The Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak is the first of the Bulgarian sites included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. It was discovered by chance in 1944 in a funeral mound at the Tyulbeto Hill in the northeast part of the town. Its world prominence is due to the unique frescoes in the corridor and the domed chamber. These are some of the best preserved works of the Antique painting from the early Hellenistic age.
The tomb consists of three sections: an entrance foyer, built of roughly split stones held together by clay, a narrow brick passageway with a pointed double-sloped cover, and a circular brick burial chamber covered by a bell-shaped dome. The entire brick frame of the tomb is riveted with split-stones held by clay. Judging by the bones found in the burial chamber, it is obvious that a man and a woman were put to rest here. Two ceramic vessels (ascos) and a gold-plated silver jug were found in the mound, and in the passageway – horse bones (as by Thracian tradition) and a ritual ceramic vessel (oenochoe). An amphora, dry-gold-plated clay rosettes from a funeral wreath, some pieces of golden jewellery and Thracian ceramic fragments were found in the beehive chamber. The remarkable frescoes in the passageway and the burial chamber are the work of an unknown Thracian artist who used four basic colours – black, red, yellow and white. Two techniques were used in the decoration of the tomb: wet fresco (in the ornamental and figure painting) and distemper (in the floor and wall coloration). The paints are of mineral origin. Marble powder was added to the dying substance of the plaster in order to lend it some mirror brilliance. The decoration of the passageway is divided into two depicted friezes – the first one of floral motives, and the second one – with figures of fighting warriors. The scenes depict historical events connected with the life of the buried Thracian nobleman. The walls of the beehive burial chamber are also decorated – from the bottom up as follows: black base, a white stripe, imitating white marble lining, and above it, a stripe coloured in Pompeian red. Another frieze follows with rows of rosettes and bullheads, above which is the main frieze. The first explorers defined the central scene as a “funeral feast” but according to the latest studies the scene is a “wedding procession”. In the centre of the scene are a noble Thracian couple and a tall figure of a woman, probably a Goddess, standing next to the man. The heads of the nobleman and woman are crowned with golden laurel wreaths. On both sides are portrayed men and women who look like participants in the ceremony: pipers, a cup bearer, women presenting gifts and warriors leading horses. The top of the dome is divided into three parts and columns. A galloping chariot with a double team of horses is represented in each one of them. The Kazanlak Thracian Tomb dates back to the end of IV and beginning of III century BC. The high mastery of the Thracian artist reflecting the Thracian customs and beliefs is an undisputable evidence of the rich cultural life in Thrace during that era.