small quantities; sometimes they are whitish and
oily in appearance, and probably associated with the burning of organic matter. In the cases of pits 56
(the one half) and 554 the filling began with the deposition of thin layers of ash over the bottom. In pit
548 a similar layer was registered about the middle. In this particular case it might have originated
from the burning of live coals at the spot.

Pieces of Fired Clay, of Wall and Floor Plastering, and of Clay Fireplaces
Different lumps and pieces of fired clay paste turned into brick are found in various contexts.
In one or another of the mentioned forms, pieces of fired clay occur practically in almost all the inves-
tigated pits, but the three types appear together in the quadrangular pits and only exceptionally in very
few of the round pits (S48, S63). The quantity and size of the pieces varies greatly. The degree of fir-
ing also varies, especially in the amorphous pieces of clay. The pieces definitely identified as wall
plastering by the imprints of rods and poles are not numerous. The pits yield mostly surface plastering
of uncertain origin. The high degree of firing suggests that at least some of the pieces come from fire-
places, but fired floors and walls are also feasible. The presence of pieces from fireplaces is definitely
attested by fragments of clay borders, usually thick pieces of coarse clay with roughly smoothed sur-
face and hemispherical or segmental cross section. Border fragments from portable fireplaces were
found in the southern sacrificial complex; these were made more carefully from cleaner clay and have
well smoothed surface, sometimes even decorated.

Clay Vessels
Ceramic vessels and fragments are present, in different quantity and typological variety, in the
fill of all pits (Table 2). 19 The entire range of pottery categories known from the settlement at Kopriv-
len is represented in the pits, if mainly by sherds; in most cases fragments of vessels from different
chronological periods are found mixed together in one and the same pit. Their stratigraphic positions
do not imply the successive filling of the pits over long periods of time, but rather the employment of
old materials in the rituals performed in later time.
Intact vessels were rarely laid in the pits (S43, S73, 578), usually handmade bowls shaped as
truncated cones. The chronological limits of the use of these vessels are very wide. The bowl from pit
S43 with a graphite covering on both the inside and outside (Colour Plates, Fig. 300) is probably not
later than the end of the Early Iron Age.20 Pit 574 yielded a small vessel with convex bottom and op-
posite holes beneath the plain rim. Objects of similar shape and size were used in the process of metal-
working as crucibles for melting and pouring metals. The example from pit 574 has parallels in the
Early Hellenistic settlement at the "Water Pumping Station" in Sboryanovo Reserve."
A small number of pits contained fragments of broken vessels scattered at different levels in
the filling which permitted more or less full restoration. It could be assumed that in such cases the ves-
sels were smashed just before being placed in the pits. Among the most eloquent examples are pit N6
Cf. Chapter VI1.2.2.3 infra.
Pottery sherds were absent only from pit S84. It is however probable that a part of this construction
was destroyed.
Cf. Chapter IV. infra.
Stoianov, Mihailova 1996: 62, Fig. 4.

KOPRIVLEN1 asIV. The Thracian Settlement

which contained the scattered parts of an oinochoe, a skyphos and a small bowl all dated to the middle
or second half of the 4th c. B.C., and pit S78 which yielded fragments from which a small handmade
bowl, a deep handmade bowl with handles and two (out of more) table amphorae of the Early Helle-
nistic Period could be restored.22 Almost whole vessels were also found in other pits: small bowls in
pits SI3 and S67, a slipped kantharos in pit 572 and a slipped skyphos in pit S73,23 a local grey kantha-
ros in pit S61.
Usually, the fragments of already broken vessels were deposited in the pits. The concentration
of pottery sherds varies, but in most cases it is rather high. In principle the concentration of pottery is
lower in the shallow pits (under 0.5/0.6 m. deep), but there are exceptions. No interdependence could
be established between the shape of the pits and the quantity of pottery sherds they contained. There
were also no clear regularities in the distribution of the ceramic finds in the fill. In most cases the con-
centration of ceramic fragments increased from the bottom up and frequently reached its peak about
the middle zone of the structures. However a number of examples illustrate the opposite trend, the
number of fragments decreasing from the bottom up to the mouth. Some pits, namely those containing
few pottery sherds, do not reveal discernible fluctuations in the quantity of the fragments which seem
evenly scattered in the fill.
The pottery fragments found practically in all pits are both handmade and wheelmade, most
frequently of local origin but sometimes also imported. The fragments from handmade vessels are
definitely prevailing in number, with the exception of a few specific levels or plots in some of the pits.
The handmade and wheelmade fragments are in relatively equal quantities in pits S7 and S42. The
most abundant fragments are "unspecified" pieces of walls of different sickness or of other parts of
vessels not informative enough to permit the identification of the shapes; in other cases identifiable
shapes have a prolonged life which prevents the accurate dating of the finds, especially in view of the
occurrence of materials of different date in the same pits. In spite of these difficulties, some chrono-
logical and functional groups could be distinguished among the bulk of the handmade pottery. The
fragments decorated with techniques and ornaments typical of the Early Iron Age for example are eas-
ily recognisable.24 Such fragments are quite rare in the pits; their presence has been established defi-
nitely in complexes reliably dated in the Hellenistic Period (pits 570, S47, 569, 577).
The pithoi are clearly distinguishable and very well represented, mainly with fragments of
walls, but also with bottom and mouth pieces. They pertain to different chronological periods, from
Archaic to Late Hellenistic. 25 The practice of their appearance as pit offerings is familiar from other
sanctuaries in Thrace, but nowhere else with such intensity. As has already been mentioned above,
apart as offerings parts of pithoi were sometimes used as constructional elements. The pithos walls
placed vertically next to the walls of the pits (575, 577, 575, 579) remind the pits-pithoi and may rep-
resent a transitional form.
Fragments from strainers were found in a number of pits (562, 564, 574). Despite their indis-
putable utilitarian function, 26 those vessels seem to have played some role in the ritual practices, which
is attested also at other places in Thrace.27
Many sherds found in the pits are identified as parts of clay cookers (pyraunoi) (Fig. 82/2).
Similar vessels are known from Aegean Thrace and the Vardar valley,28 but almost none had been
published from the interior of Thrace so far.29
The fragments of locally made plain vessels are abundant in the wheelmade class, but exam-
ples of imported categories occur regularly too. The impressive presence of sherds from Archaic vases
with geometric ornamentation in most of the structures (reaching dozens of fragments in some pits)
should be mentioned in first place. They occur even in structures dated by coins or black-glazed pot-
tery to the Hellenistic Period. The fragments of monochrome slip-coated vessels are also among the
usual finds, the skyphoi from the late 6th c. B.C. and the Classical Period being markedly well repre-
Cf. Chapter 1V.4.5 infra.
Cf. Chapter IVA.3 infra.
Cf. Chapter IV.4.1infta.
Cf. Chapter IV.4.6 infra.
Cf. Chapter JV.4.7 infra.
Kisiov 1998: 33, Fig. 4-5.
Hochstetter 1984: Text, 155-173, Abb. 41; Tafeln 222,2; 229, 2; Chrysostomou 1993, Fig. 3.
A similar vessel was found in a ritual pit at Pistiros. Cf. Domaradzki 1996: 31, Fig. 1.17

IV. 3. The Pit Sanctuary (D. Vulcheva)

sented. Many of the pits yield fragments of black-glazed ware, mainly of small size and rather unin-
formative. The identified fragments belong mainly to drinking vessels.31 A few pits contained parts of
figure-painted vases. A mouth and neck fragment of beige clay coated with a golden slip and deco-
rated with floral patterns in matt red paint were found in pits S43 and S88 (Fig. 83/1). Pieces of a red-
figure vessel were discovered in pit S5 (Fig. 77).
There is no simple and evident answer to the question about the role of the pottery vases and
fragments in the rituals performed in the pits. As receptacles symbolising profusion they could have
been associated with the ritual feasts. The ritual breaking of ceramic vessels has been attested in many
ritual systems. In the ancient notions, the vessels made out of clay (earth) and containing food em-
bodied the image of the fertile Earth.32 The breaking of vessels for ritual purposes is acknowledged as
identical to their killing, i.e. sacrificing. It remains however impossible to determine whether the sepa-
rate pottery fragments deposited in the pits come from vessels broken during the execution of the ritu-
als or from already broken ones. It seems possible to assume that the vessels datable to the time of the
ritual could have been destroyed after being used in banquets, libations or other ritual activities pre-
ceding the deposition of the offerings in the pits; but the fragments from much earlier vessels should
have been broken long ago and had probably been kept in the mentioned caches. Their use in the
rituals could have been associated with the ancestor cult.

Loom-Weights and Spindle-Whorls

The loom-weights are regular offerings in the pits, where all their typological diversity is well
represented. More frequently they are found intact but fragments occur too. Their number varies from
1 or 2 through 5 or 7 to 13 (pit 569). Spindle-whorls are extremely rare.34 The presence of such sub-
jects in the pits emphasizes the female principle and according to some interpretations they could be
associated with the beginning of a new life cycle.35

Cult Objects
This category is represented mainly by parts of cult tables. Almost whole (completely restor-
able) examples were discovered in pits N8 and 575. Some pits contained several pieces of one and the
same table or fragments from different tables.
The most singular cult objects were found in pit 569 - a clay anthropomorphous idol and a
number of small clay objects of irregular ellipsoid shape presumably attributed some magic or apo-
tropaic meaning. A stone anthropomorphous amulet was found in pit S88.'

Metal Finds

The ornaments discovered are mostly made of bronze: fibulae, a torque, a finger ring, a pen-
dant. Their dating covers a long period, from the end of the 7th to the 2nd - 1 st c. B.C.37 The early ex-
amples (fibulae from pits 55, 56 and 560)38 were found in pits containing later material as well. The
remaining ornaments are more or less synchronous to the time of the filling of the pits as dated most
reliably by the coins found. The only intact and well-preserved ornament is the fibula from pit S6.
The remaining finds are fragmented. The fibula from pit 55 and the torque from 539 were deliberately
distorted, most probably in connection with the ritual.

Cf. Chapter IV.43 infra.
Cf. Chapter IV.4.4 infra.
Antonova 1986: 54, 61-62.
Cf. Chapter IV.3.2.3 infra.
Cf. Chapter IV.4.8 infra.
Georgieva J999a: 138-139.
Cf. ChapterIV.4.12 mfa.
Cf. Chapter 1V.4.10 and Chapter IV.4.11 infra.
Cf. Chapter IV.4.10.1, 3, 4 infra.
Cf. Chapter IV.4.10.4 infra.

KOPRIVLEN1 Of IV. The Thracian Settlement

The coins are not among the most common pit offerings, but they have already been attested
at other pit sanctuaries.40 At Koprivlen, 14 pits (1 in the northern and 13 in the southern complex)
yielded coins (Table 2). Some of the pits even contained three (SI8 and 574) or two coins (570, 524
and 547). The most interesting coins were found in pit S18 - three rare silver strikes of small denomi-
nation dating from the end of 6th or the beginning of 5th c. B.C.41 The remaining coins are of bronze
and present the coinages of Phillip II, Alexander the Great, Cassander, Demetrius Poliorcetes, Antigo-
nus Gonatas, Phillip V and Perseus, and the cities of Amphipolis, Thessalonica, and Pella.42 The coins
occur at different depths in the pits, but most often in the lower fill layers and frequently close to the
periphery. Though the tradition to offer coins in the pits seems a very old one, it certainly evolved and
flourished in the Hellenistic Period.

Arms and Implements

A few of the pits contained some metal arms or implements: an iron bush-scythe (pit 579),
iron knives (pit 559, 555), an iron chisel43 and a socketed axe of bronze (pit 557, Colour Plates, Fig.
289). Similar finds are known from the cult centre at Bagachina and from pit complexes at Gle-
dachevo in the "Maritsa Iztok" Power Station area.44

Artefacts of Iron, Bronze and Lead

This group comprises mainly small, amorphous pieces from unidentifiable bronze artefacts,
bronze tacks and iron nails. Lead clamps for the repair of clay vessels occur recurrently in the pits,
sometimes preserved on the fragments they joined, and sometimes pieces from other lead objects. The
finds in this group are among the most frequent in the pits. Three iron artefacts representing bent
bands have remained unidentified; two of them were found in pit 563 and the third in S43.

Fifteen pits have yielded pieces of slag. The existing publications on ritual pits excavated
elsewhere don't mention the presence of slag in the fill.
The large number of metal finds in the pits and especially the slag pieces which are not com-
mon in other pit sanctuaries should probably be associated with the fundamental economic signifi-
cance of metal extraction and metal working for the Middle Mesta region in general and for the set-
tlement at Koprivlen in particular.

Human Bones
A human scull, two vertebrae and some other broken postcranial skeleton bones were discov-
ered at the junction of the two parts of the double pit N5a-b, under a large stone slab. Some ribs, ver-
lebrae and long bones were also uncovered under a stone accumulation at the western and south-
western periphery of the deeper part of the pit (N5b). The osseous remains belong to three separate
mature individuals. Pit N3 contained fragments of a child's jaw. This few instances contribute to the
overall picture of ritual human sacrifice at pit sanctuaries in Thrace.46

Animal bones
The animal bones are among the usual finds in cult contexts; they are abundant in the ritual
pits at Koprivlen. The osteological remains are mainly from domesticated species, although bones of

Balabanov 1985: 231-232; Bonev, Alexandrov 1996: 50.
Cf. Chapter VI. I Mm.
Cf. Chapter VI.2 infra.
Cf. Chapter IV.4.12 infra.
Bonev, Alexandrov 1996: 49-50; Tonkova, Savatinov (in press).
For the information about the human bones I am deeply indebted to Prof. Y. Yordanov, Dr. B. Dimi-
trova and V. Rousseva.
Tonkova, Savatinov (in press).


IV. 3. The Pit Sanctuary (D. Vulcheva)

wild animals occur too. Most of the bones have undergone culinary processing. Some of the bones
bear traces of intentional ritual actions like burning and cutting.47 Almost intact skeletons in full anat-
omic order attest the sacrifices of dogs (NI5, S32, S88), of a pig (S88) and of a horse.
The skeletal remains of two dogs were found in pit N15 (Fig. 84; 85). One of the skeletons lay
in almost complete anatomic order with head to north in the western part of the pit. The second skele-
ton, placed in the south-eastern part of the pit, gave the impression of having been dismembered in
advance as the fore limbs and the head were detached. The scull was uncovered at the south-western
periphery of the pit, behind the skeleton. Plenty of stones lied scattered under, around and above the
skeletons. This pit yielded also fragments of wheelmade and handmade pottery.
Pit S32 was filled in with dark brown to black fertile earth, the different admixtures permitting
to distinguish irregular layers of different hues. The lowest layer (about 0.2 m.) contains much char-
coal, and several small stones marked the northern and eastern periphery of the pit. Bones were found
scattered around several larger stones. The next layer (about 0.2 m.) contained sherds of wheelmade
vessels; this was followed by another with the same thickness containing handmade pottery fragments.
Above these strata, in the south-eastern sector of the pit, was inhumed a dog (Fig. 86; 87). The skeletal
remains were in full anatomic order with the scull to the south-west. The legs were bent beneath the
body. The fill above the skeleton was of the same soil, containing a few pottery fragments, charcoal
and shells. A few large stones lay in this uppermost layer, and around them were scattered bones.
Pit S88 is especially interesting for the sacrifice of two different animals (Figs. 88-90). First,
at the bottom of the pit, was inhumed a large dog with bent limbs. The scull was found at a somewhat
higher level (about 0.1 m.) than the postcranial skeleton. The covering layer of loose brown soil con-
tained fragments of handmade and wheelmade vessels, charcoal and stones. Just before the pit was
closed, a pig was inhumed high in the fill. The skeleton was well preserved, in anatomic order, with
the scull to the northwest. Around and beneath the skeleton were scattered large stones.
An equine skeleton lying in a north to south direction was uncovered in the northern part of
square 39-T-U-X-5 under and in a layer of dark brown to black soil (Chapter IV. 1, Fig. 7; Fig. 91).
The bones were in anatomic order, the scull was missing (probably destroyed by later intrusions).'
The layer with the skeleton contained parts from pithoi and other large vessels, charcoal and bones;
among the finds were also a big fragment from an one-handle cup dated to the second phase of the
Early Iron Age,49 parts of cult tables, loom-weights and a spindle-whorl. The complex is typical for a
pit, although no pit could be discerned above or at the level of the horse skeleton. A pit (S85) was reg-
istered however underneath; it contained mainly handmade pottery together with a few wheelmade
sherds with geometric ornamentation and with slipped surface."
The pits with sacrifices of whole animals have a marked "early" overall appearance. The small
number of diagnostic finds could be ascribed to the period between 7n and 5n c. B.C. No finds of
positively later date have been identified.
The variety of species of the osseous remains is comparable with that attested in other pit
sanctuaries.51 The number of whole animals placed in or above the pits is quite impressing. In Thrace,
this rite was known mainly from necropolises 52 and was not considered usual for the pit sanctuaries.
Dogs and horses were the most frequent animal sacrifices in the Thracian ritual system," and in the
religious practice of other ancient peoples.55 The bones bearing traces of culinary processing attest the
practice of ritual banquets probably implying blood food sacrifices whose recipients most likely were
both the participants in the ritual and the gods they worshipped.

Cf. Chapter VII.5 infra.
Cf. Chapter IV. 2 supra.
Cf. Chapter IV.'mfta.
Cf. Chapter IV.4.2 and Chapter IV.4.3 infra.
Ninov 1996;Ribarov 1997.
Georgieva 1999b.
Savatinov 1997: 19.
Gergova 1996: 69-71; Georgieva 1999b: 194-205.
Greenewalt Jr. 1978; Maringer 1980; Day 1984: note 32; Makiewicz 1988: 102; Kosmetatou 1993;
Sirbu 1993 149.
Georgieva 1999c: 95.
Burkert 1987:46.

KOPRIVLEN1 egIV. The Thracian Settlement

Vegetable Remains
Most of the earth samples subjected to flotation have been established to contain vegetable
remains.58 The latter consist of charred wood, cereal grains and fruit seeds. Their distribution by sort
and quantity varies from pit to pit. Several pits extremely rich in paleobotanic material stand out: S8,
S10, S19, S60, S69. Our observations on pit N18 comply with the inferences of Milena Tonkova about
the contents of the pits at Dvora near Gledachevo;59 however at Koprivlen the most numerous and
varied plant remains were attested in pits containing rich offerings: ornaments, coins, lots of pottery.
From a chronological point of view these pits are associated mostly with the last period of the sanctu-
ary in the advanced and late Hellenistic Period. The presence of charred wood in the pits should rather
be ascribed to the role of fire in the rituals than to any special value of the burnt wood as an offering.

IV.3.2.2. Pithoi
Five lower parts of pithoi dug upright into the sandy terrain (Fig. 74) were discovered on the
territory of the northern sacrificial complex. Two of these were spatially bound with the pits of the
central group and the three other - with those of the northern one. Six pithoi were uncovered at the
northern and two - at the southern end of the southern sacrificial zone (Fig. 75). Some of these were
almost intact and even covered with stone slabs, while only the lower parts of others were preserved
(Colour Plates, Fig. 299). The pithoi were filled with humus, mixed with charcoal and pottery sherds.
The latter were mostly from thick-walled vessels, probably the pithoi themselves, but pieces from
other vases occur as well. The archaeobotanic investigations of samples from the fill of some pithoi
revealed the presence of charred wood, but no remains of cereals.60 This fact, added to the position of
the pithoi within the sacrificial area, warrants the assumption that their function was of ritual character
and similar to that of the pits, and not utilitarian for grain storage.
A similar situation is known from the acropolis of Mende, where lots of clay storage vessels
and pits were discovered together.61 It should be added that some pits from Koprivlen resemble pithoi
by their shape. The presence of the pithoi in the sanctuary may have something in common with their
use in the funerary rituals, both being probably linked with the symbolism of the female womb, of
birth and re-birth.62

IV.3.2.3. Caches
Both sacrificial complexes contained amorphous accumulations of pottery sherds, stones,
charcoal and single metal finds (Figs. 74-75). Those at the northern periphery of the southern sacrifi-
cial complex were very expressive, being also larger and richer in finds. The fragments of clay vessels
found there cover almost the entire range of pottery categories known from the sanctuary and settle-
ment. Besides the notable quantity of various pottery sherds, the cache in Square 39-T-II-h-13 con-
tained parts of a spiral bronze ornament,63 and that in Square 39-T-II-g-l6 - two coins. In general, the
contents of these archaeological structures correspond to those of the pits. Caches of offerings are fa-
miliar from other Thracian cult places.64 A recently advanced hypothesis stipulates the existence of
caches in the sacrificial complexes where various offerings were accumulated and then re-offered in
the pits.65 The described structures in the sanctuary at Koprivlen permit an interpretation in this sense.
The idea is supported by the repeated occurrence of pieces of the same vessels in different pits. An-
other interesting fact confirming the asynchronism of the materials in the caches is the find, in the
cache in Square 39-T-II-g-16, of two coins of different date - one from the Early Hellenistic Period
and the other from the Late Hellenistic Period. At the same time it should be mentioned that in all
cases when two or more coins occurred in one and the same pit they were contemporary in date. The

Cf. Chapter VII.2 infra.
Tonkova, Savatinov (in press).
Cf. Chapter VII.2 infra.
Vokotopoulou 1996:322.
Goodison 1989: 165.
Cf. Chapter IV.4.10.4 infra.
Domaradzki 1994:81-82.
Tonkova, Savatinov (in press).

IV. 3. The Pit Sanctuary (D. Vulcheva)

formation mechanism of the caches and the origin of the deposited objects have not been elucidated.
One possibility is to suggest that they came from earlier sacrificial complexes, but they might as well
have been used in profane environment and would then have undergone sacrificialization during the
process of the establishment of the caches.

IV.3.2.4. Ditch
The ditch is dug into the sandy terrain of Sector "North" generally in a north to south direc-
tion and has a rather irregular outline. Traced on a plan, it describes a long-winded wavy line (Fig.
74). It has been traced followed for a length of about 75 m. Its surface width varies between 3.5 and 6
m., but this might be due to a great extent to changes of the terrain in modern time. Its original width is
approximately determined at 4 or 5 m. according to the disposition of the Late Antique graves which
never disturb it (Chapter V, Fig. 200). The depth reaches 1.5 m. The bottom is slightly concave and
the walls are slanting. The fill of the ditch resembles that of the pits. The bottom was covered with a
0.3 to 0.4 m. thick layer of grey-black soil mixed with charcoal. Single stones, fragments of household
pottery and some construction ceramics (tile fragments) were found in this layer. The household pot-
tery was both wheelmade and handmade and of mixed chronology. Most of the fragments were un-
typical and could not be dated. Parts from vessels with painted geometric ornamentation,66 with slip
coating,67 and black glazed 6S were attested in the bottom layer. Next followed a thick layer (0.6 - 0.7
m) with many stones of various size, some pottery sherds, animal bones, charcoal, and single loom-
Ditches with sacrificial functions or representing elements of sanctuaries are also known from
other sites in Thrace.69
The disposition of the ditch, the composition of its fill completely corresponding to that of the
pits to the east of it, and the fact that the pits are situated close to the ditch but never overlap it (neither
vice versa), suggest the relative synchronism of the structures and their ideological and functional as-
sociation. The Late Antique and Early Medieval graves that occupy the same area are also situated
close to both sides of the ditch. The presence of the necropolis explains the occurrence of some pottery
fragments of the mentioned periods in the surface layers of the ditch fill. Most likely the ditch had not
been completely filled when the sanctuary stopped functioning. The digging of the ditch could be in-
terpreted as an act aimed at the delimitation of the sacrificial space at a certain stage in the evolution
of the sanctuary. The presence of tile fragments in the lowest layers of the ditch fill suggests a relation
of the structure to phase II of the settlement at the earliest.70 Its configuration and the spatial relation
with the pits also support a date after the construction of the quadrangular pits (NO, N14, NIT), which
were all situated to the west of it and contained only materials of the 71 c. B.C.

Cf. Chapter IV.4.2 infra.
Cf. Chapter IV.43 infra.
Cf. Chapter IV.4.3 infra.
Domaradzki 1994: 83; Lihardus, Iliev 1997; Leshtakov et al. 1999.
Cf. Chapter IV. 1.1 supra.
Cf. Chapter IV.4.2 infra.

KOPRIVLEN1 OSIV. The Thracian Settlement

The abundant archaeological material from the pits and caches, including finds with definite
chronological positions, implies the possibility of a precise dating of the individual complexes and of
the elaboration of a comprehensive chronological scale for the sanctuary. The implication would have
been absolutely correct but for a peculiarity of the archaeological structures, associated with the ritual
activities and indisputably attested in the cult complex at Koprivlen - the association of offerings from
different periods in the same structures, the discrepancy reaching several centuries in a number of
cases. The situation in pit 87, for example, is extremely eloquent: a bronze socketed axe was found
there at a higher level than a bronze coin of Antigonus Gonatas (272-239 r.).72 Pit S5 yielded a bronze
fibula of the 7* or early 6th c. B.C." and a fragment of a fish-plate dated about the middle of the 4th c.
B.C.74 The recurrent examples of mixing pottery from different ages are also quite indicative (Fig. 93).
It should be noted that the stratigraphic positions of the asynchronous finds in the pits explicitly negate
the possibility of prolonged use of the structures and their gradual filling in the course of two or four
centuries. The rituals evidently involved offering ancient objects in later ceremonies. The assumption
is supported by the observations on the structure and character of the pits' fill, which is often uniform
from bottom to mouth. The stages in the filling of some ritual pits are attested by layers immediately
succeeding one another which could not have been separated by considerable intervals of time.

IV.3.3.1. The Northern Sacrificial Complex

The data gathered in the course of the rescue excavations suggests that the cult site was estab-
lished first on the northern bank of the dry brook with the construction of the quadrangular pits. The
chronological consistency of the lavish archaeological finds dates the event in the 7th c. B.C.75 The re-
maining structures in the sector raise much more complicated chronological problems. The pit with the
two skeletons of dogs from the southern group (NJ5) yielded three significant ceramic sherds pertain-
ing to the 7th c. B.C.76 (Chapter IV.4.1, Fig. 101) which seem to furnish evidence on the time of the
rituals performed in this pit. The fill contained also dozens of sherds with geometric ornamentation. In
a few words, this pit could have been synchronous to the quadrangular ones. The fragments with geo-
metric ornamentation permit a dating in the 7th c. B.C., and the remaining handmade pottery (apart
from the three mentioned fragments which support this date) could not be defined chronologically.
The presence of small and not very informative fragments of black-glazed pottery in pits N16
and N18 prompts a date after the beginning of the 5th c. B.C. for the filling of these structures.77 How-
ever both pits contained also handmade fragments with incised and pricked decoration, the survival of
which into the 5th c. B.C. does not seem acceptable.
The digging and initial filling of the ditch could be placed in the 6th c. B.C. at the earliest be-
cause of the presence of tiles in the lowest layer. Our insufficient knowledge of the overall layout of
the sanctuary and of the organization of similar cult places in Thrace and the wide chronological range
of the pottery found in the filling of the ditch do not permit a more accurate dating of the construction.
Although the later graves have violated the intactness of some pits in the northern group, the
presence of chronologically mixed artefacts in them covering a wide chronological span between the
6th and 4th c. B.C. has been well documented. The lack of any pottery with geometric ornamentation
however is significant. Fragments of slip-coated wheelmade vessels occur in considerable quantity. Pit
N8 contained a clay cult table. None of the finds could be ascribed with certainty to the Hellenistic
The central group of pits which contained the most abundant finds was dominated by the dou-
ble pit N5 with remains of human sacrifices. The date of the ritual is suggested by the fragments of a
black-glazed ribbed kantharos of the Early Hellenistic Period. The only pit which contained whole
Cf. Colour plates, Fig. 289 (the axe) and V7.2J.29 (the coin).
Cf. Chapter IV.4.10.1 infra.
Cf. Chapter IV.4.4 infra.
Cf. Chapter IV.4.2 infra.
Cf. Chapter IV.4.1 Mm.
Cf. Chapter IV.4.4 infra.

IV. 3. The Pit Sanctuary (D. Vulcheva)

vessels - N6, is an integral part of the complex with human sacrifices, having been dug and filled at
approximately the same time - the last decades of the 4th c. B.C. The date is sustained by the men-
tioned vessels78 and confirmed by a bronze coin of Phillip II (359-336 B.C.). The fragments of a
ribbed black-glazed kantharos place pit NJ in the same period. The remaining pits of the group did not
contain any finds permitting their absolute dating. They can be presumed to be synchronous with the
three pits described above, so the whole group would belong to the Early Hellenistic Age. This makes
the central group the latest so far in the northern sacrificial complex. This circumstance and the re-
mains of human sacrifices bring up an association with the presumed religious connection between the
human sacrifice and the act of "leaving" or "closing" a sanctuary79 and raise the question whether the
rituals performed in the pits of this group do not mark the last period of functioning of the northern
sacrificial complex. On the other hand, the old tradition of human sacrifice in the sanctuary at Ko-
privlen attested in quadrangular pit NO from the Early Iron Age (7th c. B.C.) should not be ignored.

IV.3.3.2. The Southern Sacrificial Complex

The available data places the beginning of the activity in this part of the sanctuary most likely
in the late 6th or early 5th c. B.C. The most reliable date is offered by pit S18 which contained three
silver coins of that time.80 The contemporaneity of the three coins prevents the supposition that they
could have been deposited at a much later date. Besides, the pit contained also fragments of pottery
with geometric ornamentation and of monochrome slipped vessels. None of the materials found sug-
gest the possibility of a date for this pit after the early 5n c. B.C. Pit S23 was also probably completed
in the first half of the 5th c. B.C.; it contained some fragments of a black-glazed stemless pertaining to
this time81 and no definitely later finds. The pits with sacrifices of whole animals are also associated
with this early horizon in the activity of the sanctuary. They contained few chronologically indicative
objects, but none that could be related positively to Hellenistic or later times. The analysis of all the
structures and artefacts from Squares 39-T-II-w4/8 and 39-T-II-xl/5 related to the sanctuary outlines
a group of chronologically related structures (pits S32, S38, S43, S81, S85 and 586) for none of which
there are any reasons to consider a dating later than the middle of the 4th c. B.C. A calyx cup coated
with slip from pit S43 belongs to the end of this period.82
The ritual practices in the sanctuary went on uninterrupted in the second half of the 4" c. B.C.
and in the Hellenistic Period. This is well documented by coins or diagnostic pottery from pits S24,
S36, S38, S39, S64, S69, S72, S74, S77, S78, S79, 5S7.83 The caches probably originated with the
emergence of the sacrificial complex and their development continued until its very end. The sanctu-
ary functioned without interruption until at least the time of Augustus. The period comprising the 2n
and ] s t c. B.C. and the 1 st c. A.D. is vividly manifested with coins (SJO, SI9), ornaments and fragments
of mould-made clay bowls (cache in Square 39-T-II-m-13).
Despite the suggested existence of a distinctive plot of relatively early ritual activity, as a
whole the southern sacrificial complex demonstrates no clear horizontal stratigraphy. Structures of
different dates are situated close one to another (e.g. S18 and 579) and their arrangement does not
seem to follow any special order.
The time when the rituals associated with the filling of the pits were performed is best marked
by the coins and the structures containing coins can be considered the most reliably dated. The fact
that some pits contained two or three contemporary coins confirms the assertion that they indicate the
moment of the filling of the pits. On the other hand, the relatively well datable metal ornaments could
not be of great help chronologically as their presence in later complexes is beyond doubt. Other
chronological indications commented above could also turn out to mark only a terminus post quern for
the ritual practices.

Cf. Chapter IV.4.5 infra.
Tonkova, Savatinov (in press).
Cf. Chapter VI. I Mra.
Cf. Chapter IV.4.4 infra.
Cf. Chapter IV.4.3 M™.
Cf. Chapter IV.4.4 and Chapter Vll.2 infra.

KOPRIVLEN1 egIV. The Thracian Settlement


The recent studies have proved that the pit sanctuaries were the most popular cult places of the
1st millennium B.C. in Thrace (Fig. 94).M The active rescue explorations have brought to light some
territories with an extremely high concentration of pit sanctuaries like the Maritsa Iztok Power Com-
plex area and the valley of the Sazliyka River. There are enough grounds to suggest that they were
widely distributed all over contemporary Bulgaria and in the Thracian territories beyond the state bor-
ders.85 Further studies might probably prove the Mesta valley to be an area abounding in pit com-
plexes, especially if we add to the Koprivlen sanctuary the pits known from Eleshnitsa86 and those dis-
covered under a tumulus at Hadjidimovo.87 There is some information on pit complexes under investi-
gation in the Aegean area and in the Chalcidic peninsula which pertain to the same cultural zone as the
Middle Mesta valley with the settlement and sanctuary by Koprivlen (Fig. 94). The available informa-
tion on the pits in Northern Greece remains scanty; in most cases they have been interpreted as waste
pits88 or storage pits.89 However many close affinities could be noted at once with the sacrificial pit
fields in the interior of Thrace in the general situation and layout, in the size and shape of the pits and
most of all in the nature of the fill. The new investigations in Bulgaria and Romania might soon pro-
voke a reinterpretation of the pit complexes along the Aegean littoral which will certainly add to our
knowledge of this phenomenon. At Mende in Chalcidice for example pits of similar disposal and con-
tents were dated to the end of 2nd and the beginning of the 1st millennium B.C.90 The sanctuary at Ko-
privlen, presumably established in the 7th c. B.C. and having functioned without interruption till the
reign of Augustus, fully complies with the outlined picture of the territorial and chronological distri-
bution of the pit complexes.
The rare instances in which the ancient written tradition mentions rituals practised connected
with pits prompt an association with chthonic beliefs.91 The modern authors consider the pit sanctuar-
ies and the appertaining archaeological structures as the product of a complicated ritual system subor-
dinated to the ideas of fertility and prosperity and including various ritual actions.92 Some authors as-
sociate the pits with the cult of specific deities - Hekate93 or the Great Mother Goddess.94
The rituals evidenced in the sanctuary at Koprivlen do not differ essentially from those at-
tested in other pit sanctuaries: fires, feasts, libations, ritual offerings and sacrifices. All these actions
were intended to assure the successful cycle of life, to preserve and strengthen the cosmic order.95 The
analysis of the archaeological structures brings to the fore the female principle and the wish to assure
fertility and well-being. In my opinion at this stage of the investigations it would be premature to asso-
ciate the sacrificial complexes at Koprivlen with the cult of a specific deity.
The essential characteristics of the sanctuary at Koprivlen correspond entirely to those of other
similar sanctuaries.96 Some peculiarities, such as the use of pithoi, the marked wealth and variety of
the offerings especially in the Hellenistic Period, the accent on the connection with the ancestors
through the deposition of antiquated objects, increase however considerably its scientific importance
for the investigation of Thracian cult places and practices in the 1st millennium B.C. These peculiari-
ties are probably due to specific regional (or local?) ritual practices, determined by the structure and
mode of life of the local community. We know practically nothing of the occasions, time and regular-

Tonkova, Savatinov (in press).
' ~ Tonkova, Savatinov (in press).
Nikolov, Maslarov 1987.
Cf. Chapter I supra.
Pantermali, Trakosopoulou 1998: 287, £%. 2; Tiverios 1998: 246-247.
Triantaphyllos 1988: 545; Nikolaidou-Patera 1996: 842, Fig. 3, 4.
Vokotopoulou 1996: 322.
R. Georgieva has commented the evidence from written sources concerning such rituals. Cf. Geor-
gieva 1991:6.
Georgieva 1991: 8-9.
Balabanov 1985: 227-228.
Theodossiev 1998: 19.
Bergman 1987.
Balabanov 1985; Bonev, Alexandrov 1996; Burow 1996; Tonkova 1997.

IV. 3. The Pit Sanctuary (D. Vulcheva)

ity of the visits to the sanctuary and of the rituals performed there. The remains of grape clusters in pit
S19 97 suggest rituals performed in the autumn, but this might be a singular case. Another important
and still unanswered question is that of the organization of the ritual activities - whether the worship-
pers executed the rituals personally or committed this to authorised personnel (priests?). The large
scale of the sanctuary at Koprivlen which remains only partially studied, its complicated structure in-
cluding various zones and components, its long activity lasting for several centuries without any visi-
ble disturbance of older constructions, suggest the existence of some sort of permanent religious or-
ganization, of some degree of institutionalization of the sanctuary. It is one of the few sanctuaries
known so far 9S which seem immediately linked to a synchronous settlement. Its features however
suggest that its importance went beyond the boundaries of the adjacent settlement and that, similarly to
the settlement itself, the sanctuary played the role of a centre for a considerably larger area.

Cf. Chapter VII. infra.

Apart from the ritual pits on the territory of Pistiros. Cf. Domaradzki 1996: 29, Fig. 1.16, 1.17.

^ O O "rt r n n

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S6 dbl - 0.82 + + + + + + + + + + + 5 + +
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S16 cone 0.47 + + + + + + + +
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S19 cone 1.8 1.2 + + + + + + + + + -t- + 6 + + 1 + + + -f
S20 cyl 1.00 0.4 + + + + + + + + +
S21 dbl/sph 0.8 0.25 + + + + + + + +
S22 pyri 0.85 0.4 + + + + + +
KOPRIVLEN 1 • IV. The Thracian Settlement

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IV. 3. The Pit Sanctuary (D. Vulcheva)

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KOPRIVLEN 1 osIV. The Thracian Settlement

* The symbols in this column correspond to:

Asym Irregular asymmetrical shape

Brl Barrel-like shape
Dbl Double pit (sometimes the shape is specified)
Bell Inverted bell shape
Cone Inverted truncated cone
Pyri Pyrifonn shape
Hive Bee-hive shape
Sph Hemispherical
Cyl Cylindrical
Quad Quadrangular
Pith Pit-pithos

The shape and size of pits disturbed by later intrusions are not listed in the table.



Darina Vulcheva
(Institute of Archaeology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences)
A considerable part of the 1 M millennium B.C. ceramic material from the archaeological site at
Koprivlen consists of hand-made pottery. Its processing however confronts the archaeologist with a
series of restrictions. Some of the latter are universal for the examination of Thracian hand-made pot-
tery and are due mainly to the insufficiency of published and accurately dated material providing for
the elaboration of model typological and archaeological schemes. Besides, the hand-made pottery of
the age was too conservative and did not evolve dynamically. There are some chronologically sensi-
tive details and regional specifics, but their study requires extended observations and analyses. In ad-
dition, the work with the hand-made pottery from Koprivlen is impeded by its fragmentary state. The
short time after the excavations campaign and the above mentioned constraints prevented the publica-
tion of the entire amount of hand-made pottery found in the settlement and in the sanctuary. The pres-
ent chapter will present that part of the hand-made ware which could be related to the Early Iron Age
as a result either of comparative analysis or of stratigraphic observations. The fragments and whole
vessels considered here come mainly from two contexts:
• cultural layers in Sector "South", and
• structures of ritual character (pits and caches) in both sacrificial complexes.
The formation processes that led to the constitution of the cultural layers in Sector "South" are
difficult to define. The probable transportation of some of the material makes their stratigraphic posi-
tion unreliable. 1 On the other hand the ritual pits, which by way of their formation represent closed
complexes, contain asynchronous offerings due to ritual reasons."
The absence of visible "rules" for the application and combination of technological, functional,
formal and decorative criteria in the production of early Thracian pottery makes its classification
rather difficult.' The freedom in the composition of the clay mixture and in the treating of the surface
predetermined the great variety in the technological characteristics of the produced articles. For this
reason, the limit between the two categories habitually used for taxonomic purposes - coarse and fine
ware - is often obscure. On the other hand, the fragmentary character of the finds hinders the applica-
tion of formal and functional criteria for classification. That is why the attempt to introduce a formal
&*X\\<^K>^ ^'^wytVv vjJfcV^ ^ms,, k\\s.V^\ ^-sss, -4S& V&K, vx, '^sa oS. (Ivikvows, feis,\fe\V\l^. \\\ \J\\s sexvsa, vi
complex approach combining all the criteria to achieve as comprehensive characteristics of the pottery
as possible is inapplicable to the present study. 4 The approach recently proposed for the examination
of Neolithic ceramic complexes seems more appropriate and objective in this case/ The successive
analyses of technology, shape and decoration offer the opportunity to extract a maximum of informa-
tion under the constraints ensuing from the source base, and not to predetermine the artefacts' appur-
tenance to a certain category. The specific characters of the pottery complex from Koprivlen men-

' Cf. Chapter IV. 1.4 supra.

" Cf. Chapter IV.3.3 supra.
Stoianov 1997: 50; Stoianov, Nikov 1997: 187.
Such an approach is applied by Dr. A. Gotsev in his PhD thesis. Cf. Gotsev 1990: 5-1
Nikolov 1998.

IV.4.1. Hand-Made Pottery of the Early Iron Age (D. Vulcheva)

tioned above warrants a special emphasis on the ornamented fragments which form its most informa-
tive part.

IV.4.1.1. Technological Observations6

IV.4.U.1. Clays
The clays used in the manufacture of hand-made pottery are mainly of medium and large size
grain structures and contain notable quantity of sand. They also contain as admixtures particles of
quartz origin and different size, usually of tiny dimensions (up to 2 mm). Quartz grains measuring
from 3 to 5 mm occur sporadically. Some common trends can be noted concerning the relation be-
tween clay composition, surface treatment and firing. The vessels with finer walls and more carefully
processed surface (very smooth, burnished, or polished) are frequently, but not necessarily made of
clay containing less and finer admixtures. On the other hand, admixtures in larger quantities and of
greater dimensions are usually identified in the ceramics with uneven and coarse surface, whether un-
decorated or with a plastic decoration. However there are too many exceptions in both groups to per-
mit the safe definition of technological groups on the basis of the existing fragmentary finds. In gen-
eral, an attempt for the use of relatively pure clay can be noted for the household ware. Organic tem-
pering materials have not been identified.

IV.4.LL2. Firing
It can be assumed on the basis of the colour areas in the broken edges and the uniformity of the
superficial colour that the hand-made clay vessels were relatively well-fired. The prevalence of frag-
ments with grey to black colour testifies to firing mainly in deoxidized environment. The fact that the
employed clays probably came from different sources and respectively had different composition cer-
tainly should not be neglected too.

IV. Surface Treatment

Vessels with very well polished and burnished surfaces predominate in the discussed pottery
complex. Fragments with roughly smoothed surface occur rarely while those with coarse surface are
exceptional.7 In some cases the outer surface is coated with washed clay. Some of the vessels might
have pertained to the technological group of the so-called scraped pottery, known from the pre-Persian
layers of Olynthus8 and from sites in the Vardar valley, 9 which is completely ignored in the existing
Bulgarian studies. The main feature of this technique is the intentional scraping of parts of the coating
so that the shining surface forms alternating stripes. This type of pottery emerged in the 8 th c. B.C. and
was in use until the Classical Period.10 The fragments of this kind found in Koprivlen are associated
with phases I and II of the settlement."
Another ceramic group is also very interesting from a technological point of view. It is repre-
sented by an intact vessel - a bowl shaped as a truncated cone, with flat base and plain rim (Colour
Plates, Fig. 300), and by some sherds with graphite-containing coating. Both the outside and inside
surfaces of the bowl have been treated. It was discovered in a ritual pit (S43) dated about the middle of
the 4th c. B.C. at the earliest. However, because of the ritual specifics of the pits the bowl could not be
directly associated with this date. Pottery with graphite coating has been known from complexes in
South-Eastern Thrace dated to the Late Bronze Age.12 It is difficult to determine positively the chro-
nology of the examples from Koprivlen; some graphite-coated sherds were associated with cultural
The hand-made pottery form Koprivlen has not undergone any special technological examination yet.
The present analysis is based on simple first-hand observation of the material.
About the variations in the treatment of the surface cf. Nikolov 1998: 3.
"Robinson 1933: 22, PI. 21, 22.
Heartley et al. 1926-1927: 233-234.
Vokotopoulou 1985: 147.
" Cf. Chapter IV. 1.4 supra.
Domaradzki 1986b: 14; Gergova 1995, 43. Pottery with graphite coating is also known from the Late
Bronze Age settlement by Koprivlen. Cf. Chapter III supra.

KOPRIVLEN 1 egIV.4. The Thracian Settlement: Finds

layers where no finds earlier than the second phase of the Early Iron Age have been identified, and it
could be assumed that they belong to that period, but the fact that vessels decorated with graphite paint
occurred also later, in the Late Iron Age, should not be ignored.13

IV.4.1.2. Shapes
The available data allows the identification of the following formal and functional categories
of vessels: cups, bowls, jars, storing vessels. Because of the mainly fragmentary condition of the
material subject to classification, the proposed categories and the attempts at finer typological distinc-
tions are marked by an inevitable conventionality.

IV. Cups
This group includes the whole vessels of different capacity intended for drinking, and the
fragments recognized as belonging to such vessels.
The cups with a spherical (sometimes flattened or slightly biconical) body, a cylindrical or
slightly conical neck and a plain slightly outturned rim are the easiest to identify (Fig. 95; 96; 109/1-
2). The fragments at our disposal suggest an appreciable variety of types but do not allow their defini-
tion. As a general silhouette, these vessels were known from an enormous area in South-Eastern
Europe since the end of the Bronze Age.15 The shape persisted in the course of the Early Iron Age and
seems to have survived t i l l its very end, obeying to certain chronological and regional dynamics and
considerably variegated. The surface of these vessels is usually very well smoothed or burnished and
more rarely polished. The identified fragments are frequently decorated. In all likelihood the discussed
category included vessels with two, one or no handles. Many of the handles of circular, oval or seg-
mentary section discovered at the site should be associated with similar cups (Fig. 97). There are also
"trigger handles" (Fig. 97/2), which are known from the Early Iron Age layers of the tells along the
Vardar valley. 16 The other shapes of handles have absolute analogies in the Early Iron Age pottery
complex in Thrace, which is associated very often with the Pshenichevo group. 17 The discussed type
I Ji
of cups has numerous parallels all over the Thracian territories, usually dated to the first and the be-
ginning of the second phase of the Early Iron Age. However the observations at the sanctuary by the
village of Babyak show that the general shape remained in use until the end of the period.19
Two completely restored vessels from Koprivlen pertain to the category of the cups, being
however of different morphological types. One of these has an oval body, a flat base, an oblique
mouth with plain rim, and a small handle attached in the upper third of the vessel and slightly rising
above the rim. Opposite to the handle are applied decorative vertical plastic bands and buttons. (Fig.
98; 103/1). The second vessel has a flat base, an oval body, a cylindrical neck, a similar highly at-
tached handle, and no decoration (Colour Plates, Fig. 301). Both vessels have simple profiles which
were long in use in South-Western Thrace, on the island of Thasos20 and along the Vardar river. At the
tell of Kastanas they occur in horizons 15 to 4, mostly from 10 to 8.21 The cup with plastic decoration
from Koprivlen was found in a cultural layer together with pottery with geometric ornamentation and
monochrome wheel-made ware. The cup without decoration comes from the layer underlying the level
of the equine skeleton in Square 39-T-H-x-S and was probably associated with a structure related to
the sanctuary. 22 The contexts of both vessels warrant their attribution to the second phase of the Early

Nikolov, Maslarov 1987: Fig. 44, 45.
Separate sections of the present volume deal with the pithoi and the strainers. Cf. Chapter IV.4.6 and
Chapter W.4.7 infra,
Hochstetter 1982: 110, Abb. 8; Hochstetter 1984: Text, Abb. 15; Panayotov, Vulcheva 1989: 14.
Heurtley 1939: No 486; Hochstetter 1984: Band 2, Taf. 135, 6; 207, 4.
Chichikova 1972b; Dolmova-Lukanovska 1984: 239-240, Fig. 2.
Cf. Stoianov, Nikov 1997: 189 with the references.
Domaradzki et al. 1999:21.
Koukouli-Chrysanthaki 1982b: Abb. 5:10, 2.
Cf. Hochstetter 1984: Band 2.
Cf. Chapter IV.3 supra.

IV.4.1. Hand-Made Pottery of the Early Iron Age (D. Vulcheva)

Iron Age or to its very end. A dating in the 6th or 5 lh c. B.C. has been assumed for a similar vessel
found at Babyak.23

IV. Shallow and Deep Bowls

In studying fragmentary pottery complexes which do not provide the needed metric data to
distinguish between shallow and deep bowls, it frequently becomes necessary to discuss both catego-
ries together,24 and this attitude has been preferred here.
The only kind of intact bowls attested at Koprivlen is represented by conical examples with
straight or slightly convex walls, flat bases and plain rims. Out of accurately dated context, they can-
not get even a relatively reliable date. These vessels are comparable with the bowls of types la, and Ib
after Hochstetter, found in layers 13 to 1 at Kastanas.25
The remaining vessels in this group could be identified only by the mouth pieces. The shaping
of the latter shows a marked predilection to inward turning or pulling. The bowls with an incurving,
thickened and rounded fluted rim, so popular over the Danube area and the whole Balkan Peninsula,
are attested in Koprivlen only with isolated fragments (Fig. 99). In Kastanas similar bowls (Hochstet-
ter's type 8) appeared in horizon 12 and persisted, with some fluctuations in the intensity, to horizon 5
(i.e. until the end of 8lh c. B.C.).26
Another group of bowls features inturned rim and decorated lip (Fig. 100). Sometimes the lip
is emphasized with a groove on the outer surface (Fig. 100/3). Bowls of a similar silhouette appear
from horizon 12 at Kastanas and persist although in restricted quantities until horizon 4."
Pit A7/5 in the northern sacrificial complex yielded a fragment of a triangular horizontal handle
with a rectangular section, probably belonging to a bowl (Fig. 101/2); however the fragment was iso-
lated and too little to be of any use for the definite identification of the type of bowl. This fragment
could be associated plausibly with the bowls with horizontal handles attached to the rim, known from
a number of sites along the Vardar and classified by A. Hochstetter as type 9. These bowls were at-
tested in Kastanas 7 to 1, i.e. between the 9th and the 2"d c. B.C.28 It should be mentioned that a similar
handle from the sanctuary by Babyak was associated by Domaradzki and Georgieva with their bowls
of type 3 and was dated to HaD on analogies with examples from the Carpathian region and the Cen-
tral Balkans."'
Two handles with conical projections at the highest part (Fig. 101/1), found in quadrangular
ritual pits (A75 and N17) in the northern sacrificial complex, seem particularly important. The handles
are made of fine-grain beige clay and their surfaces are well smoothed. They were perfectly fired
probably in an oxidized environment. Similar handles belonging to two-handle bowls (sometimes
designated as kantharoi) are known from the Vardar river valley, from the Chalcidic Peninsula and
from the North Aegean area.30 They are dated in the whole interval between the 8* and 6 th c. B.C., but
the 7Ih c. B.C. seems to have been the time of their actual bloom. 31 The example from Pit NI5 is deco-
rated with parallel horizontal lines, applied in red paint.32 The handles of this type and technological
characteristics do not find their prototypes among the local hand-made pottery and have not been at-
tested on other sites in the Thracian interior. Their appearance along the Mesta valley should probably
be associated with the spread of the pottery with geometric ornamentation and the related wares. It is
not possible at present to answer the question whether these hand-made vessels entered the settlement
by Koprivlen as imports or their presence there was due to the transfer of ideas and imitations in a lo-
cal environment.

Domarad/ki ct al. 1999: 21, table II, 3.
Domaradzki etal. 1992: 29-31; Stoianov, Nikov 1997, 189-194.
Hochstetter 1984: Text, 84, Abb. 20.
Hochstetter 1984: Text, 92-93, Abb. 20, Abb. 23.
Hochstetler 1984: Tafeln 92, 6; Taf. 225,1.
Hochstetter 1984: Text, 93-95, Abb. 24; Tafeln 163, 3; 187, 6; 220; 224, 1-2; 225, 2; 231, 1; 242.
Domaradzki et al. 1999: 22, Tab. XXVI, 4.
Carington-Smith 1991: 336-340 with the references; Koukouli-Chrysanthaki 1992: Fig. 12.
Bernard 1964: 130 No 171, Fig. 41, 171; Carington-Smith 1991: 345.
Cf. Chapter IV.4.2 infra.

KOPRIVLEN I osIV.4. The Thracian Settlement: Finds

IV. Jars
This group comprises relatively deep vessels (with a diameter smaller than their height) of
simple profile. From a technological point of view they feature coarser clay, carelessly treated surface
and bad firing. This pottery category was widely spread and very conservative. In Koprivlen it is rep-
resented by a huge amount of fragments, but only those that can be related definitely to phases I or II
of the Thracian settlement13 by their stratigraphic positions will be discussed here as probably be-
longing to the Early Iron Age (Fig. 102). The colour of the fragments varies from grey-brown to grey-
black. The shapes are plain and unarticulated: cylindrical, conical and barrel-shaped. The bases are flat
and unmoulded. The mouths are simple, with plain rims, sometimes slightly outturned or thickened.
Variously shaped tongue-shaped handles occur frequently, attached usually to the upper part of the
vessels, below the rim. The decoration is usually plastic. Despite these common features the vessels in
this group are too diversified; being at the same time heavily fragmented, they do not allow any sys-
tematic arrangement or attribution to existing classifications. The closest parallels to the sherds from
Koprivlen are the variants of Hochstetter's types 8 and 9M
A sort of jar with a broad plastic band or apron hanging all around usually from the most
bulging part of the body deserves special notice (Fig. 103/2). Though fragmentary, these vessels are
represented with numerous fragments in the settlement by Koprivlen. At the same time, they don't
occur among the published finds from sites in Bulgaria. Similar vessels found in Vardina and Prilep
are related to the end of the Bronze Age or the very beginning of the Early Iron Age and their appear-
ance is associated with a population movement from the north, i.e. from the territory the cultural group
Vatina - Dubovac - Zuto Brdo. The further evolution of these vessels is attested in examples from
Dabici-Sopot, Valandovo and Isar-Marvinci, dated between the end of the 6th and the end of 5th c.
B.C., when it is considered that the hanging aprons finally disappeared. The principal chronological
changes noted by V. Sokolovska are a broadening of the upper parts and the replacement of the small
vertical handles with horse-shoe shaped handles stuck to the wail. Unfortunately the fragmented finds
from Koprivlen do not allow the discrimination of morphological changes. There are examples with
vertical handles, but their upper parts seem to correspond rather with the later variants. It is very likely
that they pertain to intermediate shapes belonging to the 2nd period of the Early Iron Age in Thrace.
Such a dating is supported by the presence of similar vessels at the tell of Kastanas (including exam-
ples with broad upper parts and vertical handles, type 2 after Hochstetter), where they occurred until
the 5 th c. B.C. A. Hochstetter considers them as parts of pyraunoi (stoves). Such a probability should
not be ignored also for at least a part of the fragments from Koprivlen, which would greatly expand
the distribution area of these appliances to the northwest.37

IV. Storing Vessels

It is very difficult to distinguish this sort of vessels from the other large-size kitchen ware be-
cause of the fragmentary state of the finds. The existing data is insufficient to describe the shapes. The
presence of storing vessels is perceived mostly through some mouth fragments. There are pithoi with
variously moulded rims, most frequently protruding outwards. 8 This group should also include two
fragments of large-size closed vessels with decoration beneath the rim (Fig. 104). A similar shape is
known in the pottery complex from Gradisheto near the village of Glavan.

IV.4.1.3. Decoration
Plenty of fragments could not be associated with any definite shapes but are noteworthy be-
cause of their decoration. This is the main reason which imposed the separate consideration of some
problems of the decoration.

Cf. Chapter IV. 1 supra.
Hochstetter 1984: Text, 113-142, Abb. 35-36.
Heurtley 1939: 234, No 474; Kitanoski 1980: 27, 31, Fig. 7.
Sokolovska 1991: 174-175.
Hochstetler 1984: Text 155-173, Abb. 41, Abb. 60; Tafeln 222,2; 229, 2.
Cf. Chapter IV.4.6 infra.
Nikov 1995: 115, Fig. le.

IV. 4.1. Hand-Made Pottery of the Early Iron Age (D. Vulcheva)

IV. Decorative Techniques

The hand-made pottery of the Early Iron Age found at Koprivlen presents all the decorative
techniques used in that period: incised, pricked, impressed, fluted and plastic, used in varying propor-
tions. The incised decoration is best represented; the variously designed incisions suggest different
methods and implements for its employment. Some incisions are fine and relatively shallow, but ir-
regular (Fig. 105/1-3), while other are wider, deeper and also rather uneven (Fig. 105/4-8; 106). No
essential differences have been observed between the motifs executed either way. The deeper incisions
were possibly used for larger ornaments. Combinations between the two manners of incising have not
been attested on one and the same vessel. It is not however possible to determine whether this fact is
due to a chronological discrepancy or to the preference of certain methods in the decoration of certain
shapes. The only identifiable shape on which such decoration was applied is that of the cups with
spherical body and cylindrical neck (Fig. 96/2-5). Similar variations in the execution of the incised
decoration have been observed in other pottery complexes as well. 40 The fragments with broad uneven
incisions definitely prevail at Koprivlen. This decoration finds close parallels at the sanctuary by
Babyak, which have been dated to the 8lh/7"' - 6lh c. B.C.41 A similar type of decoration is attested on
Early Iron Age pottery fragments found in the course of terrain surveys in the Razmetanitsa river val-
ley.42 The rather careless way of employing the incised decoration probably had some chronological
parameters associated with the last centuries of the Early Iron Age, but the existence of regional spe-
cifics in the incision techniques within the confines of South-Western Thrace seems also possible.
The fragments decorated by pricking rank second in quantity. This technique was employed to
decorate vessels of different shapes and technological characteristics. The varying forms of the pricks
- round, drop-like, triangular, oval (Fig. 107; 108), indicate the use of tools with different tips. The
degree of precision in the execution of pricked decoration also varies: from fine pin-holes arranged in
complicated patterns, which rise the question of using templates (Fig. 108/1-2), to large random de-
pressions applied by a pointed tool without any purposeful design. The pricks are usually arranged in
rows or bands of rows, most often horizontal.
Unlike other regions in Thrace,43 the impressed (stamped) decoration in Koprivlen displays a
rather scanty repertoire (Fig. 109). The fragments ornamented by fluting are rare. A. Hochstetter's
observations show that in the case of the bowls with fluted rims the evolution was from broad and
shallow to finer narrow flutes. It should be mentioned that the flutes on most of the examples from
Koprivlen are rather narrow but carelessly accomplished and uneven (Fig. 96/2, 5, 6). This manner of
decoration may have been the result of a local development later than the end of the 8 lh or the begin-
ning of the 7 lh c. B.C. when the bowls of this group disappeared in Kastanas. Apart from the mouths of
bowls and some handles, flutes are attested also over fragments from the necks and bodies of ceramic
vessels. Unfortunately, the available sherds are not informative enough to draw conclusions about the
development of the use of this decorative technique.
The plastic decoration is seen on abundant fragments displaying mainly plastic ribs with vari-
ous fossettes, cuts or incisions and far more rarely plastic projections (Fig. 100/5; 102). This manner
of decoration together with the motifs it represents persisted over a very long period without enduring
any essential changes. This is the reason why its analysis on the basis of fragmentary material is prac-
tically impossible. A handle with plastically rendered zoomorphous protruding at the bend is of some
interest (Fig. 97/1). I could not find any precise analogies, but similar handles resembling animals'
heads are known at Kastanas in period VII (900-700,B.C.) and later, the example nearest to the one
from Koprivlen in design being from horizon S.44 The appearance of plastically rendered animals'
heads on the handles of ceramic vessels is thought to reflect contacts with the Geometric art in the
south at Kastanas.

"Nikov 1995: 116.
Domaradzki et al. 1999: 24, 72, Tab. XXI, X X I I I .
Georgieva et al. 1983: 37, 42.
-Gotzev 1994.
Hochstetter 1984:Tafeln: 152,5; 185,4,5; 198, 5; 205, 7, 9, I I .
Hochstetler 1984: Text, 379.

KOPR1VLEN 1 03IV.4. The Thracian Settlement: binds

In many cases the decoration of the vessels from Koprivlen combines different techniques. The
most common combination is between incised and pricked ornaments (Fig. 110/1-3). The combined
use of stamped and incised ornaments is also attested (Fig. 110/4-5).

IV. Motifs and Patterns

The repertoire of motifs and patterns is closely associated with the employed decorative tech-
niques The different variants of incised triangles - upright, hanging, inscribed, hatched, forming zig-
zag lines - are the most abundant (Fig. 96/3-5; 100/1,3; 105; 106). The incised ornaments do not dis-
play great diversity. Their closest parallels come from the sanctuary at Babyak.46 The lavish incised
decoration on a thick leg (or handle?) of a vessel (?) deserves special mention; it includes bands of
different inscribed triangles divided by a row of slanting parallel strokes between two horizontal lines
(Fig. 101/3). I do not know of any exact parallels to this ornamental pattern. The strange form of the
fragment could be associated with a special shape of vessel, while the exceptionally rich decoration
suggests a probable cult function of the object. The fragment was discovered in a ritual pit (N15) to-
gether with sherds belonging to the class of the pottery with geometric ornamentation from the 7 th c.
B.C.47 (Fig. 101).
The triangles seem to have occupied a leading place in the ornamental repertoire of the pottery
from Koprivlen. There are also triangles formed by pricked pinholes (Fig. 100/2; 107/6), as well as
incised triangles filled inside with pinholes (Fig. 110/1).
Pricking was employed to shape some rather complicated patterns. Several fragments display
parts of a composition of floral motifs traced by double rows of pinholes (Fig. 108/1-4). Despite the
fact that some of these fragments suffered secondary firing, their common technological features sug-
gest that they might have belonged to one and the same vessel - a cup with a spherical body and a cy-
lindrical neck. A handle with segmental section and pinholes arranged in zigzag on the upper surface
probably comes from the same vessel (Fig. 108/5). I have not been able to find any direct analogies to
this decoration.
Pricking was also used to depict a solar image (Fig. 107/6); in this case the holes are filled
with white matter. The technique of white incrustation is usually associated with the Late Bronze
Age.4S The solar symbolism in the decoration of clay vessels had a long tradition in the Rhodopes re-
Few fragments display impressed decoration and these usually come from quality vessels with
burnished surface, sometimes coated with washed clay. The decorative repertoire includes a few mo-
tifs: concentric circles, S-shaped ornaments and pseudo-cord impressions. The corded designs are the
most numerous; they display hatched triangles or rows of parallel lines. S-shaped motifs have not been
attested as independent ornaments in Koprivlen; they always occur in combinations with either corded
designs (Fig. 109/2) or concentric circles (Fig. 109/1). The same is valid for the concentric circles, the
only exception being a fragment of a thick-walled vessel decorated with large stamped concentric cir-
cles (Fig. 109/6). The concentric circles are among the earliest ornaments in the decorative repertoire
of Early Iron Age pottery. At Koprivlen they occur on isolated sherds in combination with the S-
shaped motifs which appeared in South-Eastern Thrace towards the end of the first and mainly during
the second phase of the Early Iron Age.50 Pottery with impressed decoration was found also at the
sanctuary by Babyak. 51 The sporadic occurrence of such examples in the Struma valley and their ab-
sence in Thasos, as well as their far smaller popularity in Aegean Thrace, place the Mesta valley at the
western periphery of the area in which this pottery was spread.52

Domaradzki et al. 1999: 24, table X X I I I .
Cf. Chapter/V.4.2 infra.
Hochstetter 1984: Text, Abb. 57.
Vulchanova 1999: 151.
Domaradzki et al. 1992: 36; Gotzev 1994: 110-113.
Excavations of Dr. M. Tonkova to whom I am indebted for the information.
Koukouli-Chrysanthaki 1992: 694-695, Fig. 4.

IV.4.1. Hand-Made Pottery of the Early Iron Age (D. Vulcheva)

IV. Disposition of the Decoration on the Vessels

The reflections in this sense are highly restricted by the state of the bulk of pottery. There is
more information about the disposition of the decoration on cups and bowls. A row of pinholes ac-
centuates the transition from the body to the neck of the cups of spherical body and cylindrical neck
(Fig. 96), while patterns of incised triangles or flutes spread below over the body. A single fragment is
decorated with a small Buckel-like knob (Fig. 96/4). Two fragments of cups with elongated silhouette
which probably had no handles are decorated only with impressed decoration over the upper part of
the body spreading to the very lip (Fig. 109/1-2). The decoration of the bowls is also concentrated
mainly on their upper parts (Fig. 100/1-4). The analysis of the bowls from Kastanas places the first
appearance of this disposition of the decoration in horizon 8 and follows its persistence until horizon
2, i.e. from the 9lh to the end of 5th c. B.C."

IV.4.1.4. Summary Results

The Early Iron Age hand-made pottery complex from Koprivlen presents a relatively limited
repertoire of shapes and especially of decorative motifs; this might be due to chronological as well as
regional reasons. The correlation with accurately dated finds from other sites suggests the attribution
of at least the main part of the analysed material to the period between the late 8 th and the end of the 6 th
c. B.C., which corresponds to phases I and II of the settlement by Koprivlen. According to the strati-
graphic observations on the site, in the 6lh c. B.C. the decorated hand-made pottery was replaced by the
wheel-made monochrome pottery. 54
The Early Iron Age pottery from the Mesta valley and from Sout-Western Thrace in general is
not very well known and has not been specially studied. The pottery group "Tsepina" which by B.
Hansel distinguished mainly on the bases of its specific decoration in the region of the Rhodopes and
to the Struma valley in the west,55 has been refuted by following studies.56 In this sense, the pottery
from Koprivlen discussed here, despite the restricted possibilities for analysis it offers, is of essential
importance for the elucidation of the general problems. It manifests very close affinities with the finds
from the Aegean littoral, 57 while the most precise parities come from the Mesta valley itself. There
are some similarities with the finds from the Maritsa river valley. The intense relations with the Vardar
valley from the Bronze Age and the beginning of the Early Iron Age59 were gradually calming down
and were demonstrated only in some more universal shapes in the discussed period. The Mesta region
still complied with the general characteristics of the Balkan - Aegean cultural sphere,' however as a
result of the disintegration processes attested since the 9th and 8th c. B.C. it gradually evolved as a local
group. The exhaustive characterization of the latter will be possible only after profound further studies.

Hochstetter 1982: Abb. 2; Hochstetter 1984: Text, 107-108, Abb. 27.
Cf. Chapter IV. 1 supra.
Hansel 1976:220-227.
Domaradzki et al. 1999: 24-26.
Koukouli-Chrysanthaki 1988: 81; Triandaphyllos 1991; Koukouli-Chrysanthaki 1992: Fig. 4, 1
Domaradzki et al. 1999: 23-26.
Hochstetter 1984: Text, 379.
Hochstetter 1984: Text, 381.


Anelia Bozkova
(Institute of Archaeology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences)
The presence of an enormous quantity of sherds from vases with geometric ornamentation and
related ceramic wares is among the outstanding features in the cultural profile of the settlement by
Koprivlen. Such pottery is found for the first time in Bulgaria, i.e. so deep in the interior of Thrace,
and its discovery was a real surprise for the archaeological team excavating the site. The application of
a complex historical and archaeological approach to the facts based on the collective evidence for the
whole North Aegean area is indispensable for the explanation of the presence of this pottery in the
Middle Mesta region. The present study does not aim at and does not dispose of the potential to fulfil
such an ambitious task. However, with the first publication of a small but representative part of these
finds, it launches a new trend in the study of Thracian culture.
Pottery with geometric decoration has been discovered in all the excavated sectors of the site;
it actually represents the main ceramic category of phase I of the settlement and definitely outnumbers
the decorated hand-made Early Iron Age pottery. The presence of ceramic fragments with painted
geometric decoration remains substantial in the phase II layers, where their quantity is comparable to
that of the wheel-made slip coated-monochrome ware.
In addition to the finds from the cultural layers, pottery of the discussed types has been recov-
ered also in many ritual pits. Two different contexts have been distinguished according to the character
of the pits:
• A. Several shallow pits in the northern sacrificial complex displaying an unusual
quadrangular form - Pits NO, N14 and N17 - were entirely filled with fragmented pottery
with geometric decoration, including whole vessels broken in situ.1 The considerable
quantity of the pottery finds from these pits prevented their full processing in time for the
present publication; so only some of the pottery found in Pit N14 is presented in a
preliminary form here. The field observations and the work on the finds have given
reasons to suppose that these pits were the earliest in date and of rather peculiar character,
containing great quantities of mainly uniform ceramic vessels which are assumed to be
synchronous with the time of the ritual deposition.
The pits were intact, undisturbed after their original filling and in this sense they can be
regarded as "closed complexes". The larger pits NO and N14 contained thousands of
sherds with painted geometric decoration and of two more related pottery types. The
restoration of this pottery has only begun, but several whole vessels have already been
successfully reconstructed.
• B. Pits of round plan situated in both the northern and southern sacrificial zones. Most of the
pits and ritual caches studied so far contained at least one and frequently more fragments
with geometric decoration.2 Sherds of such vessels were discovered as re-offered gifts
even in pits filled in the Hellenistic period or in caches containing materials from different
ages. The sherds found in such cultural contexts (and especially those from the pits) are
usually less characteristic, of small size and deficient in diagnostic features. This is the
reason why the finds from later structures, although most interesting in view of their
secondary ritual function, are not examined in the present study.
The total number of fragments from wares with geometric ornamentation and from the related
groups is in the several thousands and provides a solid basis for an extended and detailed special
examination which cannot be made in the present preliminary and summary presentation of the

^CL Chapter IV. 3 supra.

" Cf. Chapter IV. 3 supra.
Cf. Chapter W.3 supra.

IV. 4.2. Pottery with Geometric Decoration and Related Wares (A. Bozkova)

excavations results. Although influenced by subjective criteria, the selection of vases and sherds
presented in this chapter is nevertheless representative enough to offer a good general outline of the
essential characteristics of the ceramic groups in question.
The material is arranged according to the finding places, and this has no doubt imposed some
formal repetitions. This presentation scheme however is supposed to make the statement more objec-
tive in the absence of more accurate and valid criteria for the distinction of stylistic and chronological

IV.4.2.1. General Technological Features of the Pottery with Geometric Decoration and
of the Related Ceramic Categories

1V.4.2.L1. Pottery with Geometric Decoration

Clays, Turning and Firing

Fragments of relatively thick-walled, medium-walled and fine thin-walled vases are equally
represented among the ceramic material of this class. The variety of clays is more pronounced in terms
of colour than in composition and processing. The clay is more frequently hard, but also porous, re-
fined to different extents and sometimes of grainy structure. It usually contains tiny mineral admix-
tures which are more pronounced in vessels with thicker walls. The abundance of mica in the clay and
in the slip coating the surface is the most typical feature.
After firing the clay colours vary from beige-brown through orange-red to grey, and the great
variety prevents any general classification on the basis of colour. There are practically almost no
fragments of deep brick-red colour. The general impression is that of a soft beige-brown or beige-grey
range of colours.
The manner and degree of firing do not show any constant characteristics either. Some frag-
ments have evenly coloured broken edges which suggest high quality firing. In other cases, the firing
temperature has not been high enough to affect the core of the clay, giving the broken edges a sand-
wich-like appearance with a different, most often grey colour in the middle.
In principle, the vessels are wheel-made. Some fragments give the impression that they are
made by hand, but the elaborate moulding of the rims speaks in favour of the possible use of two types
of potter's wheels in the manufacture of one and the same vase - a slow and a fast one.

The surfaces of some fragments bear traces of coating with clay slip. It is not very thick and
durable and sometimes is easily washable if treated with water. The slip is of two main types: a coat-
ing of washed clay of red or brown colour and a shiny silvery or golden slip containing much mica.
The first type of surface coating is identical with that of the slipped vessels without additional decora-
tion, which are examined here in a separate chapter, and is usually darker than the basic colour of the

The most characteristic trait of the pottery of this class is the presence of geometric ornamen-
tation over different parts of the vases. Its motifs and style will be considered repeatedly in the detailed
presentation of the material. In this short introduction it is necessary to mention that this decoration is
applied in a specific paint ranging in colour from purple red to red-brown in a variety of shades. In
principle the paint is not durable, washes easily, and has a dull, mat outlook.

IV. Plain Pottery of the Same Class

This group comprises sherds the technological features of which are identical with those de-
scribed above, but which lack any traces of painted decoration. It is very likely that many of these
fragments come from the undecorated parts (walls or bases) of decorated vessels. However the full
restoration of some shapes proves the existence of vessels of this class, which were never painted.

KOPRIVLEN I 03IV.4. The Thracicm Settlement: Finds

IV. Pottery with Red or Brown Slip

The pottery of this class is close in its technological features to the former two groups, but is
entirely coated with a red or brown slip, without any further decoration. The slip is either dense or is
applied loosely by brush ("a la brosse") and has a mat outlook, without traces of burnishing. The
group includes vessels with walls of various thickness, some of the thicker fragments suggesting the
profiles of amphorae or similarly shaped vessels. The thin walled fragments are however most numer-
ous; some restored profiles and entire vessels belonged to flat-base cups with two handles (skyphoi).

IV.4.2.2. The Pottery from Sondage 4

The pottery of the several related categories considered in this chapter occurs in comparatively
high quantities in the lower layers of Sondage 4 which correspond to the habitation phases I and II of
the site.4 Individual fragments were discovered on higher levels (above the alluvium) but these should
rather be treated as displaced finds without any original stratigraphic value. The pottery complex from
the whole excavated area of Sondage 4 is heavily fragmented, which hinders the identification of indi-
vidual shapes and creates the impression of a relatively small stylistic and typological variety. The at-
tempts to restore whole vessels or at least major profiles have not been successful, but the study of the
material has suggested that the whole amount of fragments originates from a restricted number of ves-

The shapes that can be recognised are both of closed and open profiles (Fig. I I I ) . They belong
to vessels with thick, medium and mostly thin walls. The thick-walled vessels are parts of large closed
shapes either with a relatively narrow mouth with heavy outturned and raised rim (pithoi) or with a
wider outspread rim (dinoi). Fragments of the wide-open mouths of large bowls (lekanes) occur as
well; their walls are most frequently of medium thickness and the rims are variously moulded. There
are also examples of very fine, thin-walled cups (skyphoi) with a linear geometric decoration on both
the outer and inner surfaces, or sometimes only with a slip coating. Some of the mouths seem to have
belonged to amphorae which are similar but not identical with the examples from Sondage I. The lack
of more indicative elements of the amphoroid vessels from these two locations (such as handles or
shoulders) prevents however their definite attribution or comparative analysis.
Fragments of vessels coated with red-brown or dark red slip without traces of any further
painted decoration have also been found in the phase I and II layers. Most of these belong to the thin
walled cups (skyphoi) well known in the other sectors of the site, but there are also fragments from
vessels of other shapes with thicker walls. The finds in both layers seem uniform and do not display
any differences in style susceptible of a chronological distinction.

The decoration preserved on the fragments from Sondage 4 reveals a certain variety of motifs,
but the possibilities to associate these with particular shapes of vessels are unfortunately quite re-
stricted. There were no fragments large enough to preserve a sequence of two or more successive
bands of different ornamental motifs. The following main decorative elements appear on the pottery
from Sondage 4.
• Straight horizontal lines applied below the mouth of the vessel either independently
(amphorae, skyphoi) or as borders of another motif (lekanes).
• Undulating lines of different amplitude and wavelength, and of various line width (howls,
walls of unidentified vessels).
• Compass drawn concentric circles and crossing parallel lines in alternating bands. At least
some of the fragments can be attributed with certainty to closed vessels with narrow
mouths (pithoi). There are definite instances of the combination of the two patterns on
fragments of one and the same vessel (Fig. 112).

Cf. Chapter IV. I supra.

IV. 4.2. Pottery with Geometric Decoration and Related Wares (A. Bozkova)

IV.4.2.3. The Pottery from Sondage 1

Despite the restricted area studied in Sondage 1,5 the pottery finds were abundant, surpassing
by far in intensity those from Sondage 4. The quantity of ceramic fragments in the deepest layers is
remarkable, especially in the large pottery accumulation in the north-west corner of the trial pit which
contained hundreds of sherds of similar vessels. It is to be regretted that this accumulation could not be
excavated completely (a part of it of unknown size remained under the northern and the western walls
of the trial pit) and this precluded the opportunity to reconstruct more fully profiles and whole shapes.
The amassment of pottery evidently broken in situ lay in a stratigraphic section about 0.6 - 0.7
m. thick and situated at a depth of between 1.3 and 2.00 m. from the modern ground level. The im-
pression that it represents a coherent archaeological structure of undefined functions is corroborated
by the fact that fragments of the neck and mouth of one and the same vessel were found at four differ-
ent levels in the accumulation.

Shapes and Decoration

The fragments from the accumulation in Sondage 1 are mainly from large closed vessels -
amphorae and amphoroid vessels (or pithoi'l) with two types of double-stem handles - vertical and
horizontal (Figs. 113-114}. All the handles are decorated with repeated transverse stripes in the usual
reddish colour. The numerous mouthpieces from the accumulation belong to one and the same type
though two completely identical examples can hardly be found. All the fragments from necks and
mouths display a common typical profile with outturned and often elaborately moulded rim. The edge
is often decorated with transverse (radial) red stripes. The necks are almost cylindrical or slightly con-
cave, and the vertical handles are attached close to the rim. Some of the necks display painted hori-
zontal lines below the rim or at the transition to the shoulders.
The fragmentary state of the finds prevents the full characterization of the vessels in the com-
plex. The uniformity of the fragments vindicates the assumption that it may have comprised only am-
phorae with cylindrical necks and two types of handles: vertical ones on the necks and horizontal ones
on the shoulders.
The preserved fragments from the walls of these vessels are mostly of small size and display
an uniform decoration (Fig. 114), consisting mainly of motifs with concentric circles or with straight
lines both parallel and crossing, arranged in different ways. There were no examples of wavy lines or
strokes applied by multiple brush among the decorated fragments from the accumulation.
The decorated fragments discovered in the strata above the accumulation, including the phase
H levels in the trial pit, display rather similar painted motifs. The fragments of walls are decorated
mainly with motifs of crossing lines and concentric circles. The handles are double or single, of oval
section and decorated with transverse stripes or a single longitudinal painted line along the middle of
the outer face. This layer contained in addition mouths of closed vessels with large diameter (dinoi)
and narrow necks (probably of amphorae) with a thickened rim of triangular section (Fig. 115). The
latter have parallels (although not completely identical ones) among the finds from Sondage 4, they
usually bear traces of red slip or of worn horizontal lines applied over the slip.

IV.4.2.4. The Pottery from Pit N14

IV. Pottery with Geometric Decoration

Pit N14 contained whole vessels broken in situ and larger diagnostic fragments which have
permitted the reconstruction of some shapes.

Cf. Chapter IV. 1 supra.

KOPRIVLEN I egIV.4. The Thracian Settlement: Finds

IV. Amphorae and jugs with cut-away neck

The sherds of this group were extremely numerous in the pit (Figs. 116-117}. Their clay is
light brown or grey in colour. The two pottery types are united in one group because of their identical
technological and morphological traits. They are distinguished only by the details defining them as
separate types: the two handles of the amphorae and the cut-away neck of the jugs. All the vessels
display straight, simple and slightly rounded rims, almost cylindrical necks, bulbous spherical bodies
and completely flat bases. The handles are more frequently double (with two parallel and connected
stems of circular section), rarely simple (of oval section) and are attached somewhat under the rim and
at the shoulders. Only one entire vessel has been successfully reconstructed so far (Fig. 118/1; Colour
Plates, Fig. 302), but hundreds of fragments more belong certainly to amphorae and jugs of the same
type. It is noteworthy that most of the amphorae had a relatively large body and a mouth diameter of
ca 0.12 to 0.14 m., but reduced versions of the shape occur as well, as is attested by some smaller
mouths with a diameter of about 0.07 m. (Fig. 117/2).

IV. Jugs
The shape of a jug with a plain, slightly widening mouth and an elegant biconical body with
elongated upper part can be reconstructed almost completely from a number of fragments belonging to
one and the same vessel (Fig. 118/2). The handle is flat, rising above the rim and its lower end is at-
tached to the sharp bend in the lower middle of the body. The base is almost flat, with a slightly ex-
pressed ring.

IV. Pithoi
There were plenty of mouth fragments from large closed vessels (pithoi) among the finds from
the pit. These display relatively narrow necks, heavy outturned rims and spherical bulging bodies im-
plied by the broad shoulders which expand at a sharp angle immediately beneath the mouth, without
any neck. Individual fragments indicate the presence of slight variations in the rim moulding, but these
do not amount to real typological differences (Fig. 119). There are some fragments with horizontal
handles of circular section, frequently double and sometimes twisted, placed at the shoulders (Fig.

IV. Amphorae with a ring rim

A single fragment from the pit indicates the presence of another type of amphora: with cylin-
drical neck and thick ring encircling the rim (Fig. 120/1). The preserved parts of the facing handles
show that they were double, horizontal and attached to the upper part of the belly with their lower
It seems likely that a peculiar single foot found in this complex, shaped as truncated cone and
decorated, belonged to the same vessel (Fig. 122/3). The reasons for this attribution are the identity of
the clay, the colour of the paint and some parallels which will be cited below.

IV. Stamnoid vessels

Some peculiar fragments of mouths, found in different sectors of the site, testify to the pres-
ence of closed vessels of stamnoid types (Fig. 120/2). The best preserved example, and a decorated
one in addition, is a mouth from Pit N14. It has a plain rim and a wide horizontal lid-bed projecting
inwards. The sherd suggests that the vessel had broad shoulders and probably a bulbous body.

IV. Deep bowls (lekanes?)

Some sherds of simple mouths with rounded rims might be interpreted as belonging to deep
bowls whose lower parts have remained unidentified among our fragments (Fig. 120/3). The mouths
are inclines inwards and have a thick outturned rim. No fragments with handles have been preserved.
Although feebly represented in Pit N14, the deep bowls seem to have been widely accepted in the set-
tlement as we can judge from the numerous fragments found in Sector "South".

IV.4.2. Pottery with Geometric Decoration and Related Wares (A. Bozkova)

IV. Handles
The pit yielded lots of handles of different typological character and decoration (Fig. 121}. Be-
sides the vertical handles of amphorae and jugs with cut-away necks, the horizontal handles attached
to the shoulders are the most numerous. The latter are double-stemmed, single of oval section or

IV. Bases
The bases, which are numerous as well, do not display any important differences: most of them
are flat, even, without foot (Fig. 122/1-2). The only more peculiar base, shaped as a truncated cone,
was mentioned above in association with the amphorae with thickened (ring) rim.

The most essential feature of the pottery group from Pit N14 is the decoration consisting of
geometric motifs frequently applied over the entire surface of the vessels (Figs. 123-125). The decora-
tion is placed rather carelessly and is usually organised in bands separated by horizontal lines. The
main motifs are:
• Horizontal lines of varying width either forming an independent motif or delimiting bands
filled with other patterns.
• Oblique strokes arranged in various manners.
• Crossing bands of horizontal and transverse lines.
• Concentric circles.
• Bands of undulating lines of different width, wavelength and amplitude.
• Lattice pattern (hatched triangles).
• Curved strokes grouped in various ways.
All these motifs are differently combined on the preserved fragments, but the small number of
more intact profiles prevents the establishment of a definite correlation between the shapes of the ves-
sels and their decoration. The persistence of some elements however suggests the presence of certain
models in the decoration:
• The radial lines on the rims were typical of the pithoi, stamnoid vessels, deep bowls
(lekanesl) and dinoi.
• The related type of amphorae and jugs with cut-away neck were decorated all over the
body with horizontal lines. Their handles were never ornamented.
• The decoration of the second type of jugs is more vivid, displaying a band of short
undulating lines between the horizontal lines.
• The decoration over the bodies of the pithoi is more varied and includes combinations of
lattice pattern (most often beneath the rim), concentric circles (over the shoulders),
undulating lines and curved strokes. The lattice pattern appears also immediately below
the rims of the stamnoid vessels, and as the uppermost motif on the shoulders of the ring-
rim amphorae.
• The handles were usually decorated either with transverse stripes or with longitudinal

IV. Undecorated Pottery

A completely restored jug (Fig. 126/1; Colour Plates, Fig. 303) may be ascribed to this less
clearly determined group (because of the possibility of a complete deletion of existing ornaments).
The jug has a rounded biconical silhouette and simple plain rim with a horizontal plastic band beneath.
The base is completely flat. The handle is thick, of oval section, rising above the rim. A short hori-
zontal projection resembling a spout, but without any orifice, is applied opposite to the handle.

IV. Red-slip Pottery

There are dozens of fragments of fine-walled hemispherical shallow cups (skyphoi) with a
plain rim and two small horizontal slanting handles of oval section among the pottery from the pit,

KOPRIVLEN I asIV.4. The Thracian Settlement: Finds

including one whole example (Fig. 126/2; Colour Plates, Fig 304). The slip coats the vessels densely
or in the "a la brosse" technique.

IV.4.2.5. The Pottery form Sector "South"

The thick cultural layers of phases I and II deposited at some plots of Sector "South" 6 con-
tain hundreds, even thousands of fragments pertaining to the discussed pottery groups. The present
paragraph presents a small part of them, selected for the presence of features diagnostic for the shape
and of peculiarities in the decoration. The attempts to establish any definite differences between the
ceramic finds of the two phases during the initial classification of the whole material have remained

Shapes and Decoration

Although the ceramic material from this sector is also heavily fragmented, there are a few
more distinctive parts of vessels which allow some conjectural shape identifications.

IV. Amphorae and jugs with cut-away neck

Sector "South" has yielded some sherds of amphorae and jugs with cut-away neck of the type
known from Pit N14. They are recognised by the mouths or by the simple painted motif of parallel
lines repeated on the walls (Fig. 127/1). There are also dozens of double handles without decoration,
at least some of which could have belonged to vessels of these two types.

IV. Dinoi
A part of the mouth fragments discovered in Sector "South" can be attributed to large, closed
shapes with inturned rim and a hanging outside lip (Fig. 127/2-3). The mouth diameters suggest that
these were closed vessels with a wide opening and a bulbous body.
One such fragment is decorated with a group of vertical lines and concentric circles, which
probably formed alternating bands over the whole surface of the vessel. Concentric circles occur also
on other sherds of such vessels.

IV. Deep bowls

At present the mouth pieces of deep open bowls from Sector "South" illustrate most fully the
diversity and different variants of this ceramic group on the site (Fig. 128; 129/1). The mouths are dif-
ferently moulded and identical examples can hardly be found. Their common features are the out-
turned and sometimes thick rim and the walls slanting inwards. Some of the fragments resemble in
their morphological traits the bowls from Pit N14, but others present peculiar variants which have not
been attested elsewhere on the site. No fragments with preserved handles have been found and this
hinders the precise classification of the entire group.
Very little can be said about the decoration on this type of vessels, which have been identified
only by mouth fragments. One such fragment of larger size for example bears a simple geometric
decoration consisting of a band of repeated transverse strokes between two couples of horizontal lines.
The mouths themselves have in most cases a painted decoration consisting of radial or oblique lines at
regular intervals or in groups.

IV. Fine-wall cups (skyphoi)

Many sherds of thin-walled hemispherical cups with geometric decoration only on the outer or,
more frequently, on both surfaces (Fig. 129/3-4) have been recognized among the finds from Sector
"South". The decoration consists of horizontal lines of different width, sometimes alternating with
undulating lines, and is not identical on the two surfaces. The preserved handles are horizontal, of
round section, and placed at an oblique angle pointing upwards.

"Cf. Chapter IV. 1 supra.

IV. 4.2. Pottery with Geometric Decoration and Related Wares (A. Bozkova)

IV. Handles
Plenty of various handles with or without decoration were discovered at different places in the
sector. Some more unusual types are illustrated in Fig. 130. A piece of a handle of irregular oval sec-
tion with two parallel grooves on the outer surface is especially interesting. Two parallel, adjoining
lines are painted in a reddish-brown mat colour over the grooves (Fig. 130/1).

IV. Miscellaneous fragments

Among the ceramic fragments from the cultural layers in Sector "South" there are many
sherds from walls of vessels that cannot be ascribed with certainty to any particular shape or type.
Some of the more interesting and peculiar decorative motifs are illustrated in Fig. 131. A series of
small fragments for example is remarkable for the decorative pattern consisting of three-quarter seg-
ments of concentric circles hanging from a horizontal line. Some other peculiar fragments display S-
form ornaments in a horizontal layout, or some unusual wavy and zigzag lines.

IV.4.2.6. General Features of the Pottery with Geometric Decoration and of the Related
Wares from Koprivlen
The systematization of the material presented in the descriptive sections above provides the
opportunity to attempt an initial synthesis on the character of the examined ceramic finds. Some of the
inferences in this paragraph will perforce reiterate already mentioned observations, but the conceived
structure of this chapter requires such a synopsis in order to bring together the specific inferences into
a tentative whole.
The pottery with geometric decoration from Koprivlen is related to a particular group of local
pottery in the region of Northern Greece, named differently after either the style or technique of the
decoration or the origin of the first identified sherds: Subgeometric (or Subprotogeometric), matt
painted* or Olvnthus type.1' Ignoring this discrepancy of working designations, I am inclined to accept
that, at least as far as the finds from Koprivlen are concerned, this type of pottery represents a homo-
geneous technological and stylistic group influenced by the Greek Subgeometric pottery but also lav-
ishly employing motifs some of which date back to the Protogeometric style.
Some scattered published informations and references suggest the idea that the pottery of this
or similar character enjoyed a great popularity in the North Aegean area, in the whole region between
the Mesta (Nestos) and the Vardar (Axios), and especially on the Chalcidic Peninsula and around the
Bay of Thessaloniki (Fig. 132)w However, in spite of the considerable number of relevant finds this
type of ware has not yet been the subject of any special publication." As a consequence many of the
pertaining problems remain pending, including the essential ones regarding the precise chronology of
the group, which is provisionally dated between the end of the 8 lh c. B.C. and the end of the Archaic
Period, 12 or the eventual evolution in shapes and styles of decoration. Unfortunately, the material from
Koprivlen cannot at present contribute much to the elucidation of the chronological questions, coming
mostly from contexts which did not contain other chronologically sensitive finds like well-dated im-
ports. The publication of this material offers nevertheless a chance to systematise and arrange the
fragments in a provisional scheme, quite amorphous at present, which will inevitably be further sup-
p\e\\\e.Yted <md pxobabty corrected b\f new finds from the settlement at Koprivlen and by the results
from the investigation of other archaeological sites.

Koukouli-Chrysanthaki 1993: 685-686, 683, 696-697.
Vokotopoulou 1985: 147-148,150
" Koukouli-Chrysanthaki 1993: 685; Bonias, Perreault 1996: 666.
The map does not cover the actual picture of the distribution of this pottery. It includes only the sites
for which the author has found explicit evidence in the available publications.
" I am aware of the existence of an unpublished study on the pottery from Nea Anchialos by S. Ji-
matzidis from the University of Thessaloniki, but I have not had the chance to get acquainted with it. I am deeply
grateful to Prof. Tiverios for the information.
About the dates cf. e.g.: Bernard 1964: 142-146; Koukouli-Chrysanthaki 1993: 689, 697; Tiverios
1991: 241; Chrysostomou, Chrysostomou 1994: 76-77; Vokotopoulou, Koukouli-Chrysanthaki 1988: 81.

KOPRIVLEN 1 csIV.4. The Thracian Settlement: Finds

The pieces of pottery found in the different sectors of the site display an essential similarity
and even formal identity. At the same time, some of the pottery complexes have specific particularities
expressed in the repertoire of vase shapes and painted ornaments which may be quite accidental, but
may also be due to objective, if still unknown reasons.
A good example of this is offered by the earliest layers in Sondage 1 which contained a mark-
edly uniform material and did not yield any fragments decorated with undulating lines or curved
strokes. The mouths and necks of the amphorae discovered there are unique for the whole site and
have no exact analogies among the finds from other plots. A definite explanation cannot be offered
outright, but the established fact ascertains that the peculiarities of the finds from different plots (in-
cluding pn'mfl facie the closed complexes such as the quadrangular pits in the northern sacrificial area)
should be recognized and used in the future attempts to establish more positive chronological criteria.
The amphoric sherds from Sondage 1 are very specific with their outturned, elaborately
moulded rims and are essentially different both from the amphorae in Pit N14 and from some other
published examples with geometric decoration found at sites like Nea Anchialos" and Kastanas. 14 The
Sondage 1 examples from Koprivlen differ substantially also from the fragments of amphorae with
geometric decoration (including concentric circles) found in the early layers of Thasos (for which an
Anatolian origin has been suggested);15 however they show some similarity with the amphoric frag-
ments from Stathmos Angistas (though the details of the rim are not clearly visible in the publication
of the latter)."1 The amphorae from Sondage 1 obviously belong to a particular homogeneous group
and it is regrettable that we could not restore the whole profile of such a vessel.
The distinctions in the formal characteristics of the sherds from Sondage 1 and Pit N14 are
reinforced by the differences in the decorative patterns. I think that it would not be an exaggeration of
the facts to suggest that these distinctions are due to the different date of the two complexes, though
for the moment I am not able to specify their chronological sequence.
In principle, the fragments from Pit N14 reveal a more varied ornamental repertoire which has
parallels all over a large territory of the North Aegean, from Thasos and its perea to the Vardar valley.
In the closer geographic area, the relatively well dated sherds of Olynthus type from the early layers of
Thasos17 display decorative motifs similar to those from Pit N14 in Koprivlen. Disregarding the con-
troversy over the cultural and historical interpretation of the early finds from the island, they seem re-
liably dated within the 7'1' c. B.C. I K An intact vessel of similar style from a grave in the agricultural
area of Drama is dated to the same time on the evidence of the accompanying finds. 19 These loose
analogies suggest a possible 7 th c. date for the finds from Pit N14, stipulating for the possible effect of
factors like the persistence of traditions. An indirect indication for the early dating of the quadrangular
ritual pits is the absence from their filling of the later wheel-made wares typical of phase II. On the
other hand, a date earlier than the 7 lh c. B.C. seems infeasible for historical reasons. Future studies may
provide more positive data about the dating of the initial contacts between the local population of the
Middle Mesta region and the coastal centres and colonies, but for the time being historical logic sug-
gests that these processes became possible only after the establishment of the early Greek colonies in
the region, and especially those in the Chalcidic Peninsula, Thasos and its perea.
The morphological characteristics of the fragments from Pit N14 do not contradict the pro-
posed chronology. The ceramic complex contains unambitious and conventional shapes typical of the
Late Geometric and Archaic periods, which do not have a precise chronological position and cannot be
used as dating evidence. The presence of jugs with cut-away neck in the complex is rather natural than
surprising. This shape, a favourite with the potters in the Central Balkans, had been manufactured for

"Tiverios 1991-1992: 219, Fig. 20.

Hansel 1979: 197, Abb. 18/3.
Bernard 1964: 116; Graham 1978: 67.
Koukouli-Chrysanthaki 1993: 689, Fig. 39
Bernard 1964: 124-125, Fig. 37.
Bernard 1964: 142-146; Graham 1978: 97-98. About the attribution of the early layers containing
pottery with geometric ornamentation of "Olyntlms type" to the time immediately suceeeding the colonisation
cf. the more recent opinion of Weill 1990: 492.
Koukouli-Chrysanthaki 1993: 685-686, Fig. 8.

IV. 4.2. Pottery with Geometric Decoration and Related Wares (A. Bozkova)

centuries in so many variants,20 that the finds from Koprivlen have just added a new shade to the di-
versity of the archaic models.
The remaining identifiable shapes from the pit such as dinoi, stamnoi, bowls (lekanes), etc. do
not show any unusual formal characteristics differing from the usual repertoire of the Aegean (and
especially North Aegean) ceramic groups of the Late Geometric and Archaic Periods.21 For example,
the ring-rim amphora and its probable foot have close parallels among the pottery in the pre-Persian
layers of Olynthus." The large closed vessels, defined here as pit/ioi, have mouths and decoration
comparable to those of intact examples or fragments from Drama, 23 the Chalcidic Peninsula 24 and tell
Archontiko west of the Vardar.25 The thin-wall skyphoi figuratively nominated "egg-shell"'1' are
among the usual finds in the layers of the tells at Nea Anchialos, 27 Lebet,28 Archontiko, 24 etc. and are
dated rather broadly between 8'h and 6lh c. B.C. The examples from Koprivlen or at least those from
Pit NI4 could be dated more accurately if the chronology proposed for the whole complex holds out.
The pottery complex from Sector "South" is interesting not only in terms of formal features,
but also for its decorative motifs. An interesting example is offered by a fragment from the upper wall
and rim of a dinos with a preserved group of vertical lines and parts of concentric circles (Fig. 127/2).
In a general sense (disregarding details like the number of lines or the kind of paint) this ornament re-
sembles the decoration on Thasian cup/kraters of the late 6 th c. B.C. which on their part follow Cy-
cladic prototypes.30 Typologically the vessel from Koprivlen is rather different from the Thasian cups
and the loose analogy can therefore only imply the directions and impulses of the influences which
affected the emergence and development of the late local variants of the Subgeometric style. Another
interesting decorative pattern appears on a fragment from a vessel of unidentified shape. It features an
ornamental band filled with short vertical straight or wavy strokes (Fig. 131/7). This band resembles
the elements seen on some Euboean skyphoi which on their part have been associated with the orna-
mentation on proto-Corinthian pottery.31 The typological parallels of the egg-shell skyphoi and the
decoration of horizontal lines on both surfaces some of them display should be sought in another cul-
tural and geographic direction. These cups remind of shapes and decorative principles typical of the
East Greek workshops.' 2 A handle from the same sector mentioned above (Fig. 130/1) resembles the
amphoric handles from the early layers of Thasos which are interpreted as East Greek imports.
The adduced analogies mark grosso modo some problems concerning the formation of the
Subgeometric decoration on local ware. The list of ornamental coincidences could be extended to con-
firm once again the existence of common models of decoration (distinctly attested through the con-
centric circles and hatched triangles, for example) and of specific regional peculiarities in their appli-
cation. The cultural identification of the pottery along the North Aegean littoral however cannot be
apprehended reliably if we ignore the local traditions in pottery decoration descending from the Late
Bronze Age with the early examples of the so-called matt-painted ware.

About the finds from the Archaic period in the Central Balkan area cf. Parovic-Peshikan 1998: 35-59.
For example, the fundamental typological similarities of the vessels with geometric ornamentation
from Koprivlen and Nea Anchialos are beyond any doubt. My opinion is based on the summary statements in the
available publications, cf. Tiverios 1991: 241, and on private information which Prof. M. Tiverios has kindly
provided to me and for which I am deeply indebted.
Robinson 1950: PI. 1-2, P1-P2.
Koukouli-Chrysanthaki 1993: 685-686, Fig. 8.
Vokotopoulou 1988: Ne 127.
Chrysostomou, Chrysostomou 1994: 76-77, Fig. 7-8.
Tiverios 1998:247.
Tiverios 1990: 75-76, Fig. 8; Tiverios 1991: 241, Fig. 7.
Tzanavari, Liouttas 1993: 271.
Chrysostomou, Chrysostomou 1993: 163, Fig. 3.
"M; Blonde et al. 1992: 24-Z7,Tig." f I:r/rVerrea(m'r99?P£Jt^j^V ,.
Andreiomenou 1981: Fig. 20/55; Coldstream 1995: 260-26), Fig. 3/83.
1 have in mind the so called "Ionian bowls" and the bowls with birds, rosettes and horizontal lines.
Cf. Boardman 1967: 132-135; Alexandrcscu 1978: 27. M. Tiverios has expressed a similar opinion: Tiverios
1990:75-76, Fig. 8.
Bernard 1964: 116, Fig. 34; Graham 1978: 67.

KOPR1VLEN 1 03IV.4. The Thracian Settlement: Finds

I\ .4.2.7. An Attempt at a Cultural Attribution of the Pottery with Geometric Decoration

The pottery with geometric decoration of the class known from Koprivlen is accepted without
hesitation as a local product of the North Aegean littoral. Although mentioned in published form, the
scientific problems concerning its emergence and expansion cannot be considered as definitely settled.
The finds from Koprivlen are a good enough reason for a new look at the spatial and cultural charac-
teristics of this group based on the evidence accessible to the author.
Quite often, the pottery with geometric decoration from Northern Greece has been associated
in the relevant publications with the so called mutt-painted pottery, either because of the sort of paint
which is really matt and different in qualities from the black glaze used by the contemporary Greek
potters, or because of the presumed relationship between the two groups. I have purposefully
avoided the use of the designation "matt-painted" in the description of the material from Koprivlen as
it implies another cultural and historical phenomenon, differing in time and space. In order to specify
the parameters of the considered ceramic complex and to prevent unwanted associations with other
regional ceramic groups with Subgeometric ornamentation like the one identified on Thasos, in this
paragraph I will use the provisional formula "Olynthus type pottery" or "Olynthits pattern style", dis-
regarding the extent of its objectiveness.
Some archaeologists from Northern Greece have looked for the roots of the "Olynthus type"
ceramic group in the Late Bronze Age traditions of painted decoration.16 According to this view, the
emergence of this pottery namely in Olynthus at the start of the Archaic period should be related to the
historical evidence about the migration of the tribe of the Bottiaei from the central Macedonian low-
lands to the Chalcidic Peninsula about the beginning of the 7lh c. B.C.37 Other's have suggested that the
presence of this ware in the modern region of Eastern Macedonia (i.e. in part of the ancient Thracian
littoral with the island of Thasos) has no satisfactory explanation because of the absence of Proto-
geometric imports and stylistic archetypes in the region to the east of the river Struma.38
In my opinion, the appearance and spread of ceramic artefacts similar to those from Koprivlen
in the vast Central Balkan area between the Mesta and the Vardar valleys should be regarded as the
effect of a single cultural process with common roots and evolution.
The question of the genesis of the "Olynthus type " pottery in the North Aegean is not to be
answered with a simple and single answer. The formation of the stylistic group as an entity might have
been the consequence of an accidental combination of circumstances in favourable temporal and
environmental conditions. In this sense, the importance of the local tradition in the production of matt-
painted ware as one of the pre-conditions cannot be ignored. The strength of this factor however
should not be overestimated to the degree of a direct or sole formative element. It was part of a
cultural environment preserving centuries-long traditions but also a priori open and adaptive to
innovations. This environment was most exposed to influences in the coastal cultural area where the
direct impulses from the great production centres from overseas imposing the norms and principles of
the new pottery styles could more easily be felt. The Protogeometric style made an early impact both
in the Chalcidic Peninsula and on the continent and directly affected the artistic manifestations of the
local workshops. 3'' The process continued over the entire Geometric period, fed up by the flow of
imported ceramic articles attested around the Bay of Thessaloniki and elsewhere.40 The ancient
ceramic fashions were quick to spread over the Aegean world; the processes of acculturation however
were singularly accelerated and promoted by the Greek colonization. The second Greek colonization
and particularly the Euboean colonization in the Chalcidic Peninsula might have been among the
circumstances that influenced directly the creation of the "Olynthus style" and its realization in
numerous workshops and on a large scale. The relative value of the different factors could however be
estimated only after the establishment of the time when this type of pottery appeared as a

Vokotopoulou 1985: 147-148
Blonde et al. 1992: 11-40.
Vokotopoulou 1985: 147-148.
Vokotopoulou 1985: 150
Koukouli-Chrysanthaki 1993: 696-697.
About Torone and Kastanas cf. Papadopoulos 1994: 445-44; Vokotopoulou 1985: 147-149;
Vokotopoulou, Koukouli-Chrysanthaki 1988: 80.
About Nea Anchialos cf. Tivcrios 1993: 554-556; Tiverios 1998: 247.

IV.4.2. Pottery with Geometric Decoration and Related Wares (A. Bozkova)

homogeneous and distinct group in the North Aegean. It has been already been mentioned that in the
absence of other chronological indications the complexes with such pottery are usually dated within
the loose limits of the 8th to 6lh c. B.C. The chronological difficulties are illustrated expressively by the
emblematic vessel from tumulus 65 at Vergina which has long been referred on stylistic grounds to the
Protogeometric period, creating a definite notion of anachronism with finds of comparable features.
The date of this vessel has recently been reviewed, the proposed correction being based on the
presumed synchronism with other similar finds. 42 As a result the local group of "Olynthus type"
painted pottery has acquired more compactness and homogeneity, though its i n i t i a l date still remains
just very imprecisely marked.
Another unsolved problem relevant to the cultural attribution of the "Olynthus style" pottery is
that of the localisation of the production workshops. The great diversity of clays evident even among
the Koprivlen finds undoubtedly suggests the existence of numerous workshops specialised in the
manufacture of pottery with common morphological and stylistic characteristics. The name of the pre-
vailing style adopted here and by some previous authors 41 and the numerous finds (if still mostly un-
published) from various settlements in Chalcidice 44 suggest a priori that the peninsula was one of the
probable areas of production. 45 The important quantities of pottery found around the Bay of Thessalo-
niki and namely at the tell site of Nea Anchialos forward yet another probable production centre.
Both areas were inhabited in the period by a mixed population which seems to have produced these
wares both for its own use and for exportation. Notwithstanding the exact localisation and identifica-
tion of the ergasteria, I have no doubts that important quantities of this pottery were produced for the
purpose of trade and were predominantly intended for potential customers in the interior. Although
ceramic products of this class have been attested in a Greek colonial environment, e.g. in Argilos,
Neapolis, or Thasos,47 it is evident that the distribution area comprised vast territories beyond the
colonies.48 The material from Koprivlen shows convincingly that in the settlements of the interior this
was the main popular type of luxurious pottery in this age which substituted the more expensive and
obviously inaccessible wares imported from the reputed overseas production centres. The quantitative
comparison between the thousands of "Olynthus type" sherds found at Koprivlen and the single iden-
tified fragment of East Greek Archaic origin is really striking. As a matter of fact, in terms of quantity
the pottery of the discussed group at Koprivlen can hardly be treated on the same level as the later
black-figure, reel-figure and black-glaze fragments of imported origin. Its evident common, "every-
day" function was clear from the very start and confronts the members of the archaeological team with
the temptation to identify it as a local product in the Middle Mesta region. I mention this view (which
<ws^^<5s^x«sms^^>iS£je^ eft XVvt wyras,\Q>\ys> d\s>c\iS,sAOfts. and the conflict of opinions
'\nside Xtie xeam. \\ \^ pe-fitc,^ •po«s-Wvt\v?>^w<«. ^s«^Vwi &S5.WS&. -ixm^-s <c,\ <&v\s ^jfSs?^ <^LQ«^ ccs^x
have existed simultaneously, a part of it could have been imported in large series into the settlement at
Koprivlen, while other quantities could have been produced at place, attesting a high level of local
pottery production.
At present I myself don't see enough arguments to support this hypothesis and I am rather in-
clined to ascribe the situation to large-scale importation. Even if we admit the possibility that potter,
with geometric ornamentation was locally produced in the Middle Mesta region, this could hardh
have been realized without the immediate participation of foreign master potters. The probable foreign
ethnic presence at the settlement remains however an open question that concerns its overall cultural
and historical interpretation and cannot receive a definite answer at present.

Petsas 1964: 258; Fig. 1-4; Snodgrass 1971: 74, Fig. 33.
Chrysostomou, Chrysostomou 1994: 76-77.
Koukouli-Chrysanthaki 1993: 685; Bonias, Perreault 1996: 666.
Mylonas 1933: 23-24; Vokotopoulou 1993: N° 23, Jfe 36; Tiverios 1989: 55, Fig. 15.
Bernard 1964: 124; Vokotopoulou, Koukouli-Chrysanthaki 1988: 82; Bonias, Perreault 1996: 666.
Tiverios 1991:241.
Bonias, Perreault 1996: 666; Koukouli-Chrysanthaki 1993: 686-687; Bernard 1964. 124.
Cf. the map/K4.2 F/g. 22.


Anelia Bozkova
(Institute of Archaeology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences)

IV.4.3.1. Provenance
Fragments of vessels with slipped and/or burnished surface were discovered in different ar-
chaeological structures in the settlement of the 1 st millennium B.C., both in cultural layers and in the
ritual pits and the caches associated with them.
In Sondage 4 which has provided so far the most reliable stratigraphic sequence, the slipped
pottery was present in the layers corresponding to phase II and phase ///.' A similar situation is at-
tested in the cultural layers of Sector "South", though these were repeatedly disturbed in later times
and the establishment of their stratigraphic characteristics is quite provisional."
The slipped pottery discovered in the ritual pits and caches is both more abundant and more
representative. Unfortunately, it is exactly in these type of structures that pottery sherds have often
been found reused (or re-offered?) a long time, even centuries after their fabrication, which makes the
chronological context unreliable. The examples of such co-existence of asynchronous finds in" trie pits
and caches are numerous: examples of slipped pottery with identical characteristics have for example
been uncovered both in the pit containing Late Archaic bronze coins,4 and in pits with coins from the
2" J or 1 st c. B.C.5
The nature of the fragments found in the stratigraphic trial pits does not present great opportu-
nities for the identification and reconstruction of whole shapes. Somewhat better chances are offered
by some of the sherds from the ritual pits and the related structures, which sometimes display com-
plete profiles or diagnostic parts of the vessels. This specific state of the available material explains
the reasons why the present study of the slipped ware from Koprivlen does not engage in any attempt
to establish a firm chronology for all the shapes.

IV.4.3.2. Technological Features of the Vessels with Slipped and/or Burnished Surface
Even the standard examination of the pottery fragments, without applying any special chemical
and technological analyses, reveals a great variety of clays used in their manufacture. The clay prop-
erties discussed below represent more or less an approximate average meant to provide a general idea
of the studied material.
The clay is usually hard, of small to medium grain, with few or no mineral admixtures visible
with unaided eye. A specific feature is the regular presence of mica in the clay, if in varying quantities.
The firing is usually even, but there are some examples with badly fired core which has re-
mained different in colour. This is most frequently observed with vessels displaying a grey colour at
the broken edges and a red core in-between.
The colour of the vessels is also rather variable, and this prevents a more detailed systematisa-
tion by this indicator in the present study. It is obvious that the two main types of firing - in reducing
and in oxidising environment - were both practised. This explains the predominant tonalities of the
vessels: grey in all shades from grey-black to milky light grey, and different shades of red. With a few
exceptions, the colour of the vessels fired in oxidising environment cannot be defined as really red;
fragments of beige, beige-brown or deep brown colour or in different shades of grey-beige, brown-red,
rarely orange, are much more typical.

' CL Chapter IV. 1 supra.

Cf. Chapter I V.I supra.
Cf. Chapter IV.3 supra.
Pit S18.
E.g. Pit S10.

IV. 4.3. Monochrome Slipped Ware (A. Bozkova)

Most of the pottery from the earlier layers and structures of the settlement has been subjected
to some sort of surface treatment. Many of the fragments have either only burnished or both slipped
and burnished surface. The burnished surface displays the same colour as that of the broken edges, but
is very smooth, sometimes greasy in touch and hard.
The vessels with a surface covered with slip (a coating of diluted clay with admixtures among
which mica, usually similar in colour to the paste, but sometimes also dramatically different) represent
the largest proportion of the vessels. A certain relation is observed between the basic colour and the
coating: grey slip is applied mainly to grey pots, while the beige-brown occurs on those with whitish
colours. However, exceptions are not unusual, and sometimes vessels of intense brown colour of the
clay are coated with a lead-grey burnished slip.
The slips reveal a notable diversity in colour and degree of burnishing. The typical ones con-
tain plenty of mica, and are either in shades of grey varying from leaden to silvery, or in beige-brown
or beige-red shades with a golden glitter. A dark grey or black slip was preferred for certain shapes,
and their surface is usually burnished in a way that reminds strongly of the hand-made pottery from
the Early Iron Age.

IV.4.3.3. Shapes

IV. Amphorae and/or Hydriai

Some of the fragments from Koprivlen can be associated by their size and curvature with large
vessels for keeping liquids like table amphorae, hydriai or other amphoroid vessels. However, only a
restricted part of the fragments are actually diagnostic of the shape of the vessels: mouths, necks, bot-
toms, or handles. The amphorae with an elongated cylindrical neck, a gradual curve towards the
shoulders and two horizontal handles, and the hydriai with an almost cylindrical, slightly concave
neck and a single handle are the most typical (Fig. 133). The bottom fragments which can be posi-
tively associated with the closed shapes are usually flat (Fig. 133/7), with low ring foot. Some funnel-
shaped mouths with an outturned and protruding horizontal rim (Fig. 133/1-2) can be added to this
group; they resemble some Aeolian amphorae of the Archaic Period,6 but may also have belonged to
amphoroid kraters with two horizontal handles. 7
The pots of these several types usually have a grey colour of the broken edges and silvery grey
coating. However, some are made of a clay of deep brown colour (Fig. 133/4, 7 - probably from the
same vessel) and have a dark grey burnished slip. The group comprises also a few rare fragments of
orange colour with orange-golden coating (Fig. 133/8). The decoration on these vessels is thrifty and
consists of bands with several incised horizontal lines. The fragments originate mostly from pit com-
plexes containing asynchronous offerings. A large fragment of an amphora neck complete with shoul-
ders and handles (Fig. 133/3) comes from Pit S69, together with lots of other finds and a coin of Anti-
gonus Gonatas.* The technological features of the fragment and some general affinities with finds
from the Aeolian cultural area9 and from Northern Thrace'" suggest a possibility to ascribe it to a pe-
riod considerably preceding the time of the filling of the pit.
Due to the current state of the source base, the analyses of the monochrome amphorae from the
territory of ancient Thrace have not suggested any more explicit classification principles. The pub-
lished examples originate mainly from burials and present a relatively wide variety of variants of sev-
eral basic types which do not display any strictly standardised morphological traits." Most of these
however are quite different from the Koprivlen finds and cannot be used as formal or chronological

Bayne 1963: Fig. 17/15; Boehlau, Schefold 1942: 123-126, Abb. 49.
Cf. e.g. Gebauer 1993: 78-79, Jfo 1-5, Abb. 1-2.
Cf. Chapter VI.2 infra.
" Bayne 1963: Fig. 17/15.
Alexandrescu 1977: Fig. 5/5, 6 from Alexandria.
Alexandrescu 1977: 118-121, Fig. 5; Chichikova 1965: 341-344, PI. 70-72.

KOPRIVLEN I 03IV.4. The Thracian Settlement: Finds

IV. Jugs
Some small fragments, mainly from mouths and handles, reveal the presence of different types
of jugs in the settlement (Fig. 134). Unfortunately the available material is so badly fragmented that a
complete reconstruction of the vessels is out of the question, and this prevents in its turn any definite
chronological inferences. There are dozens of pieces from the mouths of trefoil jugs, mainly grey in
colour, with a thick straight edge and a slightly expressed plastic band beneath (Fig. 134/1-2). These
occur mainly in the pits or caches of ritual offerings. No fragments of oinochoai were found in the trial
stratigraphic pits.
A fragment of a jug with rounded biconical body (Fig. 134/3) is made of a clay of the same
structure and colour as that of the above mentioned amphora (Fig. 133/4, 7). The slip and decoration
are identical as well and suggest the same workshop and close chronology. Jugs of similar shape and
decoration are familiar among the pottery from Aeolia ' 2 and from South-Eastern Bulgaria."
Because of their fragmentary state the trefoil-mouth jugs from Koprivlen cannot be defined
chronologically. If however it is assumed that this kind of vases appeared in the pottery repertoire of
the settlement together with or at least soon after the earliest other slipped wares, the traditional view
placing their spread in a Thracian environment only in the 4 th c. B.C. should have to be revised.14

IV. Stamnoid Vases

The group of closed shapes includes also some examples of rarer ceramic types such as the
stanmoid vases. An almost intact profile with just the base missing was found at Koprivlen during the
excavations (Fig. 135); it has a rounded biconical body, a short funnel-shaped mouth with a lid-bed,
grey colour, and a coating of burnished beige-silvery slip. The handles are round, arch-shaped, almost
vertically attached to the opposite shoulders. This vessel was found in Pit S73, which contained also
finds from the 4 c. B.C. (black-glazed kantharos sherds and a bronze finger ring with an engraved
image).' 5 Its date however could be placed earlier because of the characteristics of the slip and in line
with the established principle that the finds from the pits are asynchronous. As a matter of fact, I don't
have a close parallel to this shape with its original mouth to offer. Stamnoi or stanmoid pyxides with
bulbous bodies appear quite often in the repertoire of Greek potters from the Archaic till the Hellenis-
tic Period,16 but they were not popular in the interior of Thrace. If we seek for a prototype of the vase
from Koprivlen in the nearer geographic vicinity and in a relatively early period, we could presume it
represents a "local" variant of shapes which were traditionally present along the North Aegean littoral.
A group of vases from Archaic and Classical sites on the Chalcidic Peninsula, exemplified by the
painted versions from the pre-Persian layers in Olynthus or by others dated to the end of 6 or during
the 5lh c. B.C.,17 stands out among the possible parallels.

IV. Krateroid Vases

An extremely popular group of closed vases with broad mouths could be associated with the
shape of the krater. The more distinctive examples have an outturned projecting horizontal or
obliquely raised rim, a nearly cylindrical short neck, a spherical body and two opposite arched handles
of oval section fixed at the most bulging part of the belly (Fig. 136/1-3). The mouth rims are plain or
elaborately moulded. The decoration usually consists of a row or two of double undulating lines
forming a band between two grooves or plastic ribs on the neck.
The colour of the broken edges is usually grey and the brilliant slip (in leaden silvery-grey or
beige-golden colour) is always present.
Krateroid vessels have been found both in the settlement structures (in the layers of phase II
and phase III) and in the ritual pits. In the latter case they were usually re-offered, as illustrated by the

Bayne 1963: Fig. 17/18, 19.
"Nikov 1999: Fig. 4/1,2.
Alexandrescu 1977: 126-127; Bozkova 1994a: 226.
Cf. Chapter 1V.4.11 infra.
Cf. e.g. Sparkes, Talcott 1970: N° 1527-1529; Brunneau 1970: 441-443, Fig. 5; Alexandrescu 1978:
63, tfe 254, Fig. 5; Drougou, Touratsoglou 1991: 24; Bitrakova-Grozdanova 1987: PI. XIII/3.
Mylonas 1933: 38-40, PI. 36-37; Jones 1990: passim.

IV. 4.3. Monochrome Slipped Ware (A. Bozkova)

example of Pit S74 where such a vessel was discovered together with asynchronous ceramic material
and three bronze coins, two of them of Alexander III. 18
A vessel with similar silhouette but of smaller size from Southern Bulgaria 1 ' 7 is ascribed to the
Archaic Aeolian ceramic tradition. The influence of the Aeolian bucchero can easily be perceived in
the decoration of the vessels from Koprivlen," 0 although complete analogies of the shapes have not
been attested.
Another type of krateroid vessels recognisable by the form of the mouth has also been attested
both in the cultural layers of the settlement and in the pits (Fig. 136/4). Unlike the preceding, this
shape lacks a real neck, the body spreading out immediately under the short outturned mouth. A deco-
ration of incised wavy lines is situated beneath the mouth. The clay is more frequently grey and the
slip is grey-black or silvery-grey. Though rarely, fragments with a light or deep golden slip occur as
The monochrome grey versions of the krater are among the most preferred shapes for the
Thracian potters."1 The examples from Koprivlen however have some specific, original morphological
features and do not find any precise parallels among the known finds from Bulgaria and Rumania.

IV. Skyphoid Vessels

The statistics of the sherds from slipped vessels indicate that those from skyphoi (or, skyphoid
cups) are the most numerous. The predominant shape has an S-like silhouette of the body, a relatively
high neck with a plain outturned bevelled rim, a spherical body, and two arched handles of round sec-
tion rising obliquely almost to the level of the rim. The transition between neck and body is sudden,
sometimes accentuated by an incised line or a plastic rib (Fig. 137/6).
The examples with a light-grey colour of the broken edges and a light silvery slip are most
numerous (Fig. 139), but others with a very dark, grey-black polished surface (Fig. 138/3) or with
brown clay and beige-golden slip occur as well.
A skyphos base (Fig. 138/4) is identical in clay and slip with the above mentioned amphora
and jug (Fig. 133/4. 7; 134/3) and it seems likely that they all come from one and the same workshop.
A common origin could also be suggested for the skyphoi of light grey colour and dove-grey silvery
slip (Fig. 137/1-3; 138/1-2) that strikingly match in fabric in spite some differences in detail. The larg-
est number of these skyphoi (fragments of at least 10 examples) were discovered in Pit S74, filled up
in the Hellenistic Period with offerings of different times and dated by the already mentioned coins of
Alexander III. An impressive quantity of sherds from such vessels lay in the ritual cache in Square 39-
T-II-h-13 of Sector "South". Skyphoi related to the same group have been found also in the layers of
the settlement (phase II and phase III), and in many other pits in the sacrificial areas.
It could be conjectured reliably that the skyphoid vessels from Koprivlen represent a "local"
variant, imitating the Greek skyphoi. The silhouette of the examples from the settlement with its ele-
gant curving line and high mouth resembles closely the so called "Ionian cups"," although the han-
dles of krateroid shape follow on an established local model which goes back rather to the earlier, pre-
Archaic skyphoi. Some isolated examples of monochrome grey skyphoi of somewhat different shape
are known from other parts of the Thracian territories, 23 but in general the published examples beyond
Koprivlen remain extremely rare. Comparatively precise analogies dated in the second half of the 6n c.
B.C. and later are known from the Vardar valley. 24 Monochrome versions of "Ionian cups" are known
from Millet and Samos, but these are far closer in shape and size to the original cups."

Cf. Chapter VI.2 infra.
' g Nikov 1999: Fig. 4/4.
About the grey bucchero cf. Boardman 1967: 135; Boardman 1988: 33; Alexandrcscu 1978: 30-31;
Cook, Dupont 1998: 135-136.
Alexandrescu 1977: 115-118, Fig. 2-3; Chichikova 1965: 341-344, PI. 70/1-3.
On the Ionian cups cf. Villard, Vallet 1955: 13-34.
Moskalu 1983: PI. C I I I / 1 , 3 , 4 .
Ristov 1993: 102, PI. 1/3.
Schiering 1979; 107, Taf. 26; Technau 1929: Beil. XI1I/1.

KOPRIVLEN 1 03IV.4. The Thracian Settlement: Finds

IV. Other Drinking Vessels

IV. Kantharos (Kotyle)

Fragments from a single and peculiar example of a two-handled cup were found in Pit 573,
which as already mentioned was filled up in the 4th c. B.C. The form of the vessel which could be de-
scribed as bell-shaped, the decoration of two parallel wavy lines and especially the making and the
treatment of the surface with very thick lead-grey burnished slip, suggest however an earlier date (Fig.
140/1; 143). The type is probably local or at least I don't know of any identical parallels. It could be
regarded possibly as a variant of a grey "kotyle" shape with shorter and broader body, typical of the
region around the Bay of Thessaloniki and the Chalcidic Peninsula in the 6th c. B.C.26

IV. Deep Phiale (Calyx-cup)

Yet another shape of drinking cup that emerged relatively late was made of grey clay and
coated with a thin slip of silvery shine. The most indicative example is a fragment from the upper wall
of a cup (Fig. 140/2), with morphological traits typical of the so-called calyx-cups:'1 The example
comes from Pit S43, which contained finds with discordant chronology. Among these stands out a
most interesting fragment from the mouth of a vessel covered with gold slip and decorated with a flo-
ral motif, applied with matt paint (Chapter IV.3, Fig. 83). Its date is probably earlier than that of the
cup and it was presumably re-offered in the pit. The phiale itself has contracted proportions and a bul-
bous silhouette and could be referred to the early years of the evolution of this shape, about the middle
or in the third quarter of the 4 lh c. B.C.28

IV. Kantharoi
The vessels of this group have been attested mostly with rather small fragments and are among
the latest representatives of the slipped pottery at Koprivlen. The preserved pieces are exclusively of a
light grey colour, and their surface is coated with a dove-grey, thin and dull slip of a predominantly
silvery nuance. These cups are rough imitations of the classical kantharoi of the early and advanced
Hellenistic Period. Their silhouette is somewhat coarse and the ribbing over the bowl is rather awk-
ward. A better preserved example (Fig. 140/3), no doubt of local production, is one of a series of
similar cups with elongated silhouette and clumsy high stem, typical of the Middle Mesta and Western
Rhodopes region. 29 The silvery slip of inferior quality suggests the persistence of traditions in the pot-
tery production, and in particular in the production of slipped ware.

IV. Bowls with InturnedRim

The bowl with inturned rim seems to have been among the preferred pottery shapes in the set-
tlement (Fig. 141). Its appearance probably refers to the earliest period in the evolution of the slipped
ware, because an impressive number of sherds were found in the layer beneath the alluvium in Sond-
age 4 (phase II) and in the deep layers containing wheel-made grey pottery in Sondage 1. The group
is dominated by vessels with black or grey slipped and burnished surface, while the fragments of
bowls made of red-brown clay are not numerous.
TKe, shajje vs, suwjle, with couvex walk and an inturned rim. Variants are distinguished ac-
cording to the degree of inclination of the wall and the curve of the rounded rim. An intact example
has not been found, but the bases were most \\ke\y smaU, with a slightly expressed ring foot, resem-
bling those of the skyphoi. The mouth diameters vary between 0.18 and 0.26 m.
One of the most characteristic features is the decoration beneath the mouth of the bowl, which
consists of one, two or more fine incised horizontal lines. Rather conventional, this shape which had

The examples are from Sindos: Tiverios 1988: 298-299, Fig. 2, 6; and from Agia Paraskevi: Vokoto-
poulou 1985: 156, Taf. XIV/2.
Sparkes, Talcott 1970: 121-122, tab. 128.
Cf. the finds from Seuthopolis: Chichikova 1984: 1.126; from Pernik: Changova 1981: 88, Fig. 43/2;
and from Varbitsa: Tsonchev 1959: 96-97, Fig. 6.
Domaradzki et al. 1999: 27-28.

IV. 4.3. Monochrome Slipped Ware (A. Bozkova)

originated in the Archaic Period'0 continued probably into the Hellenistic Age, though the material
from Koprivlen has not as yet provided definite evidence of this. The differences in colour and struc-
ture of the clay and slip suggest the work of several workshops and long periods of production. Most
of the bowls demonstrate striking technological affinities with the skyphoi, which testify to their si-
multaneous manufacture for at least a certain period of time.

IV. Small Bowls with Inturned Rim

This group of vessels is similar and most probably related to the preceding one. It is distin-
guished by the smaller size and deeper form, which gives it the shape of a truncated cone (Fig. 142).
The mouth diameters vary between 0.10 and 0.14 m., and the profile is outlined by the convex wall
slanting at a different angle to the foot. This kind of bowl could be regarded either as the product of
further evolution of the preceding category, or as the hypothetical outcome of the influence of the
black-glazed bowls so popular at the end of 5th and in the 4 lh c. B.C.31 Almost all the examples at Ko-
privlen were found in ritual structures (pits and caches) which makes their chronological position un-
certain. A grey bowl with silvery slip (Fig. 142/1) was found in Sector "South" together with a silver
coin of Thasos (a hemihecte of the "Silenos/krater" type),32 and could plausibly be ascribed to the end
of the 5th or the beginning of the 4lh c. B.C., i.e. to the time when this type appeared in black versions
on the Athenian Agora.31
In contrast to the preceding group, red-clay vessels with a golden slip or without any special
treatment of the surface dominate this one. The non-slipped versions seem to pertain mainly to the
Hellenistic Period when the shape was preserved without any important morphologic changes as is
suggested by the examples both from Koprivlen 34 and from other sites in South-Western Bulgaria. 35

IV.4.3.4. The Cultural Attribution of the Monochrome Slipped Ware from Koprivlen
The monochrome slip-coated ware constitutes a significant group among the pottery from the
site. Its ethnic and cultural attribution and the dating of the various types are among the essential
scholarly problems which the present state of our knowledge does not permit to resolve easily and
definitely. No doubt, this pottery is of local character (in respect to the settlement at Koprivlen and to
the vast cultural and geographical region in which it was integrated), and represents a regional mani-
festation of the "grey monochrome ware" phenomenon which is known from many regions of the an-
cient Mediterranean.
As a matter of fact, the grey wheel-made pottery is so emblematic for the Thracian culture that
for decades past it has been designated as "grey Thracian ware" in the archaeological publications.
There are some studies on groups defined by origin37 or by shape38 in the specialized literature in Bul-
garia, however no general systematisation of the problem has so far been attempted. At present, such a
study remains very difficult because of the absence of complete primary publications of the material
from settlement sites, the majority of the published examples coming from grave complexes or acci-
dental finds. This deficiency explains the lack of any profound interest in the problem of the temporal
and spatial features of the origin of the grey ware in Thrace. The opinion of P. Alexandrescu about the
influence of Anatolian bucchero on the grey pottery in Histria has not been commented for almost
two decades. It is only in the last year that a new study by K. Nikov, 40 based on the grey vessels from

Cf. Alexandrescu 1978: 120-121, Fig. 33-34 from Histria; Boehlau, Schefold 1942: 114-115, Abb. 41
from Larissa.
Sparkes, Talcott 1970: 131-132, PI. 33, Fig. 8.
Cf. Chapter VI. 1 infra.
Sparkes, Talcott 1970: 131-132.
Cf. Chapter IV.4.5 infra.
^ I have in mind the unpublished finds from the necropolis at the village of Muletarovo in the Struma
valley kept in the Archaeological Museum in Sofia.
Tsonchev 1959.
Chichikova 1984: 31-53: Changova 1981: 84-91; Coja 1968: 305-329.
Alexandrescu 1977: 113-137; Moskalu 1983: 92-154.
Alexandrescu 1978:30-31.
Nikov 1999.

KOPRIVLEN I osIV.4. The Thracian Settlement: Finds

South-Eastern Bulgaria, advanced a hypothesis supporting the idea of the kinship between the local
Archaic and Early Classical shapes and the models from the Aeolian cultural region. The finds from
Koprivlen confirm most of the inferences in this paper (e. g. the emergence of wheel-made grey pot-
tery far before the officially accepted date, or the probable Aeolian influence). The material from Ko-
privlen however has regional traits whose larger ethnic and cultural dependence should be sought for
in the South-Western Thracian area comprising also the littoral and the colonies. It seems most prob-
able that the emergence of grey pottery in Koprivlen and in the Middle Mesta region in general would
have been related to the development of pottery production in the colonial and local centres of the
Northern Aegean, where the grey vessels were certainly among the articles of the local workshops
early in the Archaic Period.41 Some archaeologists from Northern Greece are open to the idea of pos-
sible relations between the pottery from Northwest Anatolia and the relevant finds from the Chalcidic
Peninsula and the region around the Bay of Thessaloniki, 4 " in spite of the fact that some shapes of grey
vessels in the 6lh c. B.C. are already considered as influenced by the Attic or Corinthian repertoire.41
The imitations of Attic ware of the 5 lh and 4 lh c. B.C. in local grey versions are not rare in the Thracian
interior either.44
Obviously, the problem of the monochrome local pottery in Thrace and the littoral has many
aspects and its further advancement will become possible only after the publication of a sufficient
number of finds with relatively precise chronology.
It seems that in Koprivlen this type of pottery made its appearance in the second phase of the
P' millennium B.C. occupation, certainly before the end of the 6lh c. B.C., or at a time when the con-
tacts and relations with the coastal colonies had long outlived the stage of initial acquaintance. It is out
of doubt that the monochrome wheel-made pottery in Koprivlen originated under foreign impulses and
influences and that it had come to the settlement as an already developed and clarified cultural con-
There are no ceramic articles among the earlier examples of the local repertoire which could be
associated directly with the genesis of this pottery group. The vague similarities between the profiles
of some vessels with geometric decoration and their monochrome slip-coated counterparts (e.g. the
mouth-shapes of some krateroid vessels) could be ascribed rather to conventional treatment than to
any direct influence. Neither the hand-made local vessels nor the vases with geometric decoration can
be regarded as the archetypes for the monochrome articles. On the other side, the black-glazed pottery
which was introduced in the settlement at the beginning of the Classical Period was able to offer its
models for imitation only from that later stage on, further enhancing and diversifying the repertoire.
If we look at the material from another standpoint, many of its characteristic features such as
the constant technological features and the large series of uniform-type vessels suggest the idea that
there were local workshops associated with the settlement and producing quality table ware. If correct,
this idea would raise in its turn a lot of questions like those about the organisation of pottery produc-
tion, the specialisation of the craftsmen and the existence of artisanal quarters producing for the local
market. It should be emphasized further on that in the distinctive cultural layers at Koprivlen mono-
chrome pottery occurs quite rarely together with hand-made decorated pottery of the Early Iron Age (a
period which ended in the 6 th c. B.C. according to the current view of Bulgarian archaeologists). To
put it otherwise, the stratigraphic observations point to a period of time when a pottery style of pro-
longed tradition faded away and a new one entirely different in technology and repertoire emerged in
its place. It seems only too natural to suggest that this period witnessed also important changes in the
social structure and in the economic life of the settlement at Koprivlen.
This observations will hold true only in case the pottery with geometric ornamentation and the
related categories with red or brown paint, which represent the main pottery group of phase /, are
proved to have been entirely imported from Chalcidice or its vicinity and not to have been manufac-
tured locally at Koprivlen. The opposite would mean that we should place the emergence of special-
ized local crafts at least about one century earlier and seek for traits of a social and economic devel-
opment that has not been attested so early anywhere else in the interior of Thrace.

Vokotopoulou 1985: 147, 156.
Vokotopoulou 1985: 147;Tiverios 1998: 244.
Koukouli-Chrysanthaki 1983: 138.
Bozkova 1989a:8.


Anelia Bozkova
(Institute of Archaeology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences)

IV.4.4.1. Provenance
The inhabitants of the settlement by Koprivlen already knew and employed black-glazed pot-
tery in the Classical Period. The cultural layers in Sondage I (phase III), Sondage 4 (phase III) and
Sector "South" have all yielded some small-size fragments. A much greater number of finds were re-
trieved from the ritual pits and the caches associated with them. The ritual caches' contained plenty of
sherds coated with black or red-brown glaze, originating from different vases, frequently of one and
the same type. A number of mainly small-size fragments from at least five or six kantharoi and parts
of other vessels were found for example in a relatively rich cache in Square 39-T-H-h-13 of Sector
"South". Small black-glazed sherds were found also in many of the pits; their condition however per-
mits identification only in a restricted number of cases. The particular state of the ceramic material has
imposed a peculiar manner for its presentation according to the character of the fragments: mouths,
walls, bases, handles. Wherever possible, the fragments have been assigned to a certain shape.

IV.4.4.2. Clay and Glaze

The black-glazed pottery discovered at the settlement by Koprivlen seems to be entirely im-
ported. It is manufactured of quality clays, characteristic of the superior workshops in Ancient Greece.
The clay colours vary from ordinary red, through beige to grey-brown in different shades. This variety,
reinforced by the restricted quantity of available material, suggests clearly the presence of articles
coming from different centres. The texture and shade of the glaze also vary considerably, and this can
be taken as chronologically indicative in a relative sense. The old principle attributing to the vases of
the Classical Period a glaze of higher quality, density and brilliance, is confirmed by the finds from
Koprivlen. Some classical type kantharoi display a good quality glaze, while the surface of most early
or later Hellenistic examples is less shiny and brilliant and of rather metallic or mat shades. Another
feature of the later examples is the uneven firing that has resulted in altering the glaze colour in some
places from black to brown-red.

IV.4.4.3. Shapes

IV. Mouth Fragments

IV. Cup mouth fragment from pit S23.
Red-orange clay, brilliant black gla/.e.
Fragment of the inset lip with the rim. Plain rim slanting outwards. Slightly concave lip, sharp bend at the
transition to the bowl underlined with a deep groove. Base of handle of circular section beneath slightly
expressed plastic rib (Fig. 144/1).
Probably from a stemless (inset lip)."
First half of the 5 th c. B.C.

W . Cup mouth fragment from p\t S\5.

Grey-beige clay, worn black glaze.
Moulded (thickened) rim and part of the upper wall (Fig. 144/2).
From a kantharos or cup-kantharos.

Cf. Chapter IV.3 supra.
- Sparkes, Talcott 1970: JYa 471, Fig. 5; Smetana-Scherer 1982: N° 399, Abb. 21; Filov 1934: 57-58.
Fig. 73-74.
Cf. Sparkes, Talcott 1970: N»N« 648-670 and 696-704, Fig. 7, PI. 28-29.

l\'.4.4. Black-Glazed Ware (A. Bozkova)
Second or third quarter of the 4th c. B.C.

IV. Cup mouth fragment from pit S15.

Red clay, brilliant black glaze.
Moulded (thickened) rim and part of the upper wall (Fig. 144/3).
From a kantharos or cup-kantharos.
Second or third quarter of the 4 th c. B.C.

IV. Plate rim fragment from pit S5.

Red clay, dull black glaze.
Small part of the floor with overhanging rim. The rim is relatively narrow, almost vertically hanging. The upper
surface is glazed while the lower one and the rim are painted in brown-red (brush- 1 ?) stripes (Fig. 144/4).
From a fish-plate.
Ca middle of the 4th c. B.C.

IV. Cup mouth fragment from pit S38.

Red clay, brilliant black glaze.
Part of the upper half of a vessel with plain rim (Fig. 144/5).
Probably from a kantharos or cup-kantharos.
Early Hellenistic Period.

IV. Cup mouth fragment from pit S72.

Beige clay, dull black glaze with brownish areas.
West Slope decoration - olive twig painted in beige.
Part of the upper half of a vessel with plain rim (Fig. 144/6).
From a thin-walled kantharos.
Early Hellenistic Period.

IV. Cup mouth fragment from cache h-13.

Red clay, dull black glaze.
West Slope decoration - leaves of olive twig painted in beige.8
Small part of the upper half of a plain rim vessel (Fig. 144/7).
From a kantharos.
Early Hellenistic Period.

IV. Cup mouth fragment from cache h-13.

Red clay, dull black glaze.
West Slope decoration - ivy leaves painted in white, twig rendered by fine incised line.
Small part of the upper half of a vessel with plain rim (Fig. 144/8).
From a kantharos.
Early Hellenistic Period.

IV. Wall Fragments

IV. Fragment of horizontally ribbed wall.
Light grey clay; black shiny slip.
Fragment of the lower part of a vase with horizontal shallow ribs at irregular intervals (Fig. 145/1).
According to the specific ribbing probably from an Attic phiale'l
5 th c. B.C.?

IV. Fragment from lower part of cup from cache h-13.

Sparkes, Talcott 1970: N°N° 648-670 and 696-704, Fig. 7, PI. 28-29.
Sparkes, Talcott 1970: N° 1072, PI. 37, Fig. 10.
Cf. Sparkes, Talcott 1970: Ko 676, PI. 28, Fig. 7 and Ms 711-714, PI. 29; Rotroff 1988: Taf. 24/1.
About the ornament Cf. Braun 1994: Taf. 5/(3, 7; about similar kantharoi Cf. Vanderpool et al. 1962:
PI. 20, .No 37; Miller 1974: PI. 30, JVb 7.
About the ornament Cf. Rotroff 1983: N° 28, PI. 53, Fig. 2.
'' About similar ornament on kantharoi cf. Nikolaidou-Patera 1994: Fig. 52/p, 53/cc.
Cf. Sparkes, Talcott 1970: N° 520-521, Fig. 6, PI. 23; Morgan 1999, J*f° 186, Fig. IV, PI. 85.

KOPRIVLEN 1 03IV.4. The Thracian Settlement Finds
Red clay, dull black glaze.
The greater part of the vessel is preserved. Moulded ring foot, ribbed bowl and part of the upper wall. (Fie.
Classical kantharos with relatively slender silhouette.
First half of the 3rd c. B.C."

IV. Cup fragment from cache h-13.

Red clay, dull black glaze.
Part of upper wall with West Slope decoration - necklace in beige.
From a kantharos (Fig. 145/3). From the same cache as IV., and maybe from the same cup according to
the clay and glaze.
First half of the 3rd c. B.C.?

IV. Cup fragment from cache h-13.

Beige-red clay, black shiny glaze.
Part of upper wall with West Slope decoration - olive twig. 1 "
From a kantharos (Fig. 145/4).
Early Hellenistic Period.

IV. Part of cup with wide vertical ribs from cache h-13.
Beige-red clay, black shiny glaze.
From a kantharos (Fig. 145/5). From the same cache as IV., and maybe from the same cup according to
the clay and glaze properties.
Early Hellenistic Period.

IV. Part of wall and handle of cup from pit N l .

Grey-brown clay, black glaze.
From a kantharos with ribbed lower wall. (Fig. 145/6).
Early Hellenistic Period.

IV. Fragment of cup from pit S15

Beige clay, black shiny glaze.
Part of upper wall with West Slope decoration - wheat ear painted in beige.
From a kantharos (?) of unidentified type (Fig. 145/7). The neck's size suggests rather slender proportions of the
vessel, typical for the period after the middle of the 3" c. B.C.

IV. Wall fragment from pit S36

Light red clay, red-brown glaze covering both surfaces.
Fragment from wall with outturned bend marking the transition between the upper and the lower wall (neck and
cup). West Slope decoration consisting of two motifs. On the upper wall - running ivy with one stalk painted in
beige and around it rosettes with three preserved dots painted in white each. Two parallel lines in beige and
white at the transition, and beneath the bend a horizontal row of dots painted mostly in white and a few - in
added red.
The fragment is too small to be positively identified and associated with a specific pottery shape (Fig. 145/8).
The preserved part suggests that it belonged to a cup (a kantharosl) with short and wide neck and an articulated,
slightly larger bowl. The position of the decoration favours in principle such an identification. The decoration
itself reminds of West Slope motifs employed on East Greek vessels, dated mainly in the advanced and late
Hellenistic Period, i.e. in the 2nd or the beginning of the 1 s t c. B.C.

IV. Underparts
IV. Fragment of foot of vessel (cup) from pit S23
Red-orange clay, black shiny glaze.
Fragment of a moulded ring foot. Reserved underside with a circle of black glaze inside the ring (Fig. 146/1).
Probably from a stemJess. Found together vath IV .4.4.3 .\ A, possibly from the same cup because of the s\m\\at
day and glaze.
Cf. Vanderrpool et al. 1962: PI. 20, K5 37-38.
About (he ornament C?. Hotroff m3: Tfc'ib.'PY b'i.
About the ornament cf. Rotroff 1994: Fig. 2/a.
''* Cf. Schafer 1968: D 63-64, Fig. 15-16; Behr 1988: JVa 32, Abb. V.
/I'4.4 Black-Glazed Ware (A. Bozkova)

First half of the 5 l h c. B.C.15

IV. Foot fragment of cup.

Red clay, black shiny glaze.
Fragment of moulded ring foot. Reserved resting surface and underside with a circle in black inside the ring.
Probably from a stemless?b
5 th c. B.C.

IV. Foot and part of floor of open shallow dish with central depression from pit S5.
Red clay, dull black glaze.
Ring foot with rounded outside and shallow groove on the resting surface.
The underside and the ring foot are reserved (Fig. 146/3).
From a fish-plate.l7 Found together with IV. and possibly from the same plate.
Second quarter of the 4lh c. B.C..

IV. Cup foot fragment.

Beige clay, dull black glaze.
High ring foot, moulded on the outside, shallow groove on the resting surface (Fig. 146/4).
Probably from a kanthams or cup kantharos. ' 8
Early Hellenistic Period?

IV. Ring foot fragment from pit S64

Red clay, black shiny glaze.
Heavy ring with rounded outer face.
Decoration on the upper (inner) side - casually executed stamped patterns (Fig. 146/5).
Probably from a bowl.19
Second - third quarter of the 4th c. B.C.

IV. Handle Fragments

IV. Part of handle with circular section from cache h-13
Red clay, black shiny glaze applied longitudinally on part of the surface.
The handle is heavy, wider at the base (Fig. 144/9).
From a drinking vessel - a cup with bevel handles.
Classical Period?

IV. Pan of cup handle from pit S76

Beige clay, dull black glaze.
From a large-size kantharos of classical type. (Fig. 144/10).
Early Hellenistic Period.

IV. Part of cup handle from pit N5b

Red clay, black-brown dull glaze.
From a kanthams of classical type. A repair-hole is observed.(Fig. 144/11).
Early Hellenistic Period.

IV.4.4.4. General Reflections on the Black-glazed Pottery

The present survey of the black-glazed pottery from the settlement by Koprivlen covers ap-
proximately one third of the total number of fragments discovered. The remaining two thirds are of
very small size, uninformative or deprived of individuality and do not permit the recognition of shapes
or even the attribution of the fragments to larger groups. Despite their restricted number, the above

Cf. Sparkes, Talcott 1970: N°N° 469-479, PI. 22.
Cf. Sparkes, Talcott 1970: N°N° 464-469, Fig. 5, PI. 22.
Cf. Sparkes, Talcott 1970: JfeN° 1069-1072, Fig. 10, PI. 33; Blonde 1989: Fig. 5/15.
Cf. Sparkes, Talcott 1970: Fig. 7.
Cf. Sparkes, Talcott 1970: JfeNi! 803-805, Fig. 8, PI. 32, 58; about the motif also Robinson 1933: N°
588, PI. 156.

KOPRIVLEN I 03IV.4. The Thracian Settlement: Finds

examples offer a general idea of the character of this important pottery group, providing the opportu-
nity to make a few major inferences.

Black-glazed pottery was imported in the settlement by Koprivlen since the beginning of the
Classical Period. With the exception of a single small fragment of a column krater20 that could be of
earlier date and could possibly belong to a figured vase (Chapter IV. 1, Fig. 46/2), no other earlier ex-
amples have been identified positively.

An expressive number of sherds can be ascribed, though rather generally, to the Early Helle-
nistic Period when the settlement lived through a time of stability and prosperity. Many of the pits,
dated by coins of Early Hellenistic rulers, contained in their filling black-glazed sherds, usually badly

The final phase of black-glaze pottery imports in the settlement cannot be accurately deter-
mined because of the great number of fragments without a clearly defined chronology. The attribution
of a small number of finds to the advanced Hellenistic Period is essential in this case. If correct, the
Anatolian West Slope parallel (IV. would indicate that at least during the 2 nd c. B.C. the in-
flux of imported articles had not died away, despite its eventually reduced scale.

The fragments found in ritual pits and caches belong mostly to shapes intended for drinking.
Having in mind the specific sacrificial nature of these complexes, this peculiarity could not be consid-
ered indicative of the full repertoire of the black-glazed vases imported to the settlement.

The black-glazed ware represents a small portion of the total ceramic material from the settle-
ment associated with the Classical and Hellenistic Periods. Undoubtedly it represents a luxurious im-
ported commodity satisfying the taste of the upper social groups. Some of the fragments bear traces of
intentionally bored holes for the repair of broken vessels. Such special cares taken to prolong the life
of the black-glazed vases indirectly support the idea of their special importance and high market value.

Because of the risks of involuntary speculative conclusions, the problem of the origin of the
black-glazed pottery found in Koprivlen is not discussed in the present publication. The differences
both in clays and in the colour and quality of the glaze, and the stylistic peculiarities of the decoration
suggest some diversity of the eventual centres of production as well.

Cf. Chapter I V.I supra.


Anelia Bozkova
(Institute of Archaeology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences)
This section combines vessels with various typological peculiarities and chronology which dif-
fer from the more homogeneous pottery groups described above. What unites them is the manufacture
on the potter's wheel and their mainly table purposes. The designation "table ware" used in the
heading is neither precise nor equally applicable to all the included categories (for example, the un-
gitentaria). It is however the only appropriate one to consolidate the group by a common classification
feature and to distinguish it from the kitchenware and from other vessels of coarser fabric.
The section is not actually an analytical study of the plain wheel-made pottery attested abun-
dantly at the site of Koprivlen though mainly with fragmentary examples, but is rather representative
in character. Only whole shapes or fragments of more specific vessels enhancing the picture of the
variety of ceramic articles in the settlement are subject to consideration here. The plain pottery of the
Archaic Period, which is easily recognized by its technological features even in small fragments, has
not been included here and is dealt with in section IV.4.2 above together with the contemporary and
related wares with geometric decoration.

IV.4.5.1. Wheel-made Pottery with no Special Surface Treatment

The wheel-made pottery without any traces of surface slip or burnish is abundant among the
pottery ceramic finds from the settlement. According to the stratigraphic observations it is already pre-
sent in phase II of the settlement sequence, making its appearance most probably together with the
pottery coated with shiny slip. The lower layers yield mainly pots fired in reducing environment with
intense grey colour of the clay, which also contains remarkable quantities of mica. Red colour vessels
are not rare in phase II and III as attested in Sondage I and Sondage 4, but their really wide em-
ployment seems to refer to the 4lh c. B.C. and the Hellenistic Period. The statistics of the fragments
found during the excavations suggests that this group contains a considerable variety of shapes, which
could be presented in more detail only after the forthcoming full processing of the finds. The initial
examination of the sherds from the lower layers demonstrates that the early plain pottery borrowed
some formal features from the related ceramic groups with more specific characteristics, namely from
the slipped wares and more rarely also from those with painted geometric ornaments. For example, the
mouths of some amphorae with thickset rim of triangular section and a decoration of deep grooves
resemble the similar mouth profiles of vessels with either red slip or a decoration of horizontal red
lines (Chapter IV.4.2, Fig. 111/5-6). Some miniature sherds of plain, slightly incurving mouths of grey
skiphoi without any slip relate to the "egg-shell" cups with geometric decoration. On the other hand,
the plain grey pottery shape of the bowl with incurving rim and shallow grooves beneath seems to
have been borrowed from the silvery-slip wares. After the analysis of all the pottery sherds the list
would surely expand and would outline a more intelligible picture of the complicated processes of
mutual influences and imitations which accompanied the development of the local ceramic industry
along the Middle Mesta and maybe also in a broader cultural and geographic area.
The plain pottery treated in this section originates exclusively from pit complexes, some of
which contained also coins among the ritual gifts. Such is the case with the vessels from Pits N6 and
S78 which were found together with bronze coins respectively of Philip II1 and of Antigonus Gona-

The coin was identified by I. Procopov, who saw it personally immediately after the discovery. Un-
fortunately, it was later stolen from a temporary exhibition in the Historical Museum in Gotse Delchev. For this
reason the coin is not included in this volume.
Cf. Chapter VI.2 \nfra.

H~.4.5. Plain Table Ware (A. Bozkova)

The ritual complex in Pit N6 contained an interesting pottery group, in all probability dating
from the time when the pit was filled. 1

IV. A jug with trefoil mouth is the only entirely preserved example of the category from this pit (Fig.
147/1). The vessel is wheel-made of evenly fired clay containing little admixtures. The surface is smooth, with
no traces of further treatment. The shape of the jug with its relatively wide neck is rather peculiar and does not
represent an imitation of the most common Greek models. A close parallel from the Athenian Agora is dated to
the period between 325 and 310 B.C..4

IV. One of the bowls found in the pit demonstrates an original deviation from the established standards
and exemplifies a variant of a shape quite popular in the settlement and known by slipped and burnished versions
and by examples without any special surface treatment (Fig. 147/2). The latter, as has been noted already, are
more typical of the Hellenistic Period. The bowl from Pit N6 has an almost flat base, which is a peculiar
distinction from both the similar items in the settlement itself (Fig. 149}1 and the black-glazed archetypes which
are always equipped with a ring foot.

IV.4.5,1.3. Another vessel from the same complex is also informative about the ceramic traditions in the
settlement. This is a deep bowl of medium dimensions and formal features resembling those of the silvery-slip
skyphoi. The bowl in question differs from the latter in several features, including the dimensions and the
shaping of the base (Fig. 147/3). The technological differences are however most significant: the vessel from Pit
N6 is made of coarser unrefined clay of grey-brown colour and its surface has not received any further treatment.
Nonetheless, the skyphoid bowl belongs to the mentioned group, probably as its latest variant, and this testifies
to the permanence of traditions in the production of certain types.

The second closed complex containing whole vessels broken in situ was that of Pit S78, one of
the group of round-mouth pits. 8 Its filling contained numerous sherds of hand-made and wheel-made
vessels, a part of which pertained to several amphorae of one and the same type. Two of the amphorae
were restored.

IV. The amphorae from Pit S78 are vessels for keeping liquids with a narrow moulded mouth, a pyriform
body and without an articulated neck. The opposing vertical handles have an oval section and a plastic rim
running along the outer surface. They are attached below the rim and reach the middle of the body. The base is
flat, with a slight foot (Fig. 148/1-2; 150). The amphorae have a light beige-red colour and are made of refined,
high quality clay. The two restored examples display some differences in the mouth moulding, the size and the
shape of the handles.
The amphorae from Pit S78 pertain typologically to the group of the so-called "Macedonian amphorae" of the
Hellenistic Period.9 Their specific pyriform body with a profile gradually curving to the narrow mouth represents
an early version, which probably precedes the two main shapes characteristic for the end of the 3ld and for the 2nd
c. B.C.10 An amphora with a similar silhouette from a grave complex from Lamia has been dated to the first half
of the 3rd c. B.C." The examples from Koprivlen can be ascribed to about the middle of the 3rd c. B.C.. the
approximate time of the filling of the pit as dated by the coin of Antigonus Gonatas.

The other ceramic articles in this group are isolated examples from different pit complexes.

IV. A fragment of a classical type kantharos is representative of the group of local cups of the Hellenistic
Period, imitating the black-glazed versions (Fig. 147/4). The site has yielded a notable number of such sherds,
mainly grey and coated with a silvery slip' 2 or without any special surface treatment. In both cases the fragments
belonged to kantharoi of common principal characteristics. The make is usually, though not always, somewhat
coarse, the individual elements of the body are i l l proportioned, and the ribs are shallow. The cups from

-'Cf. Chapter IV.3 supra.

Sparkes, Talcott 1970: 63, PI. 7, N» 138.
Cf. Chapter IV.4.3 supra.
Cf. Sparkes, Talcott 1970: 13 1-132, PI. 33, Fig. 8; Thompson 1934: 435-437, Fig. 117.
Cf. Chapter IV.4.3 supra.
Cf. Chapter IV.4.3 supra.
Drougou, Touratsoglou 1991: 24.
'°Drougou, Touratsoglou 1994, 153-154, Fig. 74/e; Drougou, Touratsoglou 1991: 24.
" Papakonstantinou 1997: 53, Fig. 37/p-y.
Cf. Chapter IV. 4.3 supra.

KOPRIVLEN 1 as IV.4. The Thracian .V::.,-:,

Koprivlen are typical examples of a regional group from the area of the Middle Mesta and the Vs - .
Rhodopes which is attested with a number of examples of common features from different places <SkrebanK.
Vulkosel, Ablanitsa, etc.)." These vessels resemble in some of their peculiarities an example from the re;
Drama, 14 and this suggests perhaps the existence of a larger cultural and geographical zone presenting common
principles and models in the local ceramic production during the 3rd and 2nd c. B.C.

IV. A fragment of a grey kantharos is selected as another example of the locally produced wares. This is
the upper part of a kantharos handle with the spur, decorated with a plastically rendered human face - a masque.'
(Fig. 147/7). The image is rather general, somewhat coarse and the relief is low. It is an evident imitation of the
black glazed kantharoi with plastic decoration on the handles. 15 The sherd from Koprivlen is however original
both in style and in technology; in contrast to the glazed models, the image here was modelled together with the

IV. The only sherd of a Hellenistic itnguentarium at the site was discovered in one of the pits in Sector
"South" (Fig. 148/4). The lack of the diagnostic parts of the body prevents any comment on the typological
affiliation or the eventual chronology of the vessel. The preserved pieces indicate only that the unguentarium
was of elongated, fusiform silhouette, which is typical in principle of the 3rd c. B.C. or later examples. 16

IV.4.5.2. Pottery with a Mat Varnish (Glaze, Slip)

This group comprises vessels with a coating of different colours and character which substi-
tutes or imitates black glaze. The pottery of this type is easily distinguished from the slipped or bur-
nished wares' 7 and has quite different technological features.

IV. The ritual pits contained fragments of Hellenistic vessels coated with a red or reddish-brown varnish
(sometimes designated as glaze) which is often substituted for the genuine black glaze in this age. Among the
restored shapes was a kantharos profile with red varnish coating having a relatively high neck and a ribbed bowl
(Fig. 148/3). The kantharos is a quality product and was probably imported from a production or commercial
centre in the coastal area. The silhouette of the preserved part refers this vessel to the second quarter or the
middle of the 3rd c. B.C.18

IV. An interesting and singular fragment is restored as part of a cup (a skyphos"!) with two arched handles
and appliques in the shape of ivy leaves on them (Fig. 147/6). The vessel is made of very fine clay, and a dark
grey coating is applied to its upper two thirds. The body is spherical, and the high mouth has a rounded rim.
Close parallels from Asia Minor (Ephesus) are dated to the second half of the I s t c. B.C., or more precisely to the
Augustan age.19 The appliques do not contradict such a late date; ivy-shaped ornaments moulded separately and
applied additionally were popular from the Early Hellenistic Period till the 1 s1 c. B.C."0

IV. A fragment of a cylindrical neck with moulded rim provides yet another example of grey Hellenistic
pottery with a dark grey coating with metallic shine. It is further decorated with vertical strokes in a light paint
imitating a West Slope necklace ornament (Fig. 147/5). The fragment comes probably from a small size
amphora-Vike vessel of fine and well fired clay. The general appearance of the fragment reminds of the flat-base
black glazed amphorae of the Hellenistic Period and especially of those produced in Asia Minor workshops,
which have frequently only a necklace ornament around the neck 21 in contrast to the more opulently decorated
Attic examples."" The vessel from Koprivlen however has a peculiar mouth profile which does not associate
directly with the shapes known from the leading production centres of the age, and the barely expressed
shoulders suggest an underdeveloped lower part, unlike the mentioned amphorae; the latter peculiarity points to

Domaradzki et al. 1999: 27-27, Tab. 38/6.
Poulios 1994: Fig. 67/6.
Cf. Sparkes, Talcott 1970: 123; Chichikova 1984: 69, Fig. XVI, JV« I I I 15-18.
For the unguentaria in general Cf. Anderson-Stojanovic 1987: 105-122.
Cf. Chapter IV.4.3 supra.
Vanderpool et al. 1962: PI. 20/36, 38. Cf. Poulios 1994: 116, Fig. 66, N° A 414 for a somewhat later
example from the region of Seres with expressed conical stem, typical of the local versions from the second half
of the 3 r d -2 n d c. B.C.
''J Mitsopoulos-Leon 1991: 132, Taf. 183, K8.
Thompson 1934: 335. Fig. 15, B4; Mayer-Schlichtmann 1988: S7, S10.
'Schiifer 1968: Abb. 3.
Thompson 1934: D26, D27, E59; Rotroff 1991: PI. 30.

IT-1.5. Plain Table Ware (A. Bozkova)

an alternative possibility to identify the fragment as belonging to a "local" variant of the kantharoi with a thick
mouth rim and loop handles.
The last two vessels are of a refined make and in spite of their grey colour they cannot be as-
cribed unconditionally to the local pottery production of the Hellenistic Period. Their origin should
rather be sought in a greater and more advanced production centre. Some Anatolian workshops for
example continued to produce grey pottery in the Hellenistic Period.24 The links between this Helle-
nistic grey wares and the early Aeolian pottery, suggested by some authors, 25 are however difficult to
prove. The two grey vessels from Koprivlen differ essentially from the pottery types of the earlier
group of monochrome slipped grey ware and demonstrate a technological and cultural break from the
older traditions established on the site.

- Cp. Langlotz 1932: Taf. 223, N° 729.

Schaier 1968: 29-30; Mitsopoulos-Leon 1991: 78-79.
Schafer 1968:29.


Veselin Hadjiangelov
(Historical Museum Samokov)
Fragments of pithoi were already found in the course of the archaeological surveys and trial
excavations at Kozluka near Koprivlen in 1995 - 1997. The excavations in 1998 and 1999 along the
bed of road 11-19 (Gotse Delchev - Drama), although affecting mainly the periphery of the ancient
settlement, produced a considerable quantity of material and information, permitting the study of this
type of vessels in the context of specific archaeological environments and the assessment of the prob-
lems of their typology. In addition to their interest as products of the local ceramic production, the pi-
thoi are also a valuable source of information about the ancient agriculture in the Middle Mesta region.

IV.4.6.1. Location, Function and Technology

Several whole pithoi or parts of the lower half of the vessels were found in situ at different
places on the territory of the site together with numerous fragments from mouths, bottoms or walls.
Originally the pithoi were partially or totally embedded in the ground and covered with flat stone
By their formal characteristics the pithoi from Koprivlen resemble those from other sites in
Thrace and Greece. The body is rounded, of biconical shape, sharply narrowing towards the bottom.
The mouth rim is broad and solid, simply or more elaborately moulded. The bottom is flat or with a
solid foot. The vessels are of different size. The height of the intact examples is about 1.5 m., and the
average maximum diameter of the body about 0.85 m. The dimensions of the partially preserved pithoi
are different. The mouth diameters vary between 0.38 and 0.55 m., and the thickness of the walls -
between 1.5 and 2.5 cm. These differences reflect variations in the silhouettes and proportions of the
vessels; unfortunately, the fragmentary character of most of the finds has not permitted the f u l l recon-
struction of more vessels.
Even without any laboratory analysis of the clay, it can be suggested that the pithoi were pro-
duced most likely in local workshops. The clay was of well puddled paste with mineral and sandy ad-
mixtures. It is similar to the clay of other hand-made or wheel-made pots of presumably local origin.
The shaping of the pithoi must have included several consecutive stages, combining work on a slow
wheel and plastering by hand.
Judging by the broken edges and the imprints on the inner surface of the vessels, it can be sug-
gested that the mouth rim together with part of the shoulders of the vessels were usually made on a
wheel. The remaining part of the body was then added by plastering vertical or horizontal bands of
clay, going gradually upwards to the bottom, after which the surface was smoothed on a slow wheel.
The baking was done in ovens with different temperature parameters, which caused the difference in
the colour of the pithoi - brick red, light brown or greyish brown. The pithoi from Seuthopolis were
made in a similar way.'
The general function of the pithoi was as storage vessels for cereal crops, wine, oil, etc. The
paleobotanical analysis of samples taken from intact pithoi closed with stone plates in Sector "South"
did not show remains of cereals." The location of these vessels in the southern sacrificial complex sug-
gests that they were functionally linked with it, and explains the lack of traces of utilitarian use. There
is more information about the probable use of the pithoi as containers for liquids. The inner and par-
tially the outer side of two vessels found together in Sector "South" bears traces of a dark brown to
black slip, probably intended to improve their impermeability. A similar slip has been noted on pithoi
from the Athenian Agora.' The slip was probably applied with a brush, traces of which are visible at
some places. The slip in this case most probably had practical rather than decorative functions. A 2

Chichikova 1984:54.
Cf. Chapter VII.2 infra.
Thompson 1934: 369.

A 4.6. Pithoi iV. Hadjiangelov)

cm. wide horizontal stripe of black paint resembling glaze ran on the inner side of one of the vessels
some 25 cm. under the mouth rim (Fig. 154/14); it might be suggested that the line marked a certain
level or volume of the vessel.
Many of the pithoi bear traces of repairs from cracking; there are many fragments with pre-
served lead braces fixed in holes bored on both the sides of the crack. Fragments from repaired vessels
occurred mainly in cultural strata, but there were some also in the fill of ritual pits. Repaired pithoi
have been noted also in Pistiros in the Upper Hebros valley. 4
A characteristic feature of the pithoi from Koprivlen is that they were reused. Their presence in
the ritual pit complexes implies a change from utilitarian to ritual function, 5 expressed either in the
placing of fragments of pithoi among the offerings in the pits, or in their use for the shaping of the pit
itself (the so called pit-pithoi). In the latter case both entire pithoi or only lower halves and large wall
fragments (e. g. the one in Pit S52, with reparations of the bottom) were used for the usual pit rituals.6
The small number of whole vessels (Fig. 154/13-14) and the fragmentary character of the re-
maining finds has imposed the elaboration of a typology based on only two characteristic features of
the pithoi - the shape respectively of the mouths and of the bottoms.

IV.4.6.2. Mouth Shapes

IV. Type I
Pithoi with outturned thick mouth rim and high conical neck. The type is represented with four
examples made of clay with sandy admixtures. The outer surface is burnished. The vessels are un-
evenly baked, and their colour varies from light brown to reddish brown. There are traces of smoke-
blackening. Two variants are distinguishable.

IV. Variant A
The mouth diameter is about 0.45 m. The outer rim is solid, outturned and simply fashioned.
There is no decoration. The neck is inclined inwards. The fragments were found in Sondage I, in a
thick cultural stratum from the Archaic Age (Fig. 151/1-2)?

IV. Variant B
This is represented by two fragments with diameters of 0.45 and 0.48 m. (Fig. 151/3-4). The
outer rim has a more complicated profile achieved by shallow horizontal grooves. One of the mouths
is covered with a dark brown slip, and its lower edge bears a decoration of oblique incisions (Fig.
These pithoi are among the earliest. They have parallels from the Archaic strata in Histria/
Similar pithos mouths are also known from Dyrrhachion in Albania, but the examples there are
smaller and have two handles. 9

IV. Type II
Pithoi with a profiled mouth rim and a cylindrical neck. The type is represented by fourteen
examples distributed in two variant groups.

IV. Variant A
An almost vertical profile with a broad and solid outturned rim. The mouth rims are convex
and elaborately moulded with shallow or deeper grooves. Some of them bear an additional decoration
of oblique incisions (Fig. 152/5-6). The horizontal surface of the mouth is decorated with different
Lazov 1999: 340.
Cf. Chapter 1V.3 supra.
Cf. Chapter IV. 3 supra.
Cf. Chapter IV. 1 supra.
Alexandrescu 1978: 93-94.
Hidri 1990: 206, Tab. XVII, 133-137.

KOPRtVLEN 1 egIV.4. The Thracun Sen

kinds of ornaments made before of after the baking of the vessels. In some cases the decoration i
simple - ellipsoid fossettes at equal intervals, made by the pressing of a fingertip onto the wet <
<Fig. 152/1). A hastate ornament appears on some mouths (Fig. 152/2), in some cases the middle line
is fashioned like an ear of wheat (Fig. 152/3). The ornament was usually stamped before the baking of
the vessel, but in one case the hastate motif was additionally engraved on the mouth of the pithos after
baking (Fig. 152/4). The ornament is always pointed towards the inner edge of the mouth rim.
Similar signs have been found on many pithoi from Seuthopolis, 10 where they have been sug-
gested to represent a stylized Greek letter omega which turned in the course of time into a potter's
mark.11 This way of marking the produce of a workshop was typical especially of the Hellenistic Age.

IV. Variant B
This subtype represents a simplified variant of the profiled mouth rims, which have an almost
vertical edge with only one or two horizontal grooves. The necks are cylindrical. The clay is well puri-
fied. evenly baked and has a brick red or light brown colour. The diameter of the mouths varies be-
tween 0.48 and 0.53 m. (Fig. 152/7-14).
This mouth shape has close if not completely identical parallels in Pistiros (type II after the ty-
pology of Lazov)12 and in the Athenian Agora.13 The differences could be explained with the regional
peculiarities of the local workshop production. The type could be dated generally within the chrono-
logical limits of the Early Hellenistic Age.

IV. Type III

This is a transitional type from the vessels with a cylindrical neck to those with conical shoul-
ders. It is represented by nine examples. All are made of clay with comparatively large mineral and
>and admixtures. The vessels are evenly baked and their surface is roughly burnished, with a light or
dark brown colour. The mouths are roughly shaped, solid, more or less outturned and bear no addi-
tional decoration (Fig. 153/1-9). Judging by the preserved parts of the walls of these vessels, it might
be suggested that they were about 1 .5 m. high and had a spheroid-biconical shape.
The date of this type can be suggested provisionally on the basis of the context in which some
of the fragments were found. For example, a bronze coin of Alexander III was discovered in the "Pit-

IV. Type IV
This shape of pithoi is very similar to the previous one, the main difference being in the com-
position of the clay; the form of the lower body might have been different too. The clay is compara-
tively refined, with admixtures of fine sand and evenly fired. The inner and outer surfaces of the
mouths are well burnished and coloured in different shades of brown.
The type is represented by three whole vessels (Fig. 1 54/1 3- 14) and twelve fragments. Three
variants can be distinguished according to the decoration.

IV. Variant A
The mouth rim is carefully shaped and burnished. The neck is conical, graceful and bears a
decoration consisting of a relief pinched band (Fig. 154/1), of two parallel incised lines (Fig. 154/2) or
of one plastic line (Fig. 154/3).
The shape of the mouths from Koprivlen is similar to that of the so-called two-part mouths
with convex upper and hanging lower part from Pistiros (type 1 after Lazov). 15

Chichikova 1958: 469, PI. XXV, 8-9.
Chichikova 1958: 477, n. 3.
Lazov 1999:345, Fig. I, 14-20.
Thompson 1934: 344.
Cf. Chapter IV.3 supra and Chapter VI.2 infra.
Lazov 1999: 345, Fig. 1, 1-4.

I\.4.f). Pithoi (V. Hadjiangelov)

IV. Variant B
A moulded mouth rim and conical shoulders. The rim is shaped with horizontal grooves (Fig.
154/4) or with a bevelled upper edge (Fig. 154/5-6). Similar shapes are known from Thasos, where
they appear in contexts from about the middle of the 4Ih century B.C.16

IV. Variant C
The mouth rim is solid, unmoulded and outturned, with a trapezoid section (Fig. 154/7-12).

IV.4.6.3. Bottom Shapes

The group of the bottoms is represented by eleven fragments. The location of the finds did not
permit the establishment of any definite relation between the bottom and mouth pieces, but some ob-
servations and suggestions to this end can still be made. In spite of the limited number of fragments,
the bottoms may be distributed in three groups.

IV. Variant A
Narrow, flat or slightly concave bottom (Fig. 155/1-2). These fragments probably belonged to
pithoi with mouths of type IV, possibly also of type III according to the above classification.

IV. Variant B
The bottom is shaped like a high (Fig. 155/3-5, 10) or low (Fig. 155/6-8) cylindrical foot.
Fragments of similar bottoms were found together with or close to mouths of type I and type II.

VI. Variant C
The bottom is shaped like a solid moulded foot (Fig. 155/9. 11). It may be related tentatively
with the mouths of type III.

IV.4.6.4. Conclusion
Few of the pithos fragments from Koprivlen were found in clear stratigraphic contexts. The
pithos fragments placed as offerings in pits cannot be defined chronologically by the time of the ritual,
for there is plenty of evidence that earlier materials (notably of Archaic and Classical date) had often
been placed in pits the filling of which can be dated with coins and other finds to the Hellenistic Age,
and the "pit-pitlwi" were evidently reused, probably quite a long time after their production. These
facts make it difficult to establish precise dates for the different types and draw any reliable conclu-
sions about the development of the shapes. Therefore, the present paper is restricted to the initial pres-
entation of this new and still poorly studied archaeological material.

"'Blonde 1989:545.


Hristo Popov
<Institute of Archaeology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences)
The strainers found in the course of the rescue excavations near the village of Koprivlen are an
original group amidst the abound ceramic ware. They are heavily fragmented and with the exception
of a few examples do not permit the reconstruction of full shapes. Regardless of their poor state of
preservation, their examination is quite possible. The questions that arise concern mainly their
functional purpose and the context of their discovery.
All the sherds from strainers were found in Sector "South" (Chapter II, Fig. 2) and come
• cultural layers related mostly to the Archaic and Classical Periods, and
• ritual pits in the southern sacrificial complex.
Their stratigraphic positions vary from the superficial greensward layers (without context) to
strata belonging to phases I and II of the Iron Age settlement.
The most numerous, but also most problematic group is that of strainers with ribs on the inner
side (Fig. 156). The ribs are usually shaped either as a continuous spiral winding in concentric circles
on the bottom and walls (Fig. 156/3, 6), or as detached concentric circles ending in a high knob on the
bottom (Fig. 156/2, 4). All the vessels are hand-made. After firing the clay has obtained a grey to
grey-brown or black colour. The paste contains admixtures of small particles of stone, sand and mica.
The openings are round, of diameters varying between 3 and 5 mm. Traces of secondary firing or
smoking have not been attested, and the only example of uneven surface colour is due to temperature
fluctuations in the course of firing.
It is interesting to note that most of the vessels display differences in the treatment of the outer
and inner sides of the walls. The outer side is poorly treated, unsmoothed and rough, and has no slip
covering. In contrast, the inner walls including the ribs are usually carefully fashioned, their surface is
better smoothed and covered with a layer of thin clay which has become darker on firing in compari-
son with the outer side. Except for a single wall fragment, all the other sherds in this group are from
bottoms. Mouth pieces or larger fragments allowing the reconstruction of shapes are missing. How-
ever there are enough analogies found in earlier studies at other sites. This sort of vessels were distrib-
uted in Thrace within broad chronological limits from the end of the Bronze Age until Late Antiquity.'
The best preserved examples are shallower or deeper bowls and usually stand on three or four legs or
on a ring foot. The mouth rims are plain. The closest parallel to the vessels from Koprivlen is a
strainer from Zornitsa. All the fragments of bottoms are flat and suggest rather a shallow bowl. The
vessels from Kukova tumulus and the hillfort near Pernik display the shape of a deeper bowl with
three legs or a ring foot. It is not possible to judge whether the strainers from Koprivlen had any legs.
The available sherds do not support such a suggestion, and it seems perfectly possible that there were
examples without legs of feet, standing simply on a plain bottom.
In the relevant publications these vessels are usually ascribed with "cult functions". Defini-
tions like "cult vessel" or "cult pottery" are often used, and stress is laid on their presumed utilisation
in "Thracian cult practices" e. g. in the Middle and Western Rhodopes, or on their occurrence in ne-
cropolises and sanctuaries. 4 The context of the finds from Koprivlen does not support this assumption.
Four of the fragments published here (Fig. 156/1, 3-5) were found in cultural layers in Squares 39-T-
II-m-3, 39-T-II-r-2, 39-T-H-X-3 and 39-T-II-x-S in Sector "South" in situations related to phases I

*Cf. Chapter IV. I infra.

Filov 1934: 11-12, 37-38, Fig. 42-43; Sultov 1972: Fig. 1; Liuhenova 1980: 129-130. Fig. 321;
Liubenova 1981: 144-145, Fig. 64; Kisiov 199()b: 179-180; Kisiov 1998: 34, o6p. 4-5; Domaradzki et aL 1999:
105, Fig. 5 a; a strainer from Gospodintsi (Fig. 159/3) now kept in the museum of Gotse Delchev. I am indebted
to Ms Spaska Paskova for the kind permission to use this find.
Liubenova 1981: 144, 145.
Kisiov 1998: 33-34.

fl'. 4. ~. Strainers (H. Popov)

and II of the ancient settlement which do not permit of any ritual interpretation of the context. 5 The
two other fragments (Fig. 156/2, 6.) were found in pits in the sanctuary situated in close vicinity. De-
spite the cult context of their discovery, the careful analysis of the circumstances reveals some peculi-
arities. The fragments were isolated. No other parts of the vessels were found in the pits. The broken
surfaces show that the vessels were broken long ago, and the fragments seem to have been deposited
in the pits in the state in which they were found. A similar situation was noted in Kukova tumulus
where B. Filov found an intact vessel and single fragments from several others, broken long before.6
The context in this case was also a cult one and the strainers had been deposited during some ritual
practices together with the heaping of the tumulus.
So far as the strainers from the pit sanctuary at Koprivlen are concerned, we should note that
the finds from the pit complexes were mixed chronologically and relate both to the Hellenistic and to
earlier, namely to the Archaic and Classical Periods.7 The presence of fragments from strainers in pits
displaying such a significant chronological amplitude can not be associated with a definite date as
strainers of that type were used in Thrace from the Early Iron Age to much later times.
The appearance of sherds from strainers with inside ribs in different situations and the peculi-
arities of their presence in cult contexts arouse the question about their functional purpose and their
probable utilitarian use. The problem of the primary use of the strainers requires some preliminary
considerations. The ribbed strainers can not be grouped together with some Greek shapes familiar
from Thrace, which represent an intermediate form between the gutus or the askos and the strainer,
their mouths being moulded as strainers, evidently intended to purify the liquid poured in. The strain-
ers of local origin with the shape of a truncated cone and a wide horizontal rim, with openings occu-
pying the bottom and the lower half of the body, and in some cases with a handle rising above the rim,
also represent a different type.9 The shape of these vessels suggests their placing and fixing on the
mouth of a larger vessel to filtrate the liquid poured in. An example from Pistiros near Vetren has a
somewhat more peculiar character.
The situation with the strainers with internal ribs is quite different. Regardless of their shapes
as shallower or deeper bowls and of the presence of legs, of a ring foot or a flat bottom, their fashion-
ing suggests an independent usage of the vessel, not one in combination with other vessels. The open-
ings are also peculiar. As stated above, their diameters vary between 3 and 5 mm., or they are too big
to filtrate any liquid. It should be noted at the same time that the density of the openings is not great.
The inside ribs also raise some questions. In my opinion, their interpretation as a kind of decoration is
not acceptable.'' The presence of ribs over the entire inner side of the vessel (in the cases of preserved
whole examples) and their dimensions (the height of the ribs on the fragments from Koprivlen varies
from 3 to 9 mm., while their width at the base reaches I cm.) would rather support the hypothesis of
their functional role. All this brings to the foreground the problem of the eventual purpose of the ves-
sels and the way they were used.
So far I have intentionally restrained from mentioning the interpretation of such vessels as in-
cense burners. 12 Building on the finding places, B. Sultov defined them as "incense burners for do-
mestic use", suggesting that the ribs (the "grooves" respectively) and the openings served to hold the
charcoals and to provide a better ventilation. In support of his hypothesis Sultov adduced one such

In my opinion the context of some vessels cited as parallels cannot he accepted as a ritual one or at
least the published information does not authorize such an interpretation (e. g. those from the settlement at the
Pernik hillfort: Liuhenova 1981: 145, or those from the trial excavations at Plclena: Domaradzki et al. 1999: 46-
47, 105, Fig. 5 a).
Filov 1934:35,o6p. 42, I , 3 , o 6 p . 43, 1.
Cf. Chapter IV.3 supra.
Ivanov 1960: 214, type I, type I I , Table 114; Archibald 1996: 84, Fig. 5.6 askos (7).
'' Tsonchev 1959: o6p. 75-76.
The vessel has the shape of a truncated cone with the walls slightly inclined outwards. The mouth is
plain, and the bottom is flat. The openings are of small diameter and densly situtated over the walls and bottom.
According to the excavators it comes from a cult context. It is included in the forthcoming volume Pistiros 2, to
be published in Prague. I am grateful to the colleagues excavating Pistiros and esspecially to Mrs L. Domaradzka
for their help.
" Kisiov 1998:33.
Sultov 1972: 177-179; Liubenova 1980: 129-130; Liubenova 1981: 145.

KOPRIVLEN 1 egIV. 4. The Thracian .V:: . t

vessel containing traces of charcoal and pine resin, and others displaying traces of smoking on the in-
ner surface. The same interpretation is supported by V. Lyubenova in her treatment of the ceramic
finds from the Krakra hillfort settlement and from the sanctuary in "Daskalovo" quarter near Pernik. In
the description of the pottery finds from Koprivlen it has been underlined that traces of smoking or
secondary firing were not attested. Their surface is clear and the isolated cases of colour differences
between the inner and outer sides are due to the thin clay layer (or slip) applied on the diligently
treated inner surface. However, the perfect identity between the finds from Butovo, Hotnitsa and
Pernik and those from Koprivlen prevent their consideration as different types of vessels with different
functions respectively. It is worth mentioning that the so-called "incense-burners for sepulchral use"1
which have no openings and inside ribs are radically different. As for the vessels with inside ribs, it
should be noted that their eventual utilitarian character does not contradict with the cult context they
were discovered in, a secondary use for purposes different from the original ones being completely
normal and possible.
Some ethnographic parallels would facilitate the functional interpretation of the strainers. 14
Vessels of such shape were used and are still in use in dairy processing and in cheese production in
particular. The transhumant stock-breeding predominant in the Balkans during the Middle Ages and
the Ottoman Period imposed the making of the appliances needed for dairy processing mainly from
hide, wood or cloth as lighter and easily transportable materials. The cheese-making technology how-
ever requires the use of strainers in series of cases regardless of the material they are made of. The
straining of the curdled milk from the whey is a regular stage in the production process of different
kinds of cheeses traditionally popular in Bulgaria. 1 In fact the process is essential in cheese-making
everywhere. Cloth strainers were typical for the straining of the curdled milk and the primary mould-
ing of the cheese in the traditional Bulgarian cheese-production, but different shapes were used for this
process in the production of several kinds of cheese on the territory of former Yugoslavia. 16 Sus-
pended baskets were used for the straining of curd cheese in some regions, while wooden or tin-plate
strainers (tvorilo) served for both the straining and the moulding of the cheese-cakes in the production
of sheep-milk Negush cheese.18 These strainers are shaped as shallow bowls with flat bottom and plain
rim or as deeper bowls standing on feet. The openings are relatively large, evenly and rather sparsely
spread over the body. Ribbing has not been attested. The resemblance with the ribbed strainers is of
course just a formal one, but it suggests further research in this direction.
Even today the cheese production technology requires the use of certain shapes. In the pro-
duction of the so called soft cheeses the curd obtained by the curdling of the milk with rennet is often
just poured into the strainer without being additionally processed with a press. According to the differ-
ent existing technologies the curd mass is either directly poured or is first broken into particles of big-
ger or smaller size. Then the cheese is left to "self press", the whey straining off naturally for a few
hours through the openings of the strainer-mould.' 9 It is interesting to note that the size of the mould
affects the speed and degree of pressing. Smaller moulds are faster, as the whey has a shorter distance
to travel, and the larger contact surface in relation to the weight ensures easier pressing." In this situa-
tion the smaller shapes are preferred and have become common in the production of different types of
cheeses,21 for example brands like Bel Paexe, Camembert, Brie among the soft cheeses, or Tilzit,
Trapsit, Shkatul, Feta, etc. among the half-hard ones."
The idea that some vessels found in archaeological excavations could have been used vn the
production of cheese has already been discussed before. The pottery finds from Thasos published by
F. Blonde provide a good example. 2 In contrast with the ribbed strainers from our group, the shapes

In the terminology of Sultov 1972: 179-182.
I grasp the opportunity to thank Mrs Svetla Rakshieva for her kind help.
Dechov 1903: 81,82; Vakarelski 1969: 559-563; Topuzov, Gruev 1969: 69^75.
"'Novak 1969:587-594.
Novak 1969: Abb. 4 a.
Novak 1969: Abb. 6.
Dimov 1954: 245-246 ; Dimov 1960: 53-55.
Dimov 1960:55.
Dimov 1942: 131, Fig. 38, a-u; AHMOB 1954: Fig. 61 6,62.
"Dimov 1954: 104-154; Dimov 1960:245-272.
Blonde 1985: 320-321, Fig. 33.

/!"-/." Strainers (H. Popov)

from Thasos are more shallow and have deep radial grooves connecting the openings instead of ribs,
and probably having the same function. Some vessels from Bibracte, the Celtic settlement center in the
region of Mont Beuvray, are also interpreted as moulds for cheese production. 24 They are low, open,
with straight or slightly inclined walls. Both the walls and the flat bottoms are perforated, and the rib-
bing in the form of either a spiral or concentric circles on the bottom (just like our examples) is par-
ticularly noteworthy (Fig. 159/1-2).'*
It becomes obvious that the ribbed strainers found in Thrace could be interpreted plausibly as
cheese moulds of utilitarian function. There are two possible explanations for the ribs shaped as spirals
or concentric circles on the inner side of the vessels:
• The ribs play the role of a peculiar "gridiron" on which the broken curd is placed to drain
away. So the openings remain free which facilitates the discharge of the whey;
• The spiral or concentric ribs were deliberately shaped in this way to facilitate the flow of the
whey through the channels formed between them and ending with the openings.
It should also be remembered that the larger contact surface makes the draining of the whey
Cheese was a common element in the traditional diet of the ancient population of the Balkan
Peninsula. 26 The role of cheese production in a region where stock-breeding was a leading economic
branch is self-explanatory.
The list of strainer shapes known from Koprivlen could be complemented with two fragments.
the state of preservation of which did not permit the reconstruction of the entire vessels (Fig. 157/1-2;
160). These would have been low and open, with plain rims and flat bottoms. The fragments are hand-
made of relatively well purified clay containing sand and mica. The ribs on the walls are U-shaped or
straight and vertical, going down to the bottom. On the bottom itself the ribs outline a circle connected
by transverse ribs with the walls. The relatively sparse openings are placed over the bottom and walls.
I have not been able to find any analogies in the published material from Bulgaria. The closest paral-
lels are with the mentioned strainers from Bibracte, the only difference being in the shape of the ribs.
The strainers from Koprivlen were found in Square 39-T-II-m-13 of Sector "South" in a pottery ac-
cumulation from the cultural layers belonging to phase I of the Iron Age settlement.
Two fragments found in Pit S74 of the pit sanctuary represent another interesting shape (Fig.
158/1-2). They are from a closed, hand-made vessel. The rim is markedly thickened (1.6 to 2 cm.) and
decorated with fossettes. The body gets wider towards the bottom and is pierced by the openings of
diameters between 4 and 6 mm. The clay is mixed with tiny particles of stone, sand and mica. The
colour after firing is brown-red. There are some traces of smoking on the surface, but it is difficult to
decide whether this is the result of ritual firing connected with the deposition in the pit or of the previ-
ous use of the vessel. The purpose of this vessel remains unclear. No parallels exist among the finds I
have had access to.
An intact vessel was found in Pit S76 (Fig. 157/3). It is hand-made, the wall is slightly slant-
ing outwards. The clay is relatively well purified containing admixtures of sand and mica and is of a
somewhat crumbly structure. The colour after firing is deep yellow. No traces of smoking or secon-
dary firing are seen. The openings occupy the wall and the bottom. The vessel is decorated inside with
a continuous incised wavy line. So far I have not found analogies to this strainer as well. The vessel
comes from a cult context, but that does not necessarily coincide with its original purpose.
The last strainer fragment presented here was found in Square 39-T-Il-m-13, in a cultural
layer with Archaic finds from phase 1. The vessel is hand-made. The shape is open, the wall slightly
slanting outwards, the mouth is plain and the bottom is flat (Fig. 157/4). The preserved fragment dis-
plays openings only on the bottom. The clay contains sand admixtures. The colour is black-brown.
The inner side is decorated with an incised meander in "Tsepina" style.
In conclusion, it should be noted that the ceramic strainers from Koprivlen illustrate different
types and probably served different purposes. On the ground of ethnographic parallels, the strainers
representing shallow or deeper bowls with ribs on the inside could be interpreted as strainers/moulds

Paunier et al. 1994: 24, A 09.
The shapes presented on Fig. 759 (1-2) are from Mont Beuvrey. The mouth diameter of this type of
vessels according to the authors is between 10 and 15 cm.
"Georgieva 1999c: 83.

KOPRIVLEN I csIV.4. The Thnicum Settlement Finds

for cheese production. The long life of the shape should be explained with the particular technological
requirements for the production of cheese, a popular kind of food common for the local population,
which seem to have persisted unchanged from the end of the Bronze Age till Late Antiquit\. The h>-
pothesis is based on archaeological, ethnographical and modern parallels, which I find reasonable. The
described strainers were therefore vessels of utilitarian function, which of course does not exclude
their use in cult context; their appearance in such context however should not lead to the assumption
that strainers in general must be regarded as cult pottery. The difference between cult use and cult pur-
pose should not be neglected in this case. As for the other types of strainers found in Koprivlen, the
available material at present is too limited, and the study of their functions remains a problem of the

Stoyanka Dimitrova
(Institute of Thracology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences)
A great quantity of loom-weights and spindle-whorls were found at the site Kozluka near Ko-
privlen in the course of regular archaeological excavations in 1995-1997 and especially during the res-
cue excavations along the Gotse Delchev - Drama roadbed in 1998-1999. The collection comprises
143 intact and many fragmented items, 1 including 115 whole loom-weights and 28 spindle-whorls - a
material evidence for the practice and development of weaving and spinning in the Thracian settle-
Discussions are still going on and new hypotheses are being advanced on the purpose and use
of the ceramic weights." Two assumptions prevail in the latest developments on the issue. According
to some authors the weights were used in fishing as net-weights; however most scholars associate their
function with the textile production. 1 The whorls were attached to the spindles to facilitate the spin-
ning and the weights were used for weaving on a vertical loom. An unquestionable proof for the latter
statement is offered by the representations on some Greek vases: the scene on a red-figure skyphos
from Chiusi represents Penelope sitting at her loom with the upright Telemachus next to her.4 and a
black-figure lekythos from New York depicts the entire production process.5 The loom-weights were
tied to the lower end of the loom threads and stretched the warp of the cloth to facilitate the slow and
labour-consuming process of weaving. The loom-weights were attached in different ways. The sim-
plest one was to fasten the warp threads directly to the opening of the loom-weight. In the case of
weights with two openings, the threads seem to have been put through tied in bundles. Sometimes a
slim stick was fixed in the opening of the loom-weight and a number of threads were tied along both
its ends. The image on the lekythos from New York shows another variant: the threads are tied to the
weight by means of a metal ring put in its opening.6 Loom-weights of pyramidal, discoid and conical
shape are depicted on the painted vases from Chiusi, New York and Baltimore, and it can be presumed
that the shape and size of the weights were determined by the type of thread and the construction of
the loom.7

IV.4.8.1. Typology of Loom-Weights

The loom-weights found at Koprivlen are of various sizes and shapes. Their quantity is con-
siderably greater than that of the spindle-whorls, representing over 80 % of the objects related to tex-
tile production, and allows the elaboration of a reliable typological classification.
The variants of the main types remain however to a great extent provisional ones, especially
the pyramidal shapes of sub-types A. 1.2 and A.2.1 and the lenticular ones. They depend much on a
particular craftsman's ability to reproduce the respective shape fairly and on the various ornaments
used for decoration.

A. Pyramidal Loom-Weights
The weights of this type have the shape of a pyramid with a more or less regular square or
rectangular base. The side walls are of triangular or trapezoidal shape. The pyramidal loom-weights

Mainly loom-weights, fragments of which were discovered in great quantity. No statistics have been
drawn for the fragments.
Davidson, Thompson 1948: 66-67.
Bitrakova-Grozdanova 1984: 116; Bitrakova-Grozdanova 1994: 221; Heurtley, Hutchinson 1927: 38.
Clarke 1983:91.
Davidson, Thompson 1948: 67, Fig. 29; Deonna 1938: pi. LV, 430.
Davidson, Thompson 1948: 68-69.
Davidson, Thompson 1948: 69-70; Hochstetter 1987: 91.

ff'.-f.S. Loom-Weights and Spindle-Whorls (S. Dimitrova)

are divided into two sub-types depending on the number of openings bored transversely through their
upper parts.

1. Pyramidal Loom-Weights with a Single Opening

A. 1.1. Full Pyramid Shape

The loom-weights of this group have the shape of a regular pyramid. The side walls are
shaped like isosceles triangles slanting from the top to the square base. The colour of the clay is gray
to black and the surface is burnished. Height 12 cm.8 (Fig. 161/1).

A. 1.2. Truncated Pyramid Shape

The weights of this group have the shape of a pyramid with the very top cut off. The two bases
are either both square or both rectangular, and the side walls are of trapezoidal shape. Depending on
the workmanship the loom-weights in this group present several variants.
1. Regular Truncated Pyramid
The two bases are regular squares and the side walls - isosceles trapezes. The edges are rather
clearly expressed (Fig. 161/2-5).
The height varies from 4.5 to 12.5 cm., but the most numerous examples measure between 6.5
and 8.8 cm. The clay is of red, light brown, dark brown or gray-black colour, the surface is smoothed
and sometimes burnished.
2. Truncated Pyramid with Concave Walls
The bases are of irregular square or rectangular shape. The side walls are concave, with an ir-
regular trapezoidal shape and rounded edges.
a) four concave side walls, the upper base is even or slightly rounded (Fig. 161/6);
b) four concave side walls, the upper base is decorated (Fig. 161/7);
c) one or two concave walls, the others slanting straight from top to base. The upper base is
decorated (Fig. 161/8-9).
The height varies from 5.5 to 7.5 cm. The clay is beige or light brown. The surface is
smoothed, coated with slip.
3. Leaning Truncated Pyramid
Weights slanting to one side, with an elongated silhouette and trapezoidal side walls with
rounded edges. One side wall is almost vertical, while the others slant obliquely from the upper to the
lower base. The upper base is flat, sometimes decorated (Fig. 161/11).
The height varies from 12.5 to 16 cm., the colour of the clay is beige or light brown. The sur-
face is smoothed, coated with a slip.
4. Rounded Truncated Pyramid
Loom-weights with the shape of an irregular pyramid with rounded edges.
a) the four side walls are almost vertical, the upper base is slightly convex and rounded; de-
pressions made by fingertips expand the two ends of the opening (Fig. 161/12);
b) the four side walls are almost vertical, and the two bases are convex and rounded (Fig.
c) the four side walls are inclined, with rounded edges; the upper base is squeezed from two
sides and sharpened, the side walls on these sides are trapezoid, while the other two have the shape of
irregular triangles (Fig. 162/1).
The height varies from 6.5 to 9.5 cm. The clay is of red, beige, light brown, dark brown or
gray-black colour, and the surface is smoothed.

The heights of single items of a type are mentioned directly in the text; otherwise the sizes are given
after the general description of the loom-weights.

KOPRIVLEN I 03IV.4. Tim Thracian Settlement: Finds

5. Beveled Truncated Pyramid

Weights with flat bases and inclined walls, sharply beveled near the lower base. The widest
part of the loom-weights is just above the beveling (Fig. 162/2).
The height varies from 9.5 to 10.5 cm. The clay is of red, dark brown and gray-black colour,
and the surface is smoothed.
6. Irregular Truncated Pyramid
These weights have the shape of an irregular pyramid, with concave and convex sectors at dif-
ferent parts of the side walls which affect their configuration (Fig. 162/3-5).
The height varies from 5.5 to 12.0 cm. The clay is of red, beige, light brown, dark brown and
gray-black colour and the surface is roughly smoothed.

2. Pyramidal Loom-Weights with Two Openings

The loom-weights of this group have the shape of a truncated pyramid. Two openings are
bored transversely and asymmetrically in their upper parts.

.4.2.7. Weights with Rectangular Bases

The loom-weights have elongated rectangular bases. There are several variants according to
the shape of the vertical cross-section.
•M CTOSS-¥£.CUOV\ us the shape, of M\ isosceles, trdpeze., the two relatively flat large sides slant
down symmetrically from the flat upper base, and the narrow sides have a regular isosceles shape (Fig.
b) cross-section in the shape of a rectangular trapeze; one of the wide sides is almost vertical,
while the other one is inclined, and the upper base is flat (Fig. 163/2);
c) the two wide walls are curved in the same direction, one being concave and the other one
convex (Fig. 163/3);
d) the two wide walls are both slightly convex, nearly vertical, and the upper base is rounded
(Fig. 163/4).
The height of these weights varies from 6.0 to 6.5 cm., and the colour of the clay is beige or
light brown. The surface is smoothed, with a slip coating.

.4.2.2. Weight with a Square Bane

The only such loom-weight is of heavy proportions, large in size and weight. The bases are
almost square. The walls are slightly beveled near the lower base. The colour of the clay is reddish-
brown, and the surface is smoothed. Height 9.5 cm. (Fig. 163/5).

B. Lenticular Loom-Weights
The general shape of these loom-weights is lenticular, the body has an oval silhouette and its
upper end is pinched from both sides and elongated. The opening is bored from the pinched depres-
sions and runs parallel to the two faces. Some sub-types may be distinguished according to the general
shape and the cross section.

1. Ovoid
Lenticular loom-weights with an oval shape. The pinching in the upper part is relatively slight
and the depressions produced are hardly visible. The two faces are symmetrical.
a) rounded circular outline; elongated quadrangular cross section (Fig. 164/1);
b) elongated elliptical outline; elongated quadrangular cross section (Fig. 164/2);
The height varies from 5.2 to 6.7 cm. Unrefined clay of brown colour. Smoothed surface.

2. Ellipsoidal
These loom-weights are strongly pinched in their upper parts, the depressions thus formed are
clearly expressed. The faces are rather flat. The cross-section has an irregular elliptical shape.