An online campaign is being conducted, along with a push for a local referendum, for the route of the Struma Motorway to be changed to prevent the destruction of archaeological finds dating from the Thracian era and other times in antiquity.
At the site, finds also now include a tomb from Roman times, discovered during excavations near the village of Pokrovnik.
Struma Motorway is part of Pan-European Corridor IV and is to link Pernik, which is about 35km from Bulgaria’s capital city Sofia, to the Kulata checkpoint at Bulgaria’s border with Greece.
The archaeological excavations have been taking place at a site that was a Thracian settlement, of about 12 hectares, known as Skaptopara.
Finds at the site, including those from later eras, have included a church, a baths, sewers, and currently, a mausoleum complex estimated to date from the third century CE.
The leader of the dig, Professor Zdravko Dimitrov, told local television channel bTV that there were two burial chambers and an antechamber. The antechamber and one of the burial chambers had been damaged during antiquity, and robbed.
In another chamber, however, archaeologists had an extremely rare opportunity, because it had not been robbed. “There are several intact glass vessels, several lamps, and metal objects,” Dimitrov said. He thought that this was the burial place of someone of some importance, given the architecture of the construction and the rich inventory.
An online group campaigning for the preservation of the Skaptopara site has been set up by Daniel Dimov, a Bulgarian who has been living in Germany for 10 years. During holidays in Bulgaria, he visits the excavations at the site.
“I personally hope that through the group, whether word-of-mouth, whether through the media, more people will understand, eventually go to the spot, see what it is about. I think the only way to stop the motorway project and come up with an alternative is if the public understands this thing and says: ‘Hey, that should not be the case!’ I hope somehow, whether through a referendum, whether through protests, we can find a solution,” Dimov said.
Following the discovery of the mausoleum complex, a committee of Bulgaria’s Ministry of Culture is to visit within days and decide what should happen with the site. In the meantime, the site will be guarded around the clock to prevent robbery.