The royal necropolis of the Thracian city of Seuthopolis – a serial site, extension of the Kazanlak Thracian tomb
Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Bulgaria
Stara Zagora District, Kazanlak Municipality
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party
- Cult-mortuary complex in Ostrusha mound - Center Point Coordinates 42°41'23.5"N 25°21'03.8"E
- Tomb in Golyama Kosmatka mound - Center Point Coordinates 42°42'00.2"N 25°20'00.5"E
- Tomb in Shushmanetz mound - Center Point Coordinates 42°42'24.7"N 25°20'55.5"E
- Tomb in Golyama gola mogila mound, the so-called “The Griffins” - Center Point Coordinates 42°42'19.5"N 25°20'40.6"E
- Tomb in Malka gola mogila mound, the so-called “Helvetia” - Center Point Coordinates 42°42'19.9"N 25°20'47"E
- Tomb in the so-called Golyama Arsenalka mound - Center Point Coordinates 42°41'58"N 25°18'33.8"E
- Tomb in the so-called Sarafova mogila mound (Kran 2) - Center Point Coordinates 42°40'32.1"N 25°22'53.3"E
- Masonry grave in the so-called Svetitzata mound - Center Point Coordinates 42°41'16.7"N 25°22'07.9"E
Balkan hollows lying between the Stara planina (the Balkan) and Sredna gora. Its area is about 780 square kilometres (94 km in length with an average width of 10 km), the average altitude is 350 meters. It is drained by Tundzha and Tyzha rivers. Typical forms of relief are the alluvial cones, located in its northern areas. They are joined together to form a convex accumulation surface sloping south. According to the climatic zoning of Bulgaria, the territory of Kazanlak hollow belongs to the European continental climatic region, temperate continental sub-zone. According to the administrative division, it includes the municipalities of Kazanlak, Pavel Banya and Muglizh with 47 settlements.
The first attempts to map and describe the archaeological monuments in the Kazanlak hollow are made still in the second half of the 19th c., but the beginning of their targeted study started in the 90s of the 19th century. The scientific searches in this area became more intense during the period up to the World War II, but the exceptional archaeological discoveries in the 40s and 50s of the 20th century – the Kazanluk tomb and the Thracian city of Seuthopolis, naturally provoked the interest of a large group of researchers who contributed to the expansion of knowledge about the historical development of the region from prehistory to Middle Ages.
The most famous tomb among those discovered in the valley is exactly the Kazanlak tomb, a monument, inscribed under No. 42 in the World Heritage List in 1979 under criteria I, III and IV, dating back to the 4th - 3rd century BC, which is the only one in Europe of its kind with preserved murals.
The discovery and complete study of the Thracian city - the capital of the realms of the Odrysian king Seuthes III, in the region of today Koprinka dam, is a fact of exceptional scientific importance. The building of Seuthopolis has started at the beginning of the last third of the 4th c. BC, while the boom in its development began in the Early Hellenistic era. With this time is also connected the building of the most impressive tomb facilities for prominent Thracian aristocrats.
As a result of large-scale excavations of the tombs in the Kazanlak hollow, carried out by the team of Assoc. Prof. Georgi Kitov within the period 1992-2005, over 300 mounds were studied. Amongst the excavated monuments 15 tombs, three masonry graves and numerous rich burials stand out. The most significant tombs of those discovered so far are concentrated on a small area in the northern part of the hollow. There, in the area around the town of Shipka, were discovered eight tombs built of stone blocks, one of bricks and one masonry sarcophagus-like grave, part of the necropolis of the capital of the Odrysian king Seuthes III – Seuthopolis, to which the tomb with murals in the town of Kazanlak inscribed in 1979 in the World Heritage List belongs. This required the proposal for inclusion in the Tentative list of cultural and natural heritage of the Republic of Bulgaria of eight of these monuments as a serial site - an extension of the existing World Heritage Site "Kazanlak Thracian tomb". In the future, more discovered tombs from the necropolis will be proposed.
Description of the constituent elements:
1. The temple in the "Golyama Arsenalka" mound is located near the village of Sheinovo. It was discovered in 1995. The mound has a height of 8 meters and a diameter of 45 meters. There was discovered a tomb with representative facade, rectangular pre-burial chamber with gable roof and dome chamber built of carefully processed granite stones. The entrances to the rooms are equipped with double-winged stone doors. The walls of the dome chamber consist of 11 lines of sectoral blocks. The dome ends up with a horizontal keystone. The floor is covered with 28 stone slabs arranged in three concentric belts around a circular stone block. This is the solar disk, which is a major Thracian symbol. The three concentric rings around the sun describe the Thracian vision of the universe, made up of three parts - the underworld kingdom, the earth kingdom and a heavenly kingdom. Opposite the entrance to the burial chamber is situated a burial bed. The tomb has been robbed in the antiquity, and therefore in the chamber were found only parts of gilded silver breastplate and four gold applications for horse trappings. The burial made in the tomb dates back to the last quarter of IV century BC.
The monument is in good condition, a protective shelter over the facade and an access way to the tomb have been built. The access to the interior is limited with an iron door.
2. In Shushmanetz locality, southeast of the town of Shipka is located a mound necropolis consisting of eight mounds. The largest mound of the necropolis, also named "Shushmanetz”, has a diameter of 81 meters and a height of 17 meters. During the study in 1996, in its southern periphery was discovered a monumental tomb. It dates back to the IV century BC. The last purpose of the temple is a tomb of a local Thracian ruler. The temple is unique because it is the first Thracian temple with columns in both rooms - the antechamber and the burial chamber. The temple consists of a circular camera – tholos, a rectangular antechamber with cantilevered vault with semi-cylindrical cross-section. On both sides of the facade of the antechamber there are walls made of large river and spalled stones, forming a wide, short hallway. The burial chamber has vertical walls with a diameter at the base of 3.90 and 3.85 meters in height. At its center, an Doric column rises up, and in the walls are built-in seven Doric semicolumns. An architrave is found on them, above which comes the dome. Over each semicolumn is modeled a wall pier, while the top of the dome structure consists of 15 radial block resting on the Doric column in the center of the chamber. Opposite the entrance is located a stone burial bed. The entrance to the chamber was closed with double-winged cassette stone door adorned with carved stylized sun disks, colored in red. Above the entrance to the chamber is modeled a false pediment with palmettos and semi-palmettos at the edges. The facade of the antechamber was crowned with a fronton, propped by Ionic column, from which only a fragment has remained now. The columns, the walls and the floor of the chamber and the antechamber were covered with fine mortar Fretwork. On the floor of the antechamber were found remains of a sacrifice of four horses and two dogs.
The eclectic combination of architectural elements of various styles justifies the referral of the construction of this tomb to the Early Hellenistic era.
In 2013, a project for the conservation, restoration and socialization of the tomb in the Shushmanetz mound was implemented under Operational Programme Regional Development with beneficiary the Ministry of Culture.
3. Golyama gola mogila mount, called “The Griffins”, from the same necropolis, stands at about 360 meters southwest of Shushmanetz. It has the following dimensions: diameter of 45 meters and height of 11 meters. The tomb was built in the southern periphery of the existing mound and was discovered in August 1996. It is another evidence of the exceptional talent of the Thracian architects and designers. The tomb consists of a round burial chamber with a beehive-shaped dome built of segmental blocks, rectangular pre-burial chamber with double-pitched roof, facade and additionally narrowed dromos with stone walls, glued to the facade. The entrance to the pre-burial chamber is plastically shaped like aedicule, including Ionian doorframe and false fronton decorated with palmettos, which lower leaves have an elongated form and resemble griffin heads, thus giving the name of the temple. The entrances to both premises are closed with two-winged stone doors. Opposite the entrance, in the round chamber is located a stone burial bed with profiled adornment. In V century BC the temple was converted into a tomb after the burial of a Thracian nobleman and the corridor was filled with boulders and soil. The tomb was robbed in antiquity, only two gold beads were found in it. The analysis of the architectural techniques used in its construction allow it to be dated back to the end of IV century BC.
4. The third mound of the necropolis in the locality of Shushmanetz is “Malkata gola mogila, called “Helvetia”. It stands at a distance of 240 meters to the southwest from Shushmanetz mound. Its dimensions are: diameter of 34 m, height of 10 m. The tomb is located in the southern periphery of the mound and was discovered in 1996. It is built of large well-cut stone blocks connected to each other with iron clamps. It consists of a rectangular burial chamber, an open antechamber and a long dromos. It is further attached to the front of the façade of the antechamber and is built of boulders and spalled stone glued with clay. The antechamber and the chamber are covered with a common console vault. The walls are plastered with a thin plaster layer Fretwork that in its relief imitates brickwork. The entrance to the chamber is closed by double winged cassetted stone door with a lock from the inside as well. Opposite the entrance is the stone burial bed, also covered with fine plaster. In the antechamber and in front of the top eastern wall of the corridor were found remains of sacrificial horses. This tomb is also dated back to the last quarter of IV century BC. In IV century BC, the building has been used as a shrine, but after the last burial when in the antechamber a horse has been ritually sacrificed, the corridor has been filled with boulders and soil. The temple was robbed still in antiquity and the ritual bed in the chamber has been broken.
A project for the conservation, restoration and socialization of the tombs in the burial mounds “The Griffins" and "Helvetia" was approved for funding under 2009 - 2014 Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area.
5. The mound “Golyama Kosmatka” is the largest of the tombs of the kings’ necropolis studied so far. It has a height of 20 meters and a diameter of about 90 meters. According to the researcher - Assoc. Prof. Dr. G. Kitov, part of the embankment of the already piled mound has been taken downrevoked and the monumental tomb was built. In "Golyama Kosmatka" is located one of the most magnificent and richest Thracian tombs with fully preserved grave. The burial facility in Golyama Kosmatka is an impressive complex consisting of a representative facade, built of dromos from spalled stones, which is unusually long - 13 m., and three rooms – chamber carved into a monolithic granite block in the form of a sarcophagus, dome and rectangular pre-burial chamber covered with a cantilevered vault. The dome and the rectangular chambers are made of carefully shaped granite quadras, the floors are made of stone slabs. A long corridor made of roughly cut stones, paved and covered with wooden beams was later added to the facade. The entrance to the complex in the periphery of the mound was completed with a second facade.
Following the funeral, the entrances to the chambers are walled, and the corridor with stone walls and wooden roof was set on fire, and as a consequence thereof it was filled with soil from the embankment. At 7 m to the south, in front of the entrance is laid a head of a bronze statue in natural growth - exquisite masterpiece of Hellenistic sculpture.
The inventory found in the tomb is exclusively rich, presenting personal belongings and burial gifts - gold crown, golden cup (kylikes), a set of gold applications for horse trappings, iron sword with scabbard decorated with gilded cover, bronze greaves, spearheads, parts of shield, vessels of bronze and alabaster. Particularly interesting are three objects - a bronze helmet, a silver jug and a silver cup, on which could be read the name ΣΕΥΘΟΥ /of Seuthes/. This fact, as well as particular similarity in the features of the bronze head to the images on the coins of this Thracian ruler were the reason why Dr. G. Kitov assumed that it was the tomb of the founder of Seuthopolis, the Odrysian king Seuthes III.
The size of the tomb and the immense value of the treasures found therein, on some of which is inscribed the name of Seuthes III, came to prove that an important Thracian ruler was buried in the tomb. Archaeologists believe they have found the tomb of the greatest Thracian king Seuthes III, whose residence and main city of the dynasty established thereby was located near Kazanlak - Seuthopolis (today, at the bottom of Koprinka dam).
The socialization activities of the tomb in the mound of Golyama Kosmatka are finalized and it is one of the cultural values in the Kazanlak hollow mostly visited by tourists.
6. The mound “Ostrusha” has a height of 18 meters and a diameter of 75 meters. In it was discovered a cult-funerary complex, which consists of a monolithic burial chamber and five other premises, one of which has a round plan, situated on a total area of 100 square meter. The tomb chamber has a rectangular shape made of a granite block, while its walls are worked on in the inside and to the outside. It is mounted on a three-stage stylobate. It is covered with gable cover made from one block. The ceiling of the chamber is impressive, with a cassette structure, located on three levels. There is a large circle in the middle, surrounded by squares. Around them, in all directions could be seen small squares, which total number is 38. The central circle is covered with gold sheet, representing the sun disk. Each cell is filled with polychrome pictorial images - portraits, scenes with human figures, fight between animals, plants and geometric motifs. The mirals are made very precisely after serious preparation, the composition is flawless, their stylistic characteristics resembles those of the Kazanlak tomb inscribed in UNESCO’s World Heritage, however dating back to earlier times. Only the image of woman’s head is the best preserved. The tomb was robbed still in antiquity, while only the southwestern room remained unaffected – there has been laid a horse with rich silver horse trappings, a gilded collar- breastplate and two silver vessels were found.
The cult-funeral complex in Ostrusha mound was built in the last quarter of IV century BC.
Measures have been taken to strengthen the preserved part of the murals, a protective building was built over the whole complex and there have been created conditions tor tourist visits to the monument.
7. In the mound located to the North of the town of Kran, (the so-called “Sarafova mogila” or „Kran 2“) with a height of 8 m and a diameter of 50 m was found a masonry tomb. It consists of a dromos and two rectangular chambers. The dromos is shaped from stone blocks, it has had a gable roof with wooden beams and tiles. The ante-burial and the burial chamber are made of bricks, as their coverage is made of fake vault. Their walls are covered with Fretwork divided into multi-colored horizontal belts in white, black, red, orange and yellow. The arrangement of colors is different for the two chambers and the corridor. The central burial chamber used to be closed by single-winged stone door, which was preserved on place with preserved iron ring. In the dromos was found a horse skeleton. The tomb has been robbed in antiquity, several small objects of gold and silver and black varnish kantharos. It dates back to the first half of the III century BC. Measures have been taken to strengthen the Fretworks by building a protective coating over the dromos. The access to the tomb is restricted only to professionals.
8. The mound called the “Svetitzata” has a height of 8 m and a diameter of 60 m. In the southern periphery of the mound was discovered a sarcophagus-like tomb built of stone blocks, the floor is covered with stone slabs, and the coating is formed from seven cross laid trapezoidal blocks. The grave is oriented to the East-West and its dimensions are 1,7 x 3,16 m. To the inside were found parts of the skull and lower limbs, marking the location of the missing human skeleton. The inventory consists of items of the accoutrements and armaments (bell shaped armor of bronze and iron, two iron swords, several iron spearheads and 144 bronze arrows), pottery (two amphorae, a cup, two Attic red figured jugs), whole and fragments of bronze and silver (a hydria, a bowl, a cup with two handles). The most interesting finding is the golden mask made of thick gold sheet laid in the grave at the place of the deceased’s head. a gold signet ring with an image of an athlete was also found.
The masonry grave in the Svetitzata mound is the earliest of the presented tomb facilities. It dates back to the end of V century BC.
In order to conserve the burial facility of the Svetitzata mound a temporary protective structure was built and it is included in the future plans for socialization.
Justification of Outstanding Universal Value
When in 1944 in the town of Kazanlak a domed tomb with interior covered with exquisite murals was accidentally discovered, the global scientific community was extremely impressed by the achievements of the barely knowns so far Thracian culture. A number of monographs, studies and articles are dedicated to this monument. The Bulgarian State has undertaken urgent measures to protect this masterpiece of ancient art. Later, a copy of the tomb was rebuilt for tourist visits. In 1979 the Kazanlak tomb was inscribed in UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Over the years, in the region of Kazanlak are discovered more monuments with similar characteristics, most of them built by order of Thracian noblemen in the late IV and early III century BC. Moreover, there is now a scientifically based assumption who some of them are. These undoubtedly significant architectural monuments made of different materials and with individual style are a brilliant illustration of the aesthetics of the early Hellenism in Thrace, as well as of the increased self-esteem and economic opportunities of the Thracian establishment in the times after the death of Alexander the Great. The proposed eight sites form part of the royal necropolis of the Thracian city of Seuthopolis and are proposed as a serial site - expansion of the Kazanlak tomb inscribed in the World Heritage List.
All the tombs are legally protected pursuant to the national law as a immovable archaeological cultural values of national significance. The burial mounds and the tombs therein are entered in the automated information system "Bulgarian Archaeological Map" (AIS AKB). The proposed sites as well as the Kazanlak tomb already inscribed in the List of World Heritage Kazanlak, are managed by the Kazanlak municipality. In 2014, upon award of Kazanlak Municipality a master plan of the part of the Kazanlak hollow mostly saturated with outstanding cultural heritage was developed. This plan aims to ensure effective management of the territory and the optimal balance between private and public interests in the region, known in the public domain as "Valley of the Thracian Kings".
Criterion (i): The archaeological monuments in the Royal necropolis of the Thracian city of Seuthopolis constitute a unique evidence for the Thracian cult and tomb architectural tradition. They represent the most remarkable achievements of the creative genius of the Thracians as a masterpiece of creative structural and architectural solutions. In the building of the individual tombs and the creation of monumental and artistic decoration for each of them an individual creative approach was applied, with extremely high performance, which makes them unique works of human genius.
Criterion (ii): The proposed eight tomb facilities amongst those discovered in the Kazanlak hollow are amongst the most representative examples of the Thracian tomb architecture, impressive facilities, combining both building skills gained over the centuries, and advanced - for their time - elements and adornment techniques. Each of the presented tomb facilities has its own specific architectural and artistic look. In the building each of them were used different construction techniques and materials, various architectural elements and adornment techniques are employed. Amongst them, there are examples of precisely completed premises with rectangular or round plan, with flat, pitched or domed coating made of granite quadras or sectoral bricks. The architectural decoration is extremely varied - columns and semi-columns, pilasters, orthostats, frontons are used, and in some cases - the white Fretwork on the interior is indented resembling an architectural order. There are also examples of sculpted elements and coloring of certain parts, or overall coverage of the walls with colorful friezes. Most of the tombs are equipped with calligraphic monumental double-winged stone doors and stone bed in the burial chamber. The two chambers in the tombs in the mounds of Ostrusha and Golyama Kosmatka are made of entirely monolithic granite blocks, making them unique and undoubtedly - the most impressive in its craftsmanship.
Criterion (iii): The eight object of the Thracian tomb architecture are an exceptional testimony for a cultural tradition of the Thracians. The traditions to rise remarkable monuments associated with the Thracian’s burial practices are rooted still in the beginning of the early Iron Age, when in southeast Thrace were built impressive megalithic monuments - dolmens and rocky tombs. In the Classical era, with the creation and the flourishing of Odrysian State, the construction of royal tombs and graves started in Thrace. In the early Hellenistic era this process was strengthened and at that time were built the most remarkable Thracian tombs – and exceptional testimony for a cultural tradition of the Thracians. Such tombs are discovered around significant political and Thracian cultural centers, one of the most important being Seuthopolis. As in all Thracian tombs, in those shaping the mound necropolis were discovered various gifts that demonstrate the wealth and prestige of the people buried in them. In this mound necropolis, however, were found objects that are unique in their nature not only in terms of the Thracian culture, but also worldwide - several exquisitely crafted containers of precious metals, beautiful adornments, ornate elements, weapons and accoutrements with rich decoration that turns them into objects of worship. A mask made of thick gold sheet and the head of Seuthes III have become popular and world famous.
Criterion (iv): The eight Thracian tombs in the Kazanlak region constitute a whimsical ensemble which elements are functionally related and have certain logical, spatial and aesthetic relations with each other and with the surrounding environment, and they are revealed in a scenic cultural landscape. They are part of the necropolis of capital of the Odrysian king Seuthes III - Seuthopolis to which also belongs the tomb with murals of the ton of Kazanlak inscribed earlier in the list. They all have the same purpose - to preserve the remains of the members of the royal family and their cronies. However, each of the eight tombs is implemented in a different way, obviously depending on the tastes and preferences of the noble person who assigned their construction, and despite their overall function, it is unique in terms of conception and execution. For this reason, they become the most characteristic and most representative group of this type of monuments in the lands inhabited by Thracians. Their preservation and presentation in an appropriate manner, together with the Kazanlak tomb, as an ensemble of top achievements of the Thracian culture and art will contribute to the enrichment of the world cultural heritage.
Criterion (vi): The Thracian religion is unique and is a very interesting confessional and ideological system which manifestations themselves contribute to history of the world philosophical thought. The religious beliefs of the Thracians for the continuation of life after death are a postulate underlying the major world religions - Buddhism, Christianity, Islam. The discovered Thracian tombs in the Kazanlak hollow are the most developed form and most representative expression of the traditional religious beliefs of the Thracians associated with funerary practices.
Justification of choice of the constituent elements in relation to the future proposal for inscription in its entirety:
The proposal to include new cultural values in the Tentative List of Cultural and Natural Heritage of the Republic of Bulgaria is prepared after a scientifically based selection. The proposed Thracian tombs are the most important so far discovered in the Kazanlak hollow. Besides being the best preserved, they also provide the most clear insight for the diversity of architectural and artistic aspects of the Thracian monuments related to the funeral beliefs. An important argument for choosing them is established link to historic sites, persons and events - they are part of the necropolis of Seuthopolis and there is no doubt that there were buried members of the Odrysian dynasty, the most famous thereof being the king Seuthes III. In findings during the excavations of Seuthopolis were mentioned the names of the wife of Seuthes - Berenice and four of his sons.
Statements of authenticity and/or integrity
All the Thracian tomb facilities in the Kazanlak hollow proposed as a serial site are explored during archaeological excavations and preserved as they were discovered, so that their authenticity cannot be questioned.
Upon completion of the archaeological excavations, all the tombs were awarded the legal status of immovable cultural values of national importance and certain limits, security zone and modes of using the territory have been determined. Measures for emergency conservation, provisional safeguard buildings have been undertaken and appropriate air conditioning has been ensured. The tombs in the mounds of Ostrusha, Golyama Kosmatka and Shushmanetz are protected with permanent protective buildings and socialized. The conservation activities are consistent with the requirements for protecting the original, while their exposure does not affect the authenticity of the monuments.
The eight monuments of the Thracian tomb architecture included in the proposal are found fully preserved in the form in which they were covered in the mounds. The losses caused by offenders in the antiquity or as a result of the natural aging processes of the materials are found mainly in the additional elements, ornamentation and decoration - broken stone doors, partlially impaired Fretworks or murals. Measures have been taken to eliminate the causes of deepening the processes of destruction, for partial anastylosis and effective protection of the sites.
Comparison with other similar properties
The presented group of Thracian tomb monuments is part of a necropolis that used to serve the capital of the Odrysian king Seuthes III, part of which is the Kazanlak tomb already inscribed inn the List of World Heritage. In the Bulgarian lands were found many similar monuments, some of which are remarkable examples of combining local building traditions with such borrowed from architectural ideas of Ancient Greece. A great example of such artistic synthesis is the royal tomb, discovered in Ginina mogila in Sveshtari village, in Northeast Bulgaria. This tomb was built within the archaeological reserve of Sboryanovo where is located the Getan city of Helis and its vast necropolis. It is included in the list of World Cultural and Natural Heritage of UNESCO in 1985.
In Maritsa valley were studied several representative tombs related to the main branch of the Odrysian dynasty. Particularly impressive are the tombs in Chetinyova mogila in the village of Starossel, Hissarya municipality and the smaller tombs situated around it, the one at Mezek village, Svilengrad municipality, at Valcho pole, Lyubimetz municipality, several around Plovdiv and the tombs at Kırklareli (Kırklareli) and Tekirdag in the European part of Turkey. In 2000, near the village of Alexandrovo, Haskovo district, a second Thracian tomb with murals was discovered, inscribed in Bulgarian Tentative list. In the dome chamber, in a frieze are represented hunting scenes, in the pre-burial chamber – martial scenes. In the same area were found several dozens of smaller and less preserved Thracian tombs.
In the town of Vratsa, in Northwest Bulgaria, in the land of the Tribals, is researched the so-called Mogilanska mogila with three tombs and particularly rich funeral inventory.
In 2009, a rescue research of the only known so far tomb with two chambers at the village of Gagovo, Popovo municipality in Northeastern Bulgaria, was carried out.
Each of these monuments carries important information about the life, customs and beliefs of the Thracians, but the most complete picture of the diversity of the Thracian tomb architecture can be acquired when the tombs near Kazanlak are visited. Concentrated on a small area, beautifully preserved, largely socialized and protected, the masonry tomb facilities in the Kazanlak hollow are the most prominent achievements of the creative genius of our ancestors - the Thracians.