Medieval Necropolis Unearthed at Bulgarian Bus Station

Well-preserved burial sites and artifacts from the Middle Ages were discovered beneath a construction site in Sozopol, Bulgaria.

Apr 4, 2024By Emily Snow, MA History of Art, BA Art History & Curatorial Studies
The excavation site in Sozopol, Bulgaria, via Bulgarian News Agency


The remains of a medieval necropolis were discovered amidst the construction of a new bus station in Sozopol, Bulgaria, as reported by the town hall on Wednesday. A thorough architectural excavation of the site is now underway. As one of the oldest settlements on the coast of the Black Sea in Bulgaria, Sozopol has been the location of many fascinating archaeological finds in recent decades.


A Surprising Discovery at a Construction Site

The excavation site in Sozopol, Bulgaria, via Bulgarian News Agency


While the excavation process has only just begun at the bus station construction site in Sozopol, important discoveries have already been made. In the top layer of the necropolis, which has been measured at about 30 meters wide and 20 meters long, two lead seals dating back to the 13th century were found. These seals feature images of Christian saints and inscriptions, which likely recount correspondences between senior clergymen. Also, in accordance with Christian tradition, the human remains found in the necropolis were buried facing westward.


So far, ten well-preserved burial pits have been identified at the Sozopol necropolis. As has been commonly practiced at cemeteries, these individuals were likely buried atop the graves of previously deceased family members. Coins, ceramics, and iron nails dating from the 11th to 13th centuries have also been discovered at the site, as has a large empty storage container, which is being tested for traces of organic material.


What Is a Necropolis?

The pyramids of the Giza necropolis in Egypt, via Wikipedia


In contrast to an ordinary cemetery, a necropolis is usually architecturally designed with a series of elaborate monuments to the dead—such as the Giza pyramid complex in Egypt. Additionally, unlike the common practice of creating centrally-located burial sites within city borders, a necropolis would intentionally be installed at a distance from the community it belonged to.

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The new discovery of a necropolis is architecturally significant because it provides key information about a culture’s burial practices and afterlife beliefs. Necropolises are especially associated with Ancient Egypt, the funerary customs of which have been extensively studied, but most cities across the ancient world had their own necropolis. While they have declined in popularity since the Middle Ages, necropolises have still occasionally been constructed since, even in modern times.


What’s Next for the Excavation

Excavations at the necropolises of Apollonia, via the Sozopol Museums, Bulgaria


So far, the excavation of the bus station necropolis in Sozopol is only a few meters deep. As archaeologists continue to dig, they anticipate finding many more densely packed burial sites and valuable artifacts beneath the dirt. These discoveries may offer new insights into the funerary customs of local communities during the Middle Ages.


Experts also hope to find even older artifacts possibly buried far beneath the medieval remains currently being examined. Similar excavations in nearby areas, such as the pictured Necropolises of Apollonia, yielded such discoveries layer by layer, including ancient burial sites from the 4th century and the Late Hellenistic Period.

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By Emily SnowMA History of Art, BA Art History & Curatorial StudiesEmily Snow is a contributing writer and art historian based in Amsterdam. She earned an MA in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art and loves knitting, her calico cat, and everything Victorian.