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MW2002: Papers

At the Dawn of European Civilization

Jordan Detev, MultimediaArts Society, Bulgaria

This is an off-line interactive multimedia presentation that combines computer fixed and moving graphics, audio, and viewer participation components, with a parallel Web-site presentation, based on the discovery and excavation, by Professor Peter Detev, of an ancient Cult Center near today’s Muldava, a Bulgarian village in the Plovdiv region of Bulgaria
Figure 1: This is an off-line interactive multimedia presentation that combines computer fixed and moving graphics, audio, and viewer participation components, with a parallel Web-site presentation, based on the discovery and excavation, by Professor Peter Detev, of an ancient Cult Center near today’s Muldava, a Bulgarian village in the Plovdiv region of Bulgaria


This is a story of how Jordan Detev, a Bulgarian, created a novel artistic multi-media presentation based on his fathers excavation, in the second half of the 1960s, of a remarkably well preserved ancient Thracian settlement in Southern Bulgaria, that is probably about 8,000 years old. By sharing this creation, Jordan Detev is not only taking viewers on a figurative sentimental journey through his father’s exciting professional archeological discovery but also enabling them simultaneously to experience much of the excitement of the making of that discovery through a work of art that is innovative for both its subject matter and its novel combination of new media.

Between 1965 and 1967, Professor Peter Detev, a Bulgarian archeologist, excavated the entire remains of an ancient settlement near the village of Muldava, in the Plovdiv region of southern Bulgaria, which he quickly realized was an ancient Thracian Cult Center. In the central edifice (the Temple) and two adjoining subsidiary buildings, he found a unique ensemble of sacred cult objects.They included an imposing zoomorphic pottery Rhiton vessel, 65 sm. wide and 55 sm. high, in the form of a stag, with the amazing capacity of 10-12 litres; a cup with three hemispheric protrusions; a three-dimensional T-shaped figurative altar with a hollow stem; a collection of nine altars and a ritual tray; and many table bowls and cups splendidly decorated with white paint.

Later, at excavations 200 meters from this initial find, Professor Detev discovered the apparent mother settlement. Upon analyzing the total find, he noticed the compelling similarity between both groups of objects found in them. But the secondary settlement appeared to function independently in light of the full complement of the objects found there.

In his publication about the total find, Professor Detev mentioned their relation to the Sun God, the mythic Holy Stag, and beliefs in the fertility influence of the Sacred Spring. And then, he saw a very interesting connection between these ancient items and current Bulgarian folkloric ceremonies in honor of the revival of nature in the Spring, between Syrni Zagovezni and St George’s Day. He identified one especially charming legend I discuss below.

Keywords: Design, multimedia - offline-online, digital art, interactive video, workshop, plain, script, cultural heritage, new technologies, Internet


Figure 2
Figure 2

The Uniqueness and Significance of the Discovery

No archeological discovery similar to that at Muldava has been made since. Thus, that Cult Center is the oldest spiritual hearth of civilization known not only in Bulgaria but even in all of Europe. It is noteworthy that the stem "mulda" in the name of today’s village meant a fortified sanctuary in the Thracian language. There were castles and sanctuaries in this area since time immemorial. For example, there is a third still unresearched prehistoric site near Muldava that is a Roman sanctuary built on the location of the oldest Cult center with its castle, monastery, and the like.

Professor Detev confirms that the Cult Center was fully excavated. He recorded that his first goal was to determine the parameters of the site. The artifacts are preserved in the Museums of Archeology of Plovdiv and Assenovgrad.

Figure 3
Figure 3


I have been tempted to ask why the oldest cultural heritage of Bulgaria has not intrigued and inspired art creators other than myself. I suspect that it has not because it does not lend itself particularly to unusual representation by traditional art media. My interest in it turns out to be unique because of my personal position vis-ą-vis both the subject matter and the novel advanced art media that caught my attention.

In particular, it provided me with the opportunity to reconsider the fascinating life work of my archeologist father, Professor Peter Detev. My first attention was drawn to the Thracian legend that he described in his article about the Muldava excavation. This legend is very popular today, with many variations in the area.

The mythic image of a stag that mediated between the Sun God and the people
existed among the most ancient pagan people of the Bulgarian Lands.
Our ancestors believed that, by offering him up as a sacrifice
in honor of nature's renewal in the Spring, they would send his soul to the Sun God
in conjunction with their prayers for fertility.
Relics of that rite still can be found in our folklore,
in a legend about the impact of a prehistoric settlement on the Bulgarian soul.

People believe that an ancient temple of fertility existed there.

A stag used to come every spring on St. George's Day and
mingle voluntarily among the people.

After being welcomed, fed, and enabled to rest,

he was offered up as a sacrifice.
Once, however, they did not wait for the holy animal to rest
before they  
offered him up, and they were punished for
Next year,  
instead of a stag, a whirlwind appeared and
blew away the most beautiful lass.
The people then buried their Temple and left
it that way in the hope that one day the stag, a
symbol of fertility, would return
The Temple of Fertility of Muldava retained the cult objects
of the ceremony while symbolizing the principle that,
without morality, even a religious rite
will be nullified and misfortune will strike its practitioners.

Figure 4
Figure 4

to digital art

This Thracian legend provided an ideal foundation for my script for the multimedia show that includes music, ballet (the ensemble Arabesque@), digital video, viewer interaction, and light FX.

In composing this work, I used authentic music of ancient Thrace. I made one arrangement with archaic intensification, but using electronic sound as FX and the environment gave me the suggestion for the program, which is characteristic for art productions that treat a literary subject. Picking a theme for a Stag as the basic engine of the action was a problem. My imagination had to search for an analogy for that sound for only a sublimated moment--the moment when the human perception is incarnated in music from the sounds of the flora and fauna of Nature. I happened upon an audiocassette of intonation exercises for speech therapy. It was a record of @polyphony@ practiced by a group of educated Greek students. My task was to work with intonations of laughter, crying, jitters, grumbling, horror, and the like. My musical ear caught the aesthetic for this @score.@ I sampled the separate voices and decided to imitate the intonations through computer control of an ensemble of instruments. The material for a theme for the Stag was then ready. Its accompaniment of the events and emotional levels reflected the action. Later, I had the famous artist of the ballet Arabesque perform this complex, which plays an important role in the show.

I also had to conduct research for the very beginning of the show. I concluded that the audience should not be plunged abruptly from today back to a mythical ancient time. Hence, I searched for material for an introduction that would represent all of a cult of the Sun, zoomorphism, a cult of a holy animal, and beliefs in the sacredness of the Spring. I looked at more than 65 films that had scenes of nature, actors, and actions. From them, I selected more than an hour of film material and subjected it to morphing, animation, and video editing, with transitions, soundtracks, and the like. The result was an 8-minute video replete with nature and symbolism. The video material ended in an ancient Roman Amphitheater, where the show begins. It is unfortunate that my lack of funds prevented me from carrying out many of my ideas by live camera, TV bridge, real time mix, and the like. Thus, I was unable to achieve all my real-time ideas. Instead, I was able only to simulate with my original SW "Music Vision Incarnation" (MVI). MVI converted my live music in real time into live animation.

The introduction was produced directly at the restored remains of a remarkable Roman Ampitheater on the side of a hill in Plovdiv, and MVI commentaries also were made during that show. This was very good for the computer controls of light and light FX. The show was performed as a part of the Bulgarian European Month of Culture. There The Mystery From Ancient Thrace was born.

Figure 5
Figure 5


My interest in Ancient Muldava justaposed with new technology and continued into the next year. I returned to my parents’ home and got my fathers’ complete archives. I scanned all his records, photographs, cards, drawings, illustrations, and the like. I was able to recall all the work he performed as a pre-historian, illustrator, restorer, and writer. I read and reread all the material, which included rough drafts, observations, and experiments. Then, I began to work with them in earnest. My first step was to use a wide array of graphic design techniques that included image processing, virtual environments and reconstruction, simple gif-animation, 3D modeling, animation, and digital video processing. In the process, I performed many virtual roles, such as a visitor to museum exhibitions, a curator of exhibitions, an explorer, and an interpreter. These kinds of interaction are indispensable for using the modern forms of electronic creation and publishing. Of course, a finished multimedia script is the culmination of an exercise in simulation. For this reason, I conducted my little adventure from unlimited perspectives.

Figure 6
Figure 6


I performed two types of evaluation of my multimedia script in a virtual reality environment. I did this for the entire presentation, covering every object in the archeological find, including working implements, pottery, the interiors and exteriors of buildings, and the like. While I used a global conception for interaction, on the concrete level, simulation helped me create extremely useful workshops. My problem to explore was: AWhat are the games archeologists play as they practice their profession?

The Multimedia of the Muldava Site and Story
 Figure 7: The Multimedia of the Muldava Site and Story

I divided the multimedia story into twelve parts that were accessible from the vantage points of any time and any place. I began by designing the record of the work I was creating, much like a log book. This was a single virtual book with snapshot illustrations. In it, I included all original materials, such as photographs, cards, drawings, and the like. It was not a problem to attach Professor Detev’s original article. In fact, I prepared this part of the multimedia creation very meticulously for scientific use.

After relatively this easy work, my problems and the doubts started to arise. For example, what is the real nature and potential of the new technologies that are available? Can I use the great computer possibilities for image processing? And I had to recognize that the scientific archeological audience is very unique and demanding. This audience was more interested in the authenticity of the artifacts than in the details of their restoration and the like. In contrast, the computers can create remarkable restorations from data, include very discrete depictions of any component, including its form, ornamental composition, and the like.

I was fortunate to learn the art of discovery from my father, Professor Detev. He taught me to investigate the separate items of ornamentation, to dissect the composition of the ornamentation, and to look for and see the functionality of the object for its graphic incarnation. My studio for virtual restoration bears the trademark and imprint of "Peter Detev" because of his pervasive influence on me. Of course, my work is not signed by the him as the Master, but rather, I hope, reflects his influence as my Teacher and my inspiration. (Professor Detev was a true master of Bulgarian archeological illustration). Also, my work with young painters in the Bulgarian MultiMediaArt Society influenced my approach to design.

But skill in design might jeopardize one’s search for scientific truth. I had to find a balance. It was not easy to learn the delicate balance between computer art and scientific authenticity. I find that only one’s own skilled eyes can evaluate the proper balance between an original and a 3D modeling representation.        

The time finally arrived to begin a serious trial of animation of the archeological digs, including the squaring of the plan, the samples discovered, and the methods of excavation. I built into my animation Professor Detev’s original description. But my initial success raised a question. Can I present a single, complete picture of prehistoric life in the Cult center? How I can present all its aspects? I knew that I had to treat the artifacts in terms of their description, their location, and their purpose. For that purpose, I designed this series of elements:


The Excavation, being a birdseye view of the Center

2. The Working Tools and Implements
3. The Common Overviews (the Complex’s exterior)
3.1. The Complex's Interior


The Everyday Life
5. The Kitchen and Its Pottery
5.1. The Functionality of the Pottery and the Ways it was Used
6. The Myth
7. The Art of the Forms of Table Pottery
7.1. The Decoration of the Table Pottery
8. The Cult Vessels and Objects
9. The Ritual
10. The Cultural and Economic Links
11. Professor Detev’s Register and Originals


Figure 8
Figure 8

The Working Tools and Implements  

The scientific experiments and drawings of Professor Detev were of inestimable help in my rendering the 3D modeling. His description and specification of the functionality of implements helped me determine that, at the Muldava Cult Center, there were no implements, objects, or adornments made of deer’s horns or bones. However, at the same time, in every settlement on the Maritza riverside there were implements, objects, and adornment made from this valuable, rare material! I simulated in 3D the different methods by which axes and other implements were made, and I showed the stone products, the bone instruments for sewing, mortars and pestles, 64 clay beads, and the like. The great success of my animation gave me courage to experiment with other similar prehistoric activities and situations. At first, I began with simple gif-animation, which is an easy, quick usable technology for this type of material, to treat a human object-using environment. My creating scene after scene gradually enriched my conception of a full description of the artifacts discovered in Muldava. This part of my work then resulted in a multimedia depiction of everyday life.

The Complex Overview
Figure 9: The Complex Overview

My reconstruction of an entire complex as a 3D model revealed three pyramids, which Professor Detev identified as "piles of gravel and stones made by ancient builders while they prepared the space for the settlement." He described them as being very high, having been pilings in the ground that came out of surface of the hill. (The cultural pilings are 1.5 m. high.) They look only like pyramids. Unfortunately, Professor Detev did not reach this hypothesis and speculate further about the piles. But he did record meticulously many details that enabled me to reconstruct the pyramids. These piles surrounded the inside court, whose height we can only guess, because the surface of hill was leveled many times. I made a full 3D model of the Temple’s complex.

Figure 10
Figure 10

The Interior       

The virtual model of the interior shows the location of the shelf on which some of the objects probably sat. This clarifies to some extent the functionality of the buildings. The central building, the Temple, was unique. It had auxiliary premises at which were located the kitchen boxes and vessels for food preservation, but the identity of the secondary zoomorphic figure remains unclear. The computer’s programs do not help me learn this. I wanted very much to prove that this is a little copy of a famous stag vessel, but I cannot.

One of the buildings differs dramatically from the traditional Neolithic style, because the fireplace and the oven were missing but the objects found suggest its function. They were many pitos and a group of nine altars. I named this building the Winter Camp. The Muldava complex is very modest, having only three buildings and about 60 vessels, but many of them for storage have a capacity of more than two tons. Maybe this is a common situation for people in some settlements that practice the Spring Ritual?

The third building also reveals its function, because it had only a stag vessel, one pitos, one typical vessel for holding liquids, one pouring bowl, and a table bowl. It had one fireplace and axes. I called this building the Wine Cellar.


Figure 11
Figure 11

The Everyday Life    

I depicted the everyday life of the people with gif-animation, based in part on the working implements. This approach tends to show that our remote forebears were woodcutters, woodworkers, builders, weavers, tailors, hunters, herdsmen, farmers, and the like. My animated portrayal presents a vision of an entire complex. Moreover, the multimedia technique makes it possible to shift the movement and location of the figures in accordance with the user’s opinion.

Figure 12
Figure 12

The Pottery       

The multimedia depiction of the pottery shows specialists present They could measure the objects precisely, draw their outlines, and scale them as they desired. Everyday life here reflects the activity in the Neolithic kitchen. The hostess prepared the food, did the cooking, carried the water, arranged the table, and the like. And, as in a true workshop, everyone there could give her advice.

Figure 13
Figure 13

The Legend

At this point, the myth has a firm foundation through the design, soundtrack, and storytelling.

Figure 14
Figure 14

The Art of Ceramic

Clicking on this icon presents a cheerful picture on the screen, in which cups, bowls, and trays all dance, in virtual hands, to say Acheers,@ while they reveal their particular characteristics. In the process, each object shows its spread out ornamental composition. Do you want details? That’s no problem. Make your choice to satisfy your whim and desire. Gaze with awe at this decorative art of 8,000 years ago.


Figure 15
Figure 15: The Ornamental Compositions

Now you have a new workshop in which you can perform ornamental composition. We are in the era of multimedia. You pick your object, look at it right before your very eyes, dip the brush you are holding into the paint you select, and decorate it. Although God says that not all people have this talent, I provide you the patterns of any ornamental composition you might prefer. You can, as an ancient ALogo,@ create a composition either from patterns I provide or by combining those patterns with your own composition. But remember that, when you go create a scene in free Muldavan style, your work is the equivalent to that of the ancient masters.

Figure 16
Figure 16

The Cult Objects

Why have I heard so much praise for this famous cup with three hemispheric protrusions like a woman’s charming figure? Probably because of its remarkable suggestion of femaleness through that number of them

And this famous stag is not only unique, it also is amazing for its realistic plastic design and expression that is replete with suggestiveness.. And its use is obvious. It was found in a Neolithic complex that existed for over 500 years. Yet, painted pottery masterpieces such as this cannot be created today. In order to do that, it would be necessary to undergo cultural processing over hundreds of years to achieve such genius to express the mystery of the Spring, of a holy animal, and of a belief and happiness. What is the essence of this torch, this three dimensional altar with a hollow stem, and this tray and bowl?

Of all this Cult’s objects, the cup with the three protrusions reaches the highest level of abstraction. Is this a pregnant woman big with child? Only in such an object would a third hemisphere be a part of the symbolism. Did our remote ancestors use cult objects for storytelling in their ritual? I believe that they used such powerful original plastic representations for that purpose. But, you draw your own conclusions!

  Figure 17
Figure 17

The Ritual

The Ritual of a Sacred Spring. The Ritual to the God Sun. The Ritual sacrifice of a Holy Stag. The societies of ancient farmers had such rituals. In their beliefs in them lay their hopes for fertility and their efforts to contact and influence supreme cosmic forces and control nature. Judge for yourself if we find this in Muldava through this famous Muldava find? Isn’t this find an ideal exemplar of its time?

Figure 18
Figure 18

The Cultural and Economics Links

But many questions remain. Who were the participants in the ancient Muldavan society? Where did they originate? Concurrently, on the Maritza riverside, there were 44 functioning settlements, five near Muldava. There are also questions about the thoroughness of the digs. Maybe there still are objects in the Muldava area. What about the layout? The prehistoric settlement is a 200 sm. Is this only the mother settlement? Could it really be part of a much larger complex? Or is this a complete settlement with its cult center? Too many questions arise. But of one thing we can be sure: the creator of the famous Stag object is the father of our present plastic sculptural art.

  Figure 19
Figure 19

The Originals

The originals shown here are mine. They include the original record and entire illustrative material, such as the photographs of the overviews, the discovered objects, and the drawings with the authors’ evaluations and commentaries.                                         

What comes after my Muldava multimedia creation? 
Figure 20: What comes after my Muldava multimedia creation?

Frequently asked questions

Figyre 21

Figure 21

I find that when I finish a multimedia project and am about to start my vacation, I receive many questions that show me that I have to start over from the beginning of my project. I discover each time that I had only slightly raised the horizon. Like other Bulgarian specialists, I am at fault. It is ironic that, even though people claimed for a long time to be expecting the multimedia art form, when it finally did arrive, they didn’t recognize it, let alone its great array of features. Those people are just like the characters in AWaiting for Godot,@ the Samuel Becket play, who did not arrive while others waited. But then, when they no longer expected multimedia, it did turn up, but to many questions about its nature and capabilities. Probably, the major question has been the utterly superficial one of "How long is the film?"

Originally, I began to create films essentially as a lark. But the situation soon changed, when I was able to master the technique. I found my particular metier in my own unique material, and then I needed only good video-editing. Our now old Afriend,@ Adobe Premier, enabled me to master that. My first idea was to make only one clip for my multimedia creations. But I quickly abandoned this idea. Discovering the interests of potential viewers, I was stimulated to produce works between three and eleven minutes, in order for the multimedia material to have an impact. With this technical decision and my creative inspiration, I could see that this production I am presenting is the second Bulgarian film produced by a computer. (The first such film, my 1995 "The Virgin Panhimnitos," brought me twelve international prizes). I had some moments when I feared that this film’s duration would make it tedious and that I had not achieved the quality I wanted. But I had moments of pleasant surprises over the 3-4 tracks's mix, the effects of some good filters, the transparency of one track in a mixing, transitions, FXs, adding light, changing tempos, stopping frames, morph simulations, and the like.

My writing the accompanying text solved other types of problems. I attribute my ability to do that to the genes I got from my mother, who was an author. Also, the new media gave me an opportunity to get pleasure from archeology. Thus, this literary experience is very important, because archeology is not a self-satisfying science for me. Many people are interested in their discoveries, and most archaeologists probably deprecate the new electronic media. Using this media could not yet be a popular activity because it is so novel and requires a very specific type of computer-oriented thinking, along with a new approach to publication design with new tools for a truly new technology.

 The editing of the text took me much time for mixing between the speaker and the soundtrack. That struggle continued for months. At one time, the film would pull the multimedia in forward and then it would do the reverse. I even had moments when I thought that I could not complete the production

Interactive video

But, when Macromedia Director's Version 8.5 with user interaction with 3D models became available, I recognized that I could, and would, finish my production. As a practical matter, without some outside financial support, I couldn't develop my own SW system. But maybe I can in my next project, which is essentially ready.

The film about Muldava runs for 25 minutes and is interactive. In creating it, I first displayed it on an ancient wall, separated it into twelve parts, arranged it around virtual screen icons as buttons tied to its various parts, and prepared soundtracks with my original music and Bulgarian-English speakers. The multimedia parts were related to their corresponding video parts. As the last step, I made the multimedia elements interactive with the 3D models.

When the work was fully integrated, I was able to pay my deep respect to the remarkably inspired people who built this oldest known spiritual settlement in Muldava, which, although it was located in ancient Thrace, in Europe, is actually entirely equivalent to Asia Minor's Chatal Huyouck! Thus, I was able to offer AAt the Dawn of European Civilization@ as a fitting memento to Peter Detev.

I also want to acknowledge that the high evaluation specialists gave the previous version of At the Dawn@ at the Milano ichim01 in turn gave me the boost I needed to complete the work.

The Internet means for global presentation

I presented a simple version of this work on the Internet to introduce it. But by that step, I also enabled people who already had a CD of it to enrich their imaginations. With this parallel approach, I provided the enjoyment of the same multimedia work both off-line and on-line. I am certain that you can picture this interesting novel phenomenon of enhancement. I believe that this final step of this presentation completes the current cycle of modern electronic multimedia development and paves the way for even greater adventures in the technology, in which I aspire to participate.

And I am delighted that I can make my production available globally through my Web site, which is: http://detev.spedia.net My personal e-mail address to which you can send me feedback, which I would appreciate deeply, is detev@mail.sokerov.com


Figure 22
Figure 22

In summary, at the very least, this presentation demonstrates a very key giant step in the apparently inexorable progression from long traditional publication on hard copy to the radically new multimedia technique that appears to have practically unlimited possibilities. But far more importantly, it introduces a virtuoso artistic technique that expands, figuratively into the stratosphere, the bounds of artistic media and the opportunities for artistic expression. It does this through presenting the remarkable opportunity to harness simultaneously, as a virtual symphony of ostensibly separate multiple media elements, visual images, sound, motion, and viewer-listener participation to produce a unitary work of art.

The technique I just described did not actually exist physically when I started to conceive of my work. Moreover, as of this moment, its full potential can hardly be imagined. Hence, even the technique itself is essentially a work in process. And, because it will evolve over time, I hesitate to forecast its social and technical importance.

I made a small presentation of "At the Dawn of European Civilization" available for sampling on the Internet at http://detev.spedia.net. With this present step, I think that I am bringing the curtain down on the prevalent individual component technologies on the verge of the Third Millennium. But still there is only one interactive installation so far. What can I do now to get the word out about this innovation? I would welcome your suggestions and help. But anyhow, at least I have done my best to provide this introductory model of truly multimedia art and its constituent computer art. But ART knows no limits. Maybe, at this very moment another creator is producing even more exciting and creative artwork! Let’s all watch the horizon.