The grave of a child most likely buried according to a pagan rite has been found during by archaeologists in rescue excavations during construction works in the downtown of the Southern Bulgarian city of Plovdiv.
The child skeleton has been discovered during excavations of a downtown Plovdiv street, reports local news site Plovdiv24.
The child grave has been unearthed by archaeologists from the Plovdiv Museum of Archaeology, who have been observing the construction of a heating pipeline, which started three weeks ago.
The child whose skeleton has been found was aged 7 or 8 at the time of the burial. The grave is situated in the north-south direction, with the child’s head pointing to the south.
The Bulgarian archaeologists emphasize that this positioning of the corpse is not typical for Christian funerals, which has led them to believe that the child was buried according to a pagan rite.
According to the initial estimates, the child grave is dated to the Middle Ages but more precise dating will be announced at a later stage after the child bones are fully excavated and studied.
The archaeologists have not found any casket or other grave inventory leading them to conclude that the child was buried quickly in a burial pit directly into the ground.
Bulgaria’s Plovdiv, which is believed to have been the earliest city in Europe, or Philipopolis, as it was called in the periods of Antiquity and Early Christianity, has a long Christian tradition; however, it has been a city of many religions throughout all historical periods.
The history of today’s Bulgarian city of Plovdiv began on the ancient hill of Nebet Tepe (“tepe” is the Turkish word for “hill”), one of the seven historic hills where it was founded and developed in prehistoric and ancient times. The hills, or “tepeta”, are still known today by their Turkish names from the Ottoman period. Out of all of them, Nebet Tepe has the earliest traces of civilized life dating back to the 6th millennium BC, which makes Plovdiv 8,000 years old, and allegedly the oldest city in Europe. Around 1200 BC, the prehistoric settlement on Nebet Tepe was transformed into the Ancient Thracian city of Eumolpia, also known as Pulpudeva, inhabited by the powerful Ancient Thracian tribe Bessi. During the Early Antiquity period Eumolpia / Pulpudeva grew to encompass the two nearby hills (Dzhambaz Tepe and Taxim Tepe known together with Nebet Tepe as “The Three Hills”) as well, with the oldest settlement on Nebet Tepe becoming the citadel of the city acropolis.
In 342 BC, the Thracian city of Eumolpia / Pulpudeva was conquered by King Philip II of Macedon renaming the city to Philippopolis. Philippopolis developed further as a major urban center during the Hellenistic period after the collapse of Alexander the Great’s Empire. In the 1st century AD, more precisely in 46 AD, Ancient Thrace was annexed by the Roman Empire making Philippopolis the major city in the Ancient Roman province of Thrace. This is the period when the city expanded further into the plain around The Three Hills. Because of the large scale public construction works during the period of Ancient Rome’s Flavian Dynasty (69-96 AD, including Emperor Vespasian (r. 69-79 AD), Emperor Titus (r. 79-81 AD), Emperor Domitian (r. 81-96 AD)), Plovdiv was also known as Flavia Philippopolis. Later emerging as a major Early Byzantine city, Plovdiv was conquered for the First Bulgarian Empire (632/680 – 1018 AD) by Khan (or Kanas) Krum (r. 803-814 AD) in 812 AD but was permanently incorporated into Bulgaria under Khan (or Kanas) Malamir (r. 831-836 AD) in 834 AD. In Old Bulgarian (also known today as Church Slavonic), the city’s name was recorded as Papaldin, Paldin, and Pladin, and later Plavdiv from which today’s name Plovdiv originated. The Nebet Tepe fortress continued to be an important part of the city’s fortifications until the 14th century when the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD) was conquered by the Ottoman Turks. During the period the Ottoman yoke (1396-1878/1912) when Bulgaria was part of the Ottoman Empire, Plovdiv was called Filibe in Turkish.
Today the prehistoric, ancient, and medieval settlement on Nebet Tepe has been recognized as the Nebet Tepe Archaeological Preserve. Some of the unique archaeological finds from Nebet Tepe include an ancient secret tunnel which, according to legends, was used by Apostle Paul (even though it has been dated to the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I the Great (r. 527-565 AD)) and large scale water storage reservoirs used during sieges, one of them with an impressive volume of 300,000 liters. Still preserved today are parts of the western fortress wall with a rectangular tower from the Antiquity period.