Partners: National Archaeological Institute with Museum – Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Balkan Heritage Foundation
Period of the Project: October – November 2019
Funded by: Bulgarian Ministry of Culture, J. M. Kaplan Fund – the J. M. Kaplan Fund through the Balkan Heritage Foundation generously provided the amount of 15000$ in addition to the funding supplied by the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture.
The Site: The Alexandrovo Tomb dating from the fourth century BCE was discovered and excavated from 2000 to 2003 by Bulgarian archaeologist Georgi Kitov. He conducted rescue excavations after the tomb was plundered by looters who subsequently entered it and damaged parts of it. The tomb consists of a round chamber of about 3 meters (9.8 ft) in diameter, accessible through a small antechamber and a dromos (corridor), approximately 6 meters (20 ft) long. Both the antechamber and main chamber are decorated with well-preserved wall paintings which make this monument a unique example of the burial architecture and art from the Early Hellenistic period in Thrace.
The tomb acquired the status of an archeological architectural and artistic cultural treasure of national significance in 2000. In 2004 it was included in the UNESCO Tentative List.
The Project: The project team led by dr. Georgi Nehrisov and including dr. Angela Pencheva, dr. Nayden Prahov, dr. Antonio Cosentino and dr. Kitan Kitanov conducted research and documented the wall-paintings of the Thracian tomb near Alexandrovo village, Bulgaria, using a range of advanced non-destructive methods. The main focus fell on establishing the painting technique used to create the wall paintings and to highlight the faded images and colors by applying a series of modern methods of photo documentation. These methods included – Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI), Ultra-Violet Lightning Documentation, Infrared Lightning Documentation, and Digital Color Decorrelation. The extensive photo archive created during the project serves as the foundation for further research of this remarkable monument and interpretation of the images.
A range of physico-chemical methods of analysis was applied to some fragments of fresco and mortar in order to determine the type, composition and origin of the mortars and the pigments, the raw materials, and the techniques used for applying the plaster and the paint. A complex physico-chemical analysis of pigments and colored plasters had never been done to any of the Thracian tombs in Bulgaria. This was also the first thorough photo documentation of the wall paintings in the last decade. Photo capturing applications and the subsequent computer processing of the photo documentation and the generation of digital models of the original capturing were only recently made available in Bulgaria, following the general developments of such technologies worldwide.
The project followed the recommendations of the Inspectorate on Preservation of Cultural Heritage of the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture and was instrumental for the timely documentation and analysis of the murals prior to taking the necessary measures to conserve the tomb and its decoration.