Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari
The royal tomb with caryatids is undoubtedly one of the most impressive archaeological monuments on the territory of Bulgaria. Discovered near the village of Sveshtari during a survey of the area in 1982, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.
Two years ago, a massive restoration project of the Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari began. It incorporated expert repair and renovation of the tomb, as well as professional light installations, climate control, educational exhibits and displays, and other improved tourist infrastructure. The conceptual lighting design was created by Sutton Vane Associates and then adapted, expanded and implemented by Light Factor. “Through innovative solutions based on recent technological developments in the field of LED lighting, we created light scenography that would allow the visitors to fully experience the beauty and uniqueness of the Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari,” commented Rossen Yovchev, general manager of Light Factor. “In addition to replacing the old luminaires with latest-generation LED spotlights, the new lighting project stands out through the use of different lighting scenarios which are controlled by the curators and can be called on to accommodate various visual activities and requirements. Thanks to the DALI control system, the light fittings are divided into groups that can be switched on separately, allowing the system to create different lighting scenes. For this project we chose to work exclusively with products by iGuzzini Illuminazione – an international leader in the field of architectural lighting.”
HISTORY AND ARCHITECTURE
This 3rd-century BC Thracian tomb reflects the fundamental principles of Thracian cult buildings and is thought to be the grave of Dromichaetes (c. 300 – c. 280 BC) – king of the Getae, and his wife.
The original structure of the tomb is made of smoothly carved limestone blocks and consists of three separate chambers covered with semi-cylindrical vaults. Following the spirit of Hellenistic architecture, the tomb is richly decorated, both with sculptural and painted elements. An open stone corridor leads to the tomb entrance flanked by a couple of columns adorned with Ionic capitals. Above them, a beautiful cornice carved in high relief of stylized ox heads, rosettes and garlands welcomes the site’s visitors.
The main burial chamber reveals an unforgettable composition of ten half-human, half-plant caryatids that conjures up the image of a choir of mourners frozen in the abstract positions of a ritual dance. The female figures are carved in high relief and the original pigments that covered the stone in ochre, brown, blue, red and lilac shades have been mostly preserved.
A scene representing the deification of the ruler is panted in the lunette on the back wall of the main burial chamber. In the center of the composition is portrayed the ruler himself and a goddess offering him a golden laurel wreath. The depicted procession includes four attendants carrying offerings to the right, and two soldiers with spears, swords and shields to the left of the main figures.
Neither the scene painted the lunette, nor the statues of the caryatids are fully completed – the hands of several of the female figures are crudely carved and the drawing is only outlined in black chalk, which suggests that the ruler for whom the tomb was intended died suddenly and the project had to be completed in a hurry. Nevertheless, the Thracian tomb of Sveshtari is a remarkable reminder of the unique culture of the Getae tribe.