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The ritual pit in which the children were crushed by stones

Bulgarian Archaeologists find Evidence of 2,700-Year-Old Thracian Child Sacrifice


Archaeologists excavating ritual pits in southwest Bulgaria have found the remains of two children that had been sacrificed about 2,700 years ago. The remains indicate that they had been crushed to death with stones.

The Bulgarian archaeologists are digging in a city that dates back nearly 8,000 years.

“The ancient Thracian child sacrifice found in one of the numerous ritual pits at the site of the prehistoric settlement near Mursalevo was committed about 2,700 years ago; it is dated to the 6 th century BC,” reports Archaeology in Bulgaria.

Archaeologists excavating the prehistoric site are cleaning the children’s crushed skulls and have also found a shoulder bone from one of them.

Excavations at the early Neolithic settlement near Mursalevo in Southwest Bulgaria.

Excavations at the early Neolithic settlement near Mursalevo in Southwest Bulgaria. Photo: Bulgaria’s Road Infrastructure Agency

“Inside the Thracian ritual pit, they have found several stones that are believed to have been used in the human sacrifice ritual. The pit is yet to be further excavated,” the blog states. “About 20 such ritual pits in which the Ancient Thracians placed artifacts or food as sacrifice to their gods, or sacrificed animals or humans, have been found on top of the Early Neolithic city near Mursalevo.”

In fall 2014 they found the skeleton of a calf that the Thracians had sacrificed. They pointed the calf’s head down so it could bleed out. Next to the calf was a knife.

Archaeologists were called in to investigate the area when the government planned to extend a highway. Twice the government postponed construction work to give the archaeologists more time to excavate and investigate the settlement, the origins of which date to about 5,800 BC. People have asked the government to change the route of the highway so it does not destroy the site.

The town occupied about 1.6 hectares (4 acres), so it is the prehistoric settlement with the largest area under excavation in southeast Europe, according to the Archaeology in Bulgaria blog. The settlement had three parallel streets and several smaller streets running perpendicular. Each perpendicular street had three to four houses.

The people built their homes of clay and plant stalks. Walls were 20 cm (7.87 inches) thick. Researchers think the people deliberately burned the dwellings for some reason by stacking firewood inside and lighting it. They also believe the ancient people thought the vicinity of the settlement was sacred.

Researchers have found ceramic goddess figures, a button and needle, a golden earring and another grave with a skeleton in the fetal position. They have found four graves in total and about 20 ritual pits.

number more than 20 near the settlement. Only four burials have been found.

Ritual sacrifice pits number more than 20 near the settlement. Only four burials have been found. (BGNES)

The excavations are being carried out under the direction of Professor Vasil Nikolov of the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

Signs of human habitation in Bulgaria go back to the Middle Paleolithic of 100,000 to 40,000 BC. “Agricultural communities, though, appeared in the Neolithic Period (New Stone Age), and in the Bronze Age the lands were inhabited by Thracian tribes. The Thracians were eventually expelled or absorbed by Greek, Persian and Roman colonies, but traces of their culture remain in their monuments devoted to horse worship and in the mummer (Bulgarian: kuker) tradition that still survives in southwestern Bulgaria,” says Encyclopedia Britannica.

Map showing ancient Thracian territory

Map showing ancient Thracian territory (Wikipedia)

The Thracians were great horseman and poets, artisans, musicians and advanced metalsmiths. They were Indo-European people who lived at the juncture of Greece, Persia and Anatolia. They did not have a political organization until the fifth century BC but earlier probably lived in fortified villages. Thracian lands were occupied by Persians, Greeks and then Romans, and they were at war through much of their history.

Featured image: The ritual pit in which the children were crushed by stones (BGNES photo)

By Mark Miller

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Mark Miller has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and is a former newspaper and magazine writer and copy editor who's long been interested in anthropology, mythology and ancient history. His hobbies are writing and drawing.

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