© Region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace
One of the largest and most important grave tumuli in Thrace was revealed on a natural hill, near the road that led from Adrianople to Philippoupolis, in the area between the villages of Mikri Doxipara, Zone and Chelidona. The tumulus of Mikri Doxipara – Zone with a diameter of 60 m and a height of 7.5 m was constructed in stages in the early 2nd century AD to cover the burials – cremations of four members of a family who died, were cremated and were interred successively.
The excavation research carried out in Northern Thrace revealed that it was common for the families of rich landowners to be buried on family land rather than in centralized cemeteries. It seems that it was a widespread burial custom in the area of Thrace in Roman times, while a certain preference can be observed to the burial custom of cremation than to the interment. The case of Mikri Doxipara is characteristic of this burial method that was probably adapted by a rich family of landowners for the burial of four of its members, who lived in the area in the early 2nd century AD.
The excavation research for the preservation of the grave tumulus of Mikri Doxipara – Zone was initiated by the 18th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities in 2002. The revealing of numerous marble reliefs and architectural members scattered over the tumulus initially led to the assumption that there was probably a grave monument built on the top of the tumulus and later destroyed completely or that the monument already existed in the site, or close by, before it was covered by the tumulus. This assumption is not yet confirmed since the tumulus was plundered and partially destroyed.
The excavation works brought to light four large pits containing the cremated remains of three males and one female, organic material and numerous grave goods that accompanied the dead in the afterlife, such as clay, glass and bronze vessels, bronze lamp stands and lamps, weapons, jewellery, small wooden boxes, a coin from the Trajan times etc.
Next to the pits, five wagons were found that carried the dead to the site of the tumulus together with their beasts of burden, and five more horses. The five wagons with their beasts of burden were placed in shallow pits cut into the natural ground. Each wagon bears different decoration and mechanical details from the rest. Still, in each of them the axles, the iron tyres of the wheels and the compact iron naves are preserved as well as the rest metal, functional and decorative parts, while in two of them traces of their wood impressions are preserved.
The first group containing two wagons (B and C) was traced in the west part of the tumulus, while next to this group the burial of two horses (horse burial A) was found. The wheels of these wagons were removed from their axles and the horses were yoked. The horse skeletons were preserved in very bad condition and the metal finds were damaged by the humidity and the texture of the soil. The second group contains three wagons (A, D, E) found around the southeastern perimeter of the tumulus. Wheels and axles were dismantled in this group of wagons and the horses were unyoked, while impressions of wood were not preserved at all. However, the metal finds and the horse skeletons are preserved in excellent condition. A burial of three additional horses was found near this second group between the wagon burials A and D.
Broken vessels, ashes and animal bones were found at different points in the site of the tumulus, which probably are the remains of rituals and offerings that were taking place during the construction of the tumulus in honour of the dead. Two rectangular brick-built constructions were also uncovered, on and around of which ashes and numerous fragmentized small clay vessels were found containing offerings to the dead, while two large pit ‘hearths’ filled with ashes were also excavated.
The wagons found at Mikri Doxipara-Zone were the vehicles served for carrying the dead to the burial area. The custom of burying the deceased with their four-wheeled wagons and horses was common in many areas of the ancient world, already from the Mycenaean era, as much in Europe as in Asia. Yet, the excavation of a so complete collection of four-wheeled wagons at Mikri Doxipara-Zone is the first example ever found on Greek soil. Until now, only separate parts of wagons were revealed in tombs.