Blog WHS Visits
WHS #675: Tomb of Sveshtari
The 3rd century BC Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari is a richly decorated tomb with a unique architectural decor. It was the second WHS that we visited during the 2018 WH Travellers Meeting. In advance I had tried to make a reservation for our group of 15 - I had read that sometimes you have to wait a while at the site before a guide is available. The e-mail contact in English with the visitor center proved to be rather inconclusive (similar to my experiences with other agencies in Bulgaria). When we arrived at 3 o'clock though we were expected and welcomed by an English speaking guide.
The tomb is located underground, under a 11 meter high burial mound. One can only enter it on a guided tour. The 'long' tour (along the inscribed site and 2 other tombs) costs 15 Lev (7.50 EUR). We had to wait until another group left the tomb – there’s not enough space for many visitors at the same time. Many burial mounds have been discovered in this area, but most are empty. Near the adequately equipped visitor center there are 3: the great burial mound of the king and his wife, plus two smaller burial mounds in which groups of aristocrats were buried. A footpath connects them.
The large tomb is protected as if it were a Swiss bank vault. After entering a pin code, the guide opened the two sturdy automatic sliding doors that have been placed in the entrance quite recently. This gave access to the burial mound, but not yet to the tomb. First we entered a room containing a small photo exhibition. There we also needed to put plastic protective covers over our shoes.
The original tomb made out of stone blocks has been cleared of sand and lies now in an open space within the shell of the mound. The tomb, which is over 7 meters long and 4 meters high, has a porch, two 'rooms' and the actual grave. You can enter until the doorway of the grave itself. There you see two stone benches, on which the corpses of the king and his wife were found. Around them, sculptures of 10 female figures ‘carry’ the roof of the tomb. The famous original colour scheme, “in ocher, brown, blue, red and lilac”, is hard to distinguish; I found the interior and the sculptures dazzling white thanks to the limestone that was used. Unfortunately you only get a few minutes inside before a kind of alarm goes off. You're also not allowed to take pictures.
The guide also lead us to the other two tombs on the site. Several skeletons have been found here, probably members of noble families. Interestingly, these tombs were screened off by a heavy stone sliding door, so that the tomb remained open and deceased people could be added in several stages. In the porch of one of these tombs also the remains of a dog were found. All these graves are less well preserved than the great king's grave and they are also not decorated. The tour in total lasted for 45 minutes, but the highlight took about 30 seconds.
Els - 12 September 2018