CULTURE

A shell-museum for a Thrace tomb

A museum worthy of the Royal Tombs of Vergina will house the tumulus of Mikri Doxipara-Zonis, a tomb originally erected by a wealthy family of landowners over 2,000 years ago in order to keep the memory of its dead alive.

The remains of 15 horses and five wagons, along with the cremated remains of three males and one female, make up a unique archaeological site situated in the western part of northern Evros, near the Greek-Bulgarian border.

So far, a makeshift shelter has provided protection for the impressive findings, which were unearthed in 2004 following a two-year excavation carried out by the 19th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities. The family tomb, showcasing wagons and horses — symbols of power, prestige and wealth — has already attracted local interest. Despite its remote location, from spring to autumn the site turns into a destination for about 2,000 monthly visitors.

The proposal for the construction of a museum to protect the site is based on a circular, underground exhibition space, similar to that of Vergina, only smaller in size. The project is expected to come under the EU?s National Strategic Reference Framework, with funding of 5 million euros.

According to Diamantis Triandafyllos, the head of the excavation team, the museum will be constructed in the form of a shell and the tomb will be reconstructed to appear as it did prior to the excavation. Copies of wagon pieces, along with the horses? remains will go on display exactly as they were found, giving visitors a glimpse of the kind of images the excavation team came across during the exciting discovery.

Meanwhile, the cremated skeletons will remain in situ and will be accompanied by explanatory material regarding Thrace?s burial practices, among other information. According to Triandafyllos, while three copies out of the five of the wagons have been constructed so far, removing the original wagons from the ground and replacing them will require complicated excavation work.

The original metal pieces of the horse wagons will be placed in display cases which will subsequently rest on plexiglass wagon copies, in order to give an overall impression of what the ancient carriages looked like, as well as to showcase technological developments throughout time. Eventually, the museum will be endowed with over 1,000 objects found in the graves of the wealthy landowners.