National Museum of Natural History, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences | News

On 11 June 2024, Dr Nikolai Iliev — “The Doctor,” renowned zooarchaeologist and long term associate collaborator with NMNHS, passed away at 95

12.6.2024 18:30

Dr Nikolai Stoyanov Iliev was born on 25.03.1929 in Tarnovo. He graduated veterinary medicine and worked as a main veterinarian for several farms, and in 1974 became the curator of the National Agricultural Museum.

Dr Iliev was an associate collaborator with NMNHS and a donator to the museum. Gifted with inexhaustible spirit, Dr Iliev “The Doctor” was a renowned zooarchaeologist, local historian, biographer, and a fighter for all things Bulgarian. He has authored over 200 articles in scientific journals and periodical press, as well as more than 20 books, mainly in the areas of zooarchaeology, local history, and history of veterinarian and agricultural sciences. He has particular contributions for the development of zooarchaeology as an area in the contemporary scientific life of the National Museum of Natural History, Sofia. The first zooarchaeological collection added to NMNHS after the restoration of the museum as an independent institution in 1974 was gifted by him — the skeletal remains of wild and domestic animals from the proto-Bulgarian settlement near Garvan village. After this followed a series of others. In 1980, he initiated joint zooarchaeological research with museum palaeozoologists Prof. Nikolai Spassov and Prof. Zlatozar Boev. His activity in researching the Holocene‚Äôs mammalian fauna and avifauna and the domestication in our region, as well as his long term collaboration with specialists from NMNHS, stimulated the development of these research areas at the museum, which has since become a national centre for zooarchaeology and the study of the formation of modern vertebrate fauna. Alone and in co-authorship with scientists from NMNHS Dr N. Iliev published many scientific articles on the subjects of wild and domesticated animals from a number of archaeological sites in the country and their role in the livelihood of ancient populations. Chief among them are his pioneering articles on the breeds of domestic animals from the Middle Ages and the prehistoric age, his research on the last aurochs remains (9—10th century) in Bulgaria, on domestic animals in Veliki Preslav (9—10th century), on wild and domestic animals in the everyday life of inhabitants of Roman age settlements (“Byalata voda,” “Ratsiaria,” “Arbanas”), on the animal skeletal remains from the Neolithic-Chalcolithic necropolis near Durankulak, on Neolithic and Chalcolithic settlements near Topolnitsa, Yabulkovo, Akladi Cheiri, and the sunken Chalcolithic settlement near Sozopol, on late-Pleistocene wild horses and the polyphyletic origins of modern domesticated horses, and many others. Dr Iliev participated in NMNHS palaeontological expeditions near Varshets, Slivnitsa, Kunino, Vurbeshnitsa, and others that took part mostly in the 90s. Later, he participated in the NMNHS team on the BAS mega-project “The Roots of the Nation” with his research on Thracian horses.

For his active collaboration and contributions towards the scientific activity of the museum, Dr Nikolai Iliev was awarded with an honorary certificate and a jubilee plaque of the National Museum of Natural History, Sofia.

Dr Iliev has always been approachable and ready to help his young colleagues with his experience and knowledge, as well as with the creation and curation of the zooarchaeological collections of NMNHS. The zooarchaeological department of the National Museum of Natural History, Sofia owes a lot to him.

Story from National Museum of Natural History, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences | News