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by Archaeology Newsroom

The prehistory of the district of Western Thrace

Our knowledge of the prehistory of western Thrace is limited and is based on area surveys, random finds and excavational data from neighbouring regions. Three locations in south Evros, that is, Rizia, Keramos and Pheres furnish Palaeolithic evidence, while the Neolithic period is much better known, not only from the excavation of Paradimi but also from quite many other contemporary locations. The first phase of Paradimi corresponds to the Vesselinovo-Karanovo III civilization of Bulgaria, yet its ceramic follows an independent local tradition. The third period exhibits remarkable figurines, while the fourth is marked by the graffiti technique used in pottery. The Early Bronze Age in Paradimi ends almost abruptly a little before 2000 BC.as is also the case with Dikili-Tash and Photoleivos, a date that coincides with the appearance of the new Indo-European tribes in the area. The Middle Bronze Age is completely unknown and no trace of the typical Minyan pottery has been found in the whole of Thrace. The Late Bronze Age is known only from finds that come from mountainous acropoleis. Mycenaean settlements and finds have not – as yet – been located on coastal Aegean Thrace. Most information for the Thracian Bronze Age comes from excavations of neighbouring Bulgaria. The Early Bronze Age settlements are erected on low artificial hills (=toumba) on sites inhabited during the Stone and the Bronze Age. At the same time new settlements are created close to rivers and springs or on naturally fortified hills. The houses, in the beginning, are rectangular in plan, constructed with poles, tree-branches and clay, while later they follow an apsidal plan. They contain a furnace, a space for storing cereals, stone hand-mills and the other necessary household.ware In the pottery of the early period dominate the phialae with the inward turned lips, the prochoi with the obliquely cut mouth and the flasks; the Middle period is characterised by conic vases having two perpendicular handles and by prochoi with oblique mouth and raised handles; vases with raised handles appear in the Late period. The Iron Age began around 1000 BC, according to the new excavational data. It is especially interesting for the study of the history of Thracian tribes, their religion, mythology and civilization. The excavated tombs at Roussa, in south Evros, containing dolmens and cists, gave ceramics embellished with furrows, impressed and incised designs.A characteristic shape in pottery is the amphora with the biconical body, the conical neck and four vertical horny bulges on its shoulders. The impressed decoration exhibits a rich geometric repertoire; homocentric circles with tangent lips, horizontal or vertical bands formed by the combination of lines, triangles, meanders and rhombs. This predominant geometric feeling goes so far as to deploy a severe geometric design even for the representation of animals. On the basis of the ceramics and graves three periods can be distinguished in Roussa: the dolmens and the pottery with the furrowed decoration date back to the 9th century BC; the cist graves, the pottery with the rich impressed embellishment and the bronze and iron buckles, to the 8th century B.C.; the simple cremation in pits or in ash-vases accompanied with funerary offerings such as iron knives and spear heads, date to around 600 BC. The ceramics of Roussa belong to the Buckelkeramik and Stempelkeramik groups.Representative examples of these groups are to be found in a considerable geographic span, from Romania to Asia Minor and verify the settlements of Thracian tribes in the southeastern Balkans. The carved discs found on the mountain peaks of Rhodopi prove the extensive cult of Sun Worship, while the cavities and the incised designs found on rocks have not as yet been given any sound explanation. The open-air sanctuaries located on the hill and mountain peaks of Thrace must be connected with the cult of the mythic Thracian king Rhesos who, killed in Troy, was later worshipped as a hero and deified. The cult of Rhesos was succeeded by the cult of the Thracian Rider or Hero that gives its place to Saint George the Rider in the Christian Era. The carved tombs that stand for caves, the conchs in the rocks of the mountains and the megalithic grave-dolmens mirror the faith of the Thracians in the eternity of soul and reveal the simultaneously celestial and earthly character of their religion that is perfectly expressed in the Orphic mysteries.