Incredible Plans to Revive Submerged Ancient Thracian Capital

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An ambitious project has been trying to capture funds to resurface the ancient Thracian capital of Seuthopolis. Currently the site is underwater in modern day Bulgaria, however hopes are that it will one day be a high-profile tourist destination.

The “ Seuthopolis Project ” has been trying to gain attention (and money) to bring what it says is “the only uncovered and preserved Thracian city of this scope” back to light for some years now. But with renewed interest of the Bulgarian Ministry of Tourism behind the project, could the wheels finally begin to turn and make the project a reality?

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A computer generated image of what the ancient Thracian city would look like in the proposed project. ( Seuthopolis Project )

Archaeology in Bulgaria reports that there are hopes that an in situ exhibition of Seuthopolis (if the project takes shape) would make the site “of global significance” and draw in a huge influx of tourists to the country. Archaeologist Krasimira Stefanova said that “Seuthopolis could become a wonderful tourist destination.”

Seuthopolis dates to the 4th century BC, when it was the capitol of a country called Odrissia. The city was named for its founder, Thracian king Seuthus III. It was re-discovered and, according to Archaeology in Bulgaria, fully excavated during the construction of a dam near Kazanlak in Central Bulgaria in the 1940s and 50s.

Reproduction of a bronze portrait bust of the Thracian king Seuthes III, found in his tomb/heroön outside Seuthopolis.

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Reproduction of a bronze portrait bust of the Thracian king Seuthes III, found in his tomb/heroön outside Seuthopolis. ( QuartierLatin1968/CC BY SA 3.0 )

Moreover, when the dam was emptied in the 1980s “the archaeologists from the Kazanlak Museum of History “Iskra” found that the walls of the structures in Seuthopolis had been preserved on the bottom of the artificial lake.” [Via Archaeology in Bulgaria]

Seuthopolis city plan.

Seuthopolis city plan. ( Megistias/CC BY SA 2.5 )

The Seuthopolis project’s goal is an immense one. The lead architect would like to wall off the ancient city, which measures about 12.5 acres, with what has been described as a “huge circular dike that’ll be 420 m [1377.95 ft.] in diameter and 20m [65.62 ft.] high.”

The leader of the proposed project, architect Jeko Tilev, has even bigger dreams for the site, as he explains :

The architectural frame of the green wall is transformed in an inverted Thracian tumulus, containing and preserving in itself the city of Seuthopolis […] The ring is a pier for boats and small ships, an animated street, a park, a panoramic walkway. It will be filled with many programmatic elements – restaurants, cafes, shops, rent a bike points, various recreational, sports and fishing facilities. In the ring-wall are housed museum, conference halls, restaurants with view to the city and the dam, hotel complex, service offices, medical offices, elements of the technical infrastructure, etc. The landscaped terraces convert the wall into a park with hanging gardens, places for recreation, flower parterres, open-air exhibitions.”

A cross-sectional image of what the proposed Seuthopolis site would look like.

A cross-sectional image of what the proposed Seuthopolis site would look like. ( Seuthopolis Project )

Tilev first put forward the idea of the in situ exhibition of Seuthopolis in 2005 when the municipality of Kazanlak asked if he was interested in creating a copy of the city in a new site away from the dam. The architect thought that the copy would not do the site justice and instead proposed the abovementioned project.

While it would be amazing to see this site brought back to life, there is an obstacle (almost as monumental as the tall walls) that has brought Tilev’s dreams to a standstill… the money it would take to make it a reality. The ancient Thracian capital was put under 20 meters (65.62 ft.) of water when the dam was built, and it is estimated that it would cost “ dozens of millions of euro” to complete the project.

Photo near the Seuthopolis project at Kazanlak, Starra Zagora, Bulgaria.

Photo near the Seuthopolis project at Kazanlak, Starra Zagora, Bulgaria. ( Aniket Mone/CC BY 2.0 )

With the significance of the site and the interesting way it would be presented, there is potential that tourists would flock to a recreated Seuthopolis – which the Seuthopolis Project calls “the first and the best preserved Thracian city in modern Bulgaria.” But even if it is chosen from the five projects for partial funding by the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation of the US Embassy, two questions still remain: Where will the rest of the necessary finances come from? And, could this ambitious project reach its potential?



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