In the dozen or so centuries before the birth of Christ,
the lands surrounding the Mediterranean were bursting with civilization.
Pharaohs reigned over Egypt to the south, the empires of Mesopotamia flourished to the east, and the Greeks dominated the Aegean to the north. Yet just a bit farther north still, another, more enigmatic people ruled the Balkans, where Bulgaria now lies.
Known as the Thracians,
they remain as mystical as their most famous representatives:
Orpheus and Spartacus.
Once upon a time the Thracians inhabited Bulgarian lands. Thracian rulers and members of the nobility were buried in monumental stone tombs, which also served as places for ritual ceremonies to honor the deceased ruler, with offerings of rich funeral gifts. The tombs constituted underground temples of heroes, and have thus become known as heroons. Approximately fifty such tombs have been discovered in Thracian mounds in Bulgaria up to the present time.
The Valley of Thracian Kings is a term used to describe the numerous Ancient Thracian tumuli (burial mounds) containing tombs and graves in the valley of the Central Bulgarian town of Kazanlak, which was coined by late Bulgarian archaeologist Georgi Kitov, a tracologist (an archaeologist specializing in Ancient Thrace). It is believed that over 1,500 Ancient Thracian burial mounds exist in the Valley of Thracian Kings alone, of which some 300 have been excavated by archaeologists. Not unlike the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, the Valley of the Thracian Kings is where the Thracian rulers and high aristocrats were buried.
The Shipka Tombs are seven in total on an area of Central Bulgaria considered to have been the Valley of the Thracian Kings.