Friday, September 19, 2008

A Friend and the Archaeologist

Georgi Kitov holds a 2,500-year-old solid gold Thracian mask he unearthed in the Bulgaria town of Shipka in 2004.

“Life evolves and meanders through the years, like a river running on its way to the ocean of knowledge, and every encounter and bit of wisdom comes in handy sooner or later.”

This profound statement was waiting for me this morning in my email, written by my friend Ludmil Marcov (photo below), who’s a frequent contributor to my Quantum Spirit blog. Ludmil had been contemplating the recent death of the world-famous Bulgarian archaeologist Georgi Kitov, whom he had met several years ago in their homeland.

Ludmil, like Kitov, is Bulgarian. He’s a skilled architect, and since coming to the U.S. several years ago, has made a living creating enchanting home and garden design pieces as part of the Willow Nest business he and his wife Linda have operated in California, Oregon, Washington and now in Burton, Texas.

Ludmil knew Kitov many years ago in Bulgaria. “When I was in college, I took part in many archaeological excavations from Thracian, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman times,” he writes. “I was part of a team of many specialists and had a wonderful time exploring and learning from different masters in their trades. Working with scholars and craftsmen preserving and restoring the past gave me an appreciation for the past, and many of my skills were developed back then.”

Among those scholars was Georgi Kitov. In his email, Ludmil sent this obituary on Kitov from the online Bulgarian newspaper, The Sophia Echo:

All of his life, he walked through the valley of Thracian kings. Coming as a distant echo from a ghost-ruled tomb, the Thracian royalties spoke to him, called him.
He wooed them, diligently hunted for them and promised if they appeared, he would expose them to eternal glory instead.
Finally, they revealed themselves, and made him Bulgaria’s most prominent archaeologist, our very own Indiana Jones.

In 2004, reacting to a tipoff that tomb raiders were getting ready to hit a site near Kazanluk, a city 170 km east of Sofia, the Thracian scholar rushed to save, or rather try to be the first who lays hands on whatever was buried under layers of earth. He dug deep and struck gold. A solid life-size mask made of gold, positioned next to a skeleton with chopped up body parts surfaced. Gasping for breath, the archaeologist fought off one single thought that nevertheless kept coming back: Has he found the remains of the Thracian king Teres I (475/445 BCE)? “It can’t be possible,” he gasped for air. “It can’t be possible.”

Georgi Kitov died September 14 shortly after feeling sharp chest pain. He was 65.

Kitov was working on the ancient complex and presumable tomb of Thracian king Seuthes III (ca. 330/300 BCE) near the village of Starosel. Since 1992, the archaeologist and his team explored Bulgaria’s Valley of the Kings, a forested region in the central part of the country and nearly 100 km in length. The area is swelled with ancient burial mounds, no doubt left by the Thracians. After numerous mentions in ancient texts and serious archaeological finds to prove the existence of their civilization, Thracian history is still enveloped in mystery.

Ludmil closed his email with an ancient blessing for Georgi Kitov: “I wish him an easy trip over the river Stix in the underworld.”

Click here for the Sophia Echo article.
Click here for the New York Times obituary.


ludmil said...

Dear Greg, thank you for sharing my e-mail regarding the lost of this prominent archeologist-tracolog.Every sivilisation from the past has their great discoverers.Heinrich Schielmann/1822-1890/claimed that at age of 8 he would excavate the city of Troy.He did in 1870 in the modern Turkey/nearDardanneles/He would be remembered with Treasures of Homeric king Priam and his spectacullar masc.Howard Carter/1873-1939/british archeologist and egyptologist unearthed the tomb of King Tutankhamun and the most famous masterpiece of Ancient Egypt-Bust of Nefertiti/by sculptor Thutmose/ Let me say a few more facts about G.Kitov discoveries.

Kitov's bailiwick was dozens of mounds in what became known as the Valley of the Thracian Kings, in central Bulgaria. He found ancient graves at Strelcha, a religious complex near Starosel and the tomb of King Seuthes III, near the town of Shipka. He collected Thracian jewelry, weaponry and sculpture, including what many consider his finest discovery, the bronze head of a man with eyes of semiprecious stones.

In 2004, he discovered a dismembered skeleton positioned carefully in a tomb. Nearby was a mask of pure gold weighing 1.5 pounds, or about 0.8 kilogram. It had a menacing expression and exquisitely rendered locks of hair.
Kitov,and soon the archeological world were dazzled."It can,t be possible" He was quoted as saying at the moment of discovery."Gold mascs with this shape and weight are absolutly unknown".

Kitov, and soon the archaeological world, were dazzled. "It can't be possible," Kitov was quoted in several press reports as saying, marveling at the moment of discovery. "It can't be possible." He later said, "Gold masks with this shape and weight are absolutely unknown."

In 2005, Time magazine called the discovery of the tomb "one of the most sensational archaeological finds of recent years."

Even before Thrace's alliance with Troy against Greece in the Trojan War, Greeks considered Thracians barbarians. But the relics Kitov found indicated that the Thracians had been as adept at metalworking as the Trojans. They also suggested a militaristic people who had engaged in elaborate drinking rituals and had believed in resurrection after death. The opulent tombs had clearly been meant for the rich.

"These findings show that the Thracians had wealth that rivaled that of any other great kingdom of the time," James Sickinger, a professor at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, said in an interview . So dear friends look at this fascinating picture of Georgi holding this presious masc/maybe is Thracian King Teres 1/475-445 BC ? /This is an image of man fullfilled his dream.Pure HAPPINESS!! The great discoveries always start with a dream .I would parafrase the old clishe"seeing is believing" with believe and you will see treasures where others don,t,!All those great men believed and they succseeded!!I would always will remember Georgi Kitov in a state of nirvana , holding this wonderfull pure gold masc and showing it proudly to the World.What a Great gift he left to the rest of us ,before he crossed the river Styx.

Gregory LeFever said...

Thank you, Ludmil, for presenting more information on the Thracians and on Kitov himself. It communicates the thrill and sense of adventure that are possible in the world of archaeology and the piecing together of own human heritage.

It's too bad this entire field of knowledge has become so seriously neglected in US schools. Every day we see the results of ignorance of the past.