Georgi Kitov; Archaeologist Was an Expert On Thracians
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Archaeologist Georgi Kitov, an expert on the treasure-rich Thracian culture of antiquity, died Sept. 14 after a heart attack while excavating a temple near the village of Starosel in central Bulgaria considered to be one of his greatest discoveries. He was 65.
The temple, unearthed by Mr. Kitov in 2000, as well as other sensational finds over the past 16 years brought him international attention.
His discoveries include two 5th century B.C. gold funerary masks -- one weighing a pound -- from the Shipka valley in central Bulgaria, a bronze head from a statue of a Thracian ruler, gold and silver jewelry and a complete set of bronze armor.
Mr. Kitov compared the previously little-known Thracian civilization to that of ancient Greece. Though unlike the Greeks, the Thracians had no written language and so left no records.
"We found indisputable evidence that the Thracian civilization was at least equal to the ancient Greek one," he said in 2004. "In fact, we proved that Thracians were co-authors of the ancient culture, which often is called Hellenistic by mistake."
First mentioned in Homer's "Iliad" as allies of Troy, the Thracians were an Indo-European nomadic people who settled in the central Balkans about 5,000 years ago. They were conquered by Rome in the 1st century and were assimilated by invading Slav peoples in the 6th century.
Fierce warriors and horse-breeders, the Thracians were also skilled goldsmiths. They established a powerful kingdom in the 5th century B.C. Its capital was thought to be Seutopolis, whose ancient ruins lie under a large artificial lake near Shipka, in an area dubbed "the Bulgarian Valley of Kings" for its many rich tombs.
Mr. Kitov once told the Associated Press that the temple at Starosel "vies with ancient Greek temples in Sparta, Athens and Mycenae."
He was criticized by other archaeologists for using bulldozers in some of his digs. He said the high-speed technique was necessary to keep ahead of looters.
Some archaeologists also accused him of failing to adequately document or publish his finds.
In 2001, Bulgarian authorities rescinded his excavation permit for a year, accusing him of digging without permission.
Sofia's National History Museum Director Bozhidar Dimitrov said Mr. Kitov regarded archaeology as a duty more than a job.
"He suffered from the widespread looting and tried to counteract by digging more and more," Dimitrov said. "Very often, he won the race against the looters."
Mr. Kitov was born March 1, 1943, in the southwestern Bulgarian town of Dupnitsa. He earned a history degree from the University of Sofia, and studied art history at the St. Petersburg State University.
Survivors include his wife, Diana Dimitrova; and a daughter.