BMCR 2007.06.23

The culture of Thracians and their neighbours

, , , The culture of Thracians and their neighbours: proceedings of the international symposium in memory of Prof. Mieczyslaw Domaradzki, with a round table "Archaeological Map of Bulgaria". Bar international series; 1350. Oxford: Archaeopress, 2005. xiv, 282 pages: illustrations, maps. ISBN 1841716960 £36.00.

In recent years each archaeological season in the lands of the ancient Thracians yields remarkable material prompting reexamination of Thracian history and culture. Bulgarian archaeology plays a major role in the effort to uncover and preserve Thracian heritage, and these efforts are unfortunately in constant competition with looters and the traffic in historical artifacts.

Professor Mieczyslaw Domaradzki is a Polish archaeologist who has devoted his career to Thracian archaeology in Bulgaria. He was the founder of the project “An archaeological map of Bulgaria” and also the discoverer of the emporion Pistiros, an important site founded in the fifth century B.C. in the upper Maritza (ancient Hebros) valley, remarkable for its inland location. The book under review is a collection of 41 papers in English, French and German, presented at an international symposium dedicated to his memory and held in 1999 in Bulgaria. The colleagues and pupils of Mieczyslaw Domaradzki who have contributed to this collection acknowledge the importance of his work for the advancement of Bulgarian archaeology and the Thracian studies.

The collection starts with a foreword by the editors, Y. Youroukova and Z. Archibald, and with a bibliography of Mieczyslaw Domaradzki.

The papers are divided into five categories and vary greatly in their scope, methods and goals, ranging from broad surveys, offering a framework for the general theme of the collection (J. Bouzek, “Urbanization in Thrace”; Z. Archibald, “Pre-Roman cities in Thrace and the notion of civic identity”), to presentations and tentative interpretation of the results of recent excavations. The contributions are also noticeably unequal regarding the coherence and clarity of their arguments.

Section Ia (Jan Bouzek, Zofia Archibald, Louisa Loukopoulou, Lidia Domaradzka, Valentina Taneva, Daniela Katincarova, Emilia Ivanova) is dedicated to the emporion Pistiros and offers, through the presentation of compelling epigraphic and numismatic documents, an insightful view of the investigation and conservation of the finds as well as some reflection on the subject of Greek-Thracian relations. The contributions in Section Ib (Stefan Alexandrov, Valeriu Sirbu, Ion Niculita, Vladimir Vanciugov, Vera Kolarova, Mina Bospatchieva, Anelia Bozkova, Veselin Hadjiangelov, Tzvetana Popova, Peter Delev, Christo Popov, Bogdana Lilova) publish the results of old and recent investigations in a number of Thracian settlements. Half of the papers in this section discuss material from the site near the modern village of Koprivlen in the middle Mesta (ancient Nestos) valley. This region seems to have been a trade center of some importance since the eighth century B.C., or earlier, as the finds of Mycenian pottery may suggest.

Section II (Nedyalka Gizdova, Totko Stoyanov, Diana Dimitrova, Roumen Radev, Momchil Kuzmanov) conveys rich information on Thracian burial practices and architecture. Some contributions stand out with their clear presentation of the material and useful discussion (N. Gizdova, “Thracian tumuli in the Pazardzhik district”; M. Kuzmanov, “The horse in Thracian burial rites”); others disappoint with their unconvincing arguments (D. Dimitrova, “Tumular architectonic monuments from the present-day Bulgarian land [second-half of the first millennium B.C.] and their relation to Thracian religion”).

Section III (Svetlina Ganeva, Georgi Nekhrizov, Alexey Gotzev, Milena Tonkova, Venetzija Liubenova, Darina Vulcheva, Stoyanka Dimitrova, Sergey Buyskykh) is devoted to a particularly attractive theme: Thracian cult places. Regrettably my general impression of this section was a sense of confusion, mainly due to the lack of a reasonably detailed presentation of the copious material and the lack of clear argument in some of the papers. However, the opposite is true for the contributions by M. Tonkova, “Les dépôts d’offrandes du deuxième âge du fer dans le sanctuaire thrace de Babjak, le Rhodope Occidental”; D. Vulcheva/S. Dimitrova, “The pit sanctuary at the village of Koprivlen”; and S. Buyskykh, “The Beykush sanctuary of Achilles from the Greek colonization period in the Lower Bug Region”, who present well very interesting finds.

Section IV (Vincent Megaw, Mariusz Mielczarek, Ivan Marazov, Gocha R. Tsetskhladze, Eugenya Redina, Tatjana Samoilova, Stratis Papadopoulos, Boriana Rousseva, Kosjo Zarev) deals with the topic of intercultural relations and highlights the methodological possibilities as well as the pitfalls in the exploitation of the archaeological evidence for this subject. The contributions in this section offer a helpful perspective on the problem of the Celtic presence in Thrace, Thraco-Celtic and Thraco-Scythian relations and contacts between Greek and local populations in the circumpontic region.

Section V (Mieczyslaw Domaradzki, Janusz Ostrowski, Veronique Chankowski, Florentina Manea) relates the debate of the round table “Archaeological map of Bulgaria” and sheds light on an important on-going project for creation of a national archaeological database. An article of the late Prof. Domaradzki describes the field survey initiated by himself and his Polish and Bulgarian colleagues in 1978 in southwestern Bulgaria. V. Chankowski discusses the results obtainable by application of “landscape archaeology” in Greece, and F. Manea gives an account of Romania’s efforts to create a computerized database of its national heritage.

Notwithstanding the dissimilarity between the papers and some shortcomings mentioned above, this collection is a fitting tribute to the memory of Mieczyslaw Domaradzki. It evokes his achievements and offers a helpful update on the present state of the investigation of Thracian sites in Bulgaria and neighboring countries. It also calls attention to the unexplored potential of Thracian studies.