The carriage and horse skeletons were discovered in the village of Svestari in north-east Bulgaria
They were found in a Thracian tomb along with some decorations
- The discovery was unexpected as treasure hunters have plundered many of the ancient mounds found in the region
Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of a Thracian carriage and two horses that appear to have been buried upright.
The chariot and horse skeletons are 2,500-years-old and were discovered in the village of Svestari in north-east Bulgaria.
The two-wheeled carriage and carcasses of the horses were found in a Thracian tomb along with some decorations.
Professor Diana Gergova of the National Archaeology Institute at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, who led the dig, said: 'The find is unique, it is not resembling any other carriage dating from the Thracian era ever uncovered in Bulgaria.'
According to Sofia News Agency, the discovery of the carriage was unexpected as treasure hunters have plundered many of the ancient mounds found in the region in a bid to find gold, despite a UNESCO ban of this activity.
The particular mound where the carriage was discovered, is adjacent to the well known Mound of Bulgarian Khan Imurtag, where the same research team uncovered a hoard of gold last year.
A Roman chariot complete with a seat and boot was unearthed along with two buried horses in the village of Borissvovo in Bulgaria in 2010, which shows similarities to the new find, despite being younger in age.
It was thought to belong to Thracian nobility living in the second half of the 1st century AD, judging by the imported goods found in nearby graves.
The burial mount yielded seven burial structures and two pits, one of which held the carriage and horses, HorseTalk revealed.
Experts believe the chariot was placed in a narrow hole with a sloping side to allow horses, decorated with elaborate harnesses, to pull it into its final resting place, after which they were killed.
The evidence of small metal disks on the horses' heads at the new sight, suggest they too were wearing harnesses.
The Borissovo chariot was supported by stones in order to keep it in its final position and offers researchers the chance to see how the vehicles were put together, including a 'boot' which held a bronze pan and ladle, grill and bottles.
A skeleton of a dog chained to the cart was also discovered, and nearby the grave of the warrior who is presumed to have owned the carriage, complete with his armour, spears and swords as well as medication and an inkwell, signifying he was well educated.
Archaeologist Veselin Ignatov, who was involved in the discoveryry of another the chariot near the southeastern village of Karanovo, said around 10,000 Thracian mounds - part of them covering monumental stone tombs - are scattered across the country.
Mr Ignatov said up to 90 per cent of the tombs in the region have been completely or partially destroyed by treasure hunters who smuggle the most precious objects abroad.
Why would an ancient Thracian people, the Getae, bury – 2,500 years ago – a chariot complete with horses standing upright?
The discovery near the northern Bulgarian village of Svestari, has marveled the archeological team that made it.
It is the oldest such find in the region.
It is evidence of the lavish funeral rites afforded high status Thracians entering the after-life.
Diana Gergova is head of the Bulgarian Archeological team says, “the chariot dates back to the last decades of the fourth century BC, when the Getae dynasty was at its peak and when all these amazing complexes of mounds were built to accommodate burials of several Getae rulers.”
According to archaeologists, this find is not just the first chariot of its kind found anywhere, but also the earliest carriage ever found in Bulgaria.
Archeologists have been taking to the deep close to the ancient sea port of Aenona, off the Croatian coast, to explore three ancient sunken ships.
They have found around 500 fragments, dating from the 9th Century BC that give a unique insight into the local Illyrian people and Liburnians.
The team is most excited by ancient olives and to see if the Liburnians ate the same food as we do.
Viking graves in Norway contain a grisly tribute: slaves who were beheaded and buried along with their masters, new research suggests.
In Flakstad, Norway, remains from 10 ancient people were buried in multiple graves, with two to three bodies in some graves and some bodies decapitated. Now, an analysis reveals the beheaded victims ate a very different diet from the people with whom they were buried.
"We propose that the people buried in double and triple burials might have come from very different strata of society, and that slaves could have been offered as grave gifts in these burials," study co-author Elise Naumann, an archaeologist at the University of Oslo in Norway, wrote in an email.
From about the 790s until about A.D. 1100, the Vikings were fierce, sea-faring raiders and often took slaves as booty. But this vicious lifestyle wasn't a full-time job. In everyday life, many Vikings were actually farmers, relying on slaves, or thralls, for agricultural work. Though some thralls were treated well, many were forced to endure backbreaking physical labor, Naumann said. Women were often used as sex slaves, and any children who resulted could either be considered the master's children or treated as slaves themselves. [Fierce Fighters: 7 Secrets of Viking Seamen]
The Viking burials were first discovered in the early 1980s, but only partially excavated at the time. The ancient graves were partly damaged by modern farming and contained just a few grave artifacts, such as an amber bead, some animal bones and a few knives. At the time, archaeologists noticed that four of the bodies were beheaded whereas the rest were intact.
That led many to conclude that the decapitated bodies were those of slaves sacrificed and buried with their masters.
To bolster that notion, Naumann and her colleagues analyzed the skeletons' mitochondrial DNA, which is passed on through the maternal line. The team found that bodies buried together were most likely not related, at least on the maternal side.
Next, they analyzed the ratio of carbon and nitrogen isotopes, or elements with different molecular weights, in the bones of the ancient Scandinavians.
Because food that comes from the sea or the land contains different proportions of heavy and light isotopes of carbon and nitrogen, the concentration of these chemicals in bones can reveal the dietary history of a people.
Results showed the beheaded people ate more fish protein, whereas the others ate land-based protein sources, such as meat and dairy products. That suggests the people buried together came from very different strata of society.
Naumann proposes the beheaded victims were slaves who were sacrificed as gifts to be offered in death on behalf of their masters. Though such human sacrifice was uncommon in Viking society, it wasn't unknown.
"There are other examples of sacrifice in burials, where individuals had tied hands and feet and were sometimes beheaded, or in other ways treated in ways that indicates sacrifice," Naumann said. "It is assumed that such persons were grave gifts, and would follow their masters in death. One historical account from Ibn Fadlan (an Arab traveler who chronicled his journeys) describes how a slave woman volunteered to follow her master — a Viking chieftain — in the grave."
The find will be detailed in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.