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GOLDEN CAULDRON OF THE PROTO-BULGARIANS

Author: Ivan Venedikov

 

Surprisingly, the TEMP 2000 Thracian Studies Expedition unearthed this summer (the year 2000) an awesome Thracian temple dating back to the late 5th and 4th centuries BC in the Chetinyova Mound near the village of Starosel. It consists of an imposing 241 m long wall (crepidoma, crepis) preserved at the height of up to 3 m at the centre, two side stairs, a passageway 10 meters in length, a finely executed facade 6 meters in width with 5-meter high vaults, and two domed rooms (rectangular and circular). Measuring 5.3 m across, the temple is the largest one found in Bulgaria.

With its size, planning and structural design Starosel complex is the most imposing one in the Thracian lands. Buried here was presumably a god-like ruler, possibly king Sitalces himself. The imposing facility took upwards of 4000 cut stone blocks to build.

The temple is a key structure in a larger cult centre including a number of rock shrines and several dozen mounds. In two of these, smaller temples have been discovered also used as mausoleum tombs. Buried in some of the other tumuli were high-level members of the Thracian nobility, chieftains or rulers. The one laid in the Peychova Mound was a follower of Orpheus. Back in the 5th century B.C. his body was dismembered and the three pieces were laid in an undoubtedly sacred rock tomb.

Next to it, a ridge-roofed temple-like chamber was put up. It harboured the ruler's belongings — a complete set of armour (greaves, a chain-mail, a gilded breastplate, a gilded helmet, a shield, a sword, spear tops, a bow with a leather quiver, arrows with their wooden part preserved), two complete sets of silver articles to decorate the horse's bridle, most of them with animal images engraved, four silver and four bronze vessels, three amphorae, other pottery some of which painted with red-figure scenes and ornaments.

Among the many other finds, standing out is a silver double axe (labris) as symbol of regal power in ancient Thrace. There is also a labrys engraved on a silver plate depicting a greave-wearing horseman drinking from a rhyton. The gold seal ring also displays a figure of a horseman spearing through a wild boar. Another gold seal ring has been uncovered from the Mavrova Mound. Engraved on its surface is a winged sphynx having defeated a dragon lying in front. Conspicuous among the rest of the items are a human face glass mask and a bronze mirror.

Panchova Mound shelters the tomb of a warrior with a chain-mail, and other armour items, a set of silver ornaments for the horse's head. The nose cover is unique with its openwork and the gryphon with a fiercely open beak. A unique find thus far is also a bridle with two snaffles in the shape of single-edge cult axes.

The findings to date give grounds to state that the nearby settlement at Starosel (close to the resort town of Hissar) was an important place of worship for the Thracian tribe of Odrisians in the Late Iron Age.

 

Chetinyova Mound — Largest Underground Temple in the Balkans

The key temple within the Thracian cult complex of Starosel was excavated in the so-called Chetinyova Mound in 2000. The excavations were carried out by the team of the prominent Bulgarian archaeologist Dr Georgi Kitov (1943-2008) who made some of Bulgaria’s most remarkable discoveries in the realm of the Thracians. The enormous temple, called by the archaeologists "Temple of the Immortal Thracian Kings", is the largest underground temple found in the Balkans so far.

Georgi Kitov died of heart attack in Starosel in 2008, but exploring of the temple in Chetinyova mound went on. A year later, the archaeological team led by Dr Ivan Hristov found three ritual stone breads in the mound at a depth of about 30 meters. The round loaves, carved from a specific stone, are 34 centimeters in diameter. The breads were found on a stake at the heart of the mound and archaeologists came to a conclusion that these were gifts for Hestia — the Greek goddess of hearth and home.

However, the ritual stone breads are just a few of dozens remarkable finds excavated throughout the entire complex of Starosel, including gold and silver jewelry, complete sets of armour, silver horse trappings most of them engraved with animal figures, weaponry, pottery, ceramics and a vast haul of coins and other items engraved with the image of a labrys (a double-headed axe).

The 2009 Starosel archaeological expedition included a team of experts in geodesy and cartography who proved Kitov’s assumption that the Thracian mounds, temples and rocky sanctuaries formed a kind of holy geography. It has already been proved that some of these constructions were modeled on the brightest constellations in the Milky Way galaxy, such as Orion, Canes Major, etc. Dr Ivan Hristov also said at a press conference in the Bulgarian National History Museum that the Temple of the Immortal Thracian Kings was part of an ancient pilgrimage route, 15 kilometers of which were restored.

The other discoveries, announced at the press conference, concerned dating of the temple. Some samples, taken from the stake where the gifts for Hestia were laid, underwent radiocarbon dating analysis in the Heidelberg laboratory. Surprisingly, the results showed that the stake was burned after 358 BC. Based on this analysis and historical events at the time, it was concluded that the temple and the nearby ruler’s residence were built by Odrysian king Amatokos II (359 BC - 351 BC), not by king Sitalces (445 BC - 424 BC) as historians have believed so far.

Other clues that support this theory are the numerous images of a labrys found at the site. The double-headed axe — a symbol of both political and religious power held by the king — was the family coat of arms of Amatokos. According to the archaeologists, the cult complex and the residence were destroyed by Philip II of Macedonia in 342 BC - 341 BC.

 

Residence on Kozi Gramadi Mount

Bulgaria's National History Museum are starting the largest alpine expedition in the history of Bulgarian archaeology in order to excavate the residence of the rulers of the Odrysian Kingdom, the state of the most powerful tribe of Ancient Thrace. Bulgarian archaeologists uncovered the unique residence of the rulers of the Odrysian Kingdom in July 2010, after its location was initially detected in 2005. The residence is located in Sredna Gora mountain at about 1200 m above sea level.

Starting in early June 2011, the expedition led by Dr. Ivan Hristov will excavate the fortified residence of the Thracian kings southeast of the Kozi Gramadi mount. The alpine excavations are funded with donations by Bulgarian manager Lachezar Tsotsorkov, the Hisarya Municipality, and the National History Museum.

The archaeological team will have the rare chance of studying the interior of the Thracian kings' residence, which is the only one ever discovered, and was erected during the rules of Odrysian king Teres II (351 BC - 341 BC)

The archaeologists will set up a tent camp 15 km north of the village of Starosel, which will serve as the base for their explorations. In addition to making on-field discoveries, the mission of Dr. Ivan Hristov is also to work on the conservation of the unique archaeological site. The National History Museum points out that the discoveries at the Thracian kings' residence reveal a symbiosis between the local Thracian traditions and the influence of Ancient Greece in fortifications, architecture, and household tools at the beginning of Late Hellenistic Age (323 BC - 30 BC).

Last summer Dr. Ivan Hristov explained that the residence of the Odrysian kings is a monument unrivaled in scope in Southeastern Europe, and that there is no other fortress-sanctuary dating back to the 4th-5th century BC which is so well-preserved. The Bulgarian archaeologists called the Thracian fortress "Bulgarian Machu Picchu" because of the similarities in the organization of the two ancient cities.

The construction of the residence at Kozi Gramadi is believed to had been started by the Thracian ruler Cotys I (384 BC - 359 BC). The team expedition has uncovered the remains of the palace of the Odrysian kings Amatokos II (359 BC - 351 BC) and Teres II (351 BC - 342 BC). It also excavated two of the towers of a citadel, whose remains are about 2 m deep in ground. Various archaeological objects are located on different levels — a fortress, a sanctuary, and an altar of sacrifice.

Philip II of Macedon most likely conquered this residence by force. It is about him that Demosthenes says that "he spent 11 nightmarish months in the winter of 342 BC fighting the Thracians who inhabited the mountains," explained Dr. Hristov.

The archaeologists' guess is that the treasure of the Odrysian kingdom was also located in the newly uncovered residence but Philip II of Macedon most likely vanquished the gold kept there.

The Odrysian Kingdom was a union of Thracian tribes that existed between 5th and 3rd century BC. The last Thracian states were conquered by the Romans in 46 AD. Most famous Thracian in human history is Spartacus, the man who led a rebellion of gladiators against Rome in 73-71 BC.

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Sabazios — steles of the Rider God

Sabazios (Greek: Σαβάζιος) is the nomadic horseman and sky father god of the Phrygians and Thracians. In Indo-European languages, such as Phrygian, the -zios element in his name derives from god, the common precursor of Latin deus ('god') and Greek Zeus. Though the Greeks interpreted Phrygian Sabazios with both Zeus and Dionysus, representations of him even into Roman times show him always on horseback, as a nomadic horseman god, wielding his characteristic staff of power.

It seems likely that the migrating Phrygians brought Sabazios with them when they settled in Anatolia in the early first millennium BC, and that the god's origins are to be looked for in Macedonia and Thrace. The recently discovered ancient sanctuary of Perperikon in eastern Thrace is believed to be that of Sabazios. The Macedonians were also noted horsemen, horse-breeders and horse-worshippers up to the time of Philip II, whose name signifies "lover of horses".

Possible early conflict between Sabazios and his followers and the indigenous mother goddess of Phrygia (Cybele) may be reflected in Homer's brief reference to the youthful feats of Priam, who aided the Phrygians in their battles with Amazons. An aspect of the compromise religious settlement, similar to the other such mythic adjustments throughout Aegean culture, can be read in the later Phrygian King Gordias' adoption with "Cybele".

One of the native religion's creatures was the Lunar Bull. Sabazios' relations with the goddess may be surmised in the way that his horse places a hoof on the head of the bull (from a Roman marble relief at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts). Though Roman in date, the iconic image appears to be much earlier.

More "rider god" steles are found at the Burdur Museum, in Turkey. Under the Roman Emperor Gordian III the god on horseback appears on coins minted at Tilos, in neighboring Lycia, and at Istrus, in the province of Lower Moesia, between Thrace and the Danube. It is generally thought that the young emperor's grandfather came from an Anatolian family, because of his unusual cognomen, Gordianus. The iconic image of the god or hero on horseback battling the chthonic serpent, on which his horse tramples, appears on Celtic votive columns, and with the coming of Christianity it was easily transformed into the image of Saint George and the Dragon, whose earliest known depictions are from 10th and 11th century Cappadocia and 11th century Georgia and Armenia.

Transference of Sabazios to the Roman world appears to have been mediated in large part through Pergamum. The naturally syncretic approach of Greek religion blurred distinctions. Later Greek writers, like Strabo in the first century AD, linked Sabazios with Zagreus, among Phrygian ministers and attendants of the sacred rites of Rhea and Dionysus. Strabo's Sicilian contemporary, Diodorus Siculus, conflated Sabazios with the secret 'second' Dionysus, born of Zeus and Persephone, a connection that is not borne out by surviving inscriptions, which are entirely to Zeus Sabazios. The Christian Clement of Alexandria had been informed that the secret mysteries of Sabazius, as practiced among the Romans, involved a serpent, a chthonic creature unconnected with the mounted sky-god of Phrygia: "God in the bosom is a countersign of the mysteries of Sabazius to the adepts". Clement reports: "This is a snake, passed through the bosom of the initiates".

Much later the Byzantine Greek encyclopedist Sudas (10th century) flatly states: "Sabazios is the same as Dionysos. He acquired this form of address from the rite pertaining to him; for the barbarians call the bacchic cry 'sabazein'. Hence some of the Greeks too follow suit and call the cry 'sabasmos'; thereby Dionysos becomes Sabazios. They also used to call 'saboi' those places that had been dedicated to him and his Bacchantes ... Demosthenes [in the speech] "On Behalf of Ktesiphon" mentions them. Some say that Saboi is the term for those who are dedicated to Sabazios, that is to Dionysos, just as those dedicated to Bakkhos are Bakkhoi. They say that Sabazios and Dionysos are the same. Thus some also say that the Greeks call the Bakkhoi Saboi."

In Roman sites, though an inscription built into the wall of the abbey church of San Venanzio at Ceperana suggested to a Renaissance humanist it had been built upon the foundations of a temple to Jupiter Sabazius, according to modern scholars not a single temple consecrated to Sabazius, the rider god of the open air, has been located. Small votive hands, typically made of copper or bronze, are seldom associated with the cult of Sabazios. Many of these hands have a small perforation at the base which suggests they may have been attached to wooden poles and carried in processions. Symbolism of these objects is not well known.

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Thracian Treasures from Bulgaria

In the last few decades nearly twenty significant Thracian treasures have been discovered in the present Bulgarian lands. At present, much of our knowledge of ancient Thrace derives from them. The high artistic mastery, stylistic features and workmanship of these original Thracian objects, ornamental in their majority, clearly testify to the rich traditions in the applied arts. They are our main sources of information for gaining insights and conclusions of the Thracian history, culture and art.

The natural mineral resources and fertile soil of Thrace made this area very prosperous and rich as early as in prehistory. The whole chronological system of the Balkan prehistory was made on the basis of a tell in South Bulgaria in the village of Karanovo. There were intensive cultural and trade contacts with Anatolia and East Mediterranean basin, which are clearly seen in the sophisticated forms and ornaments of the Neolithic pottery. Gold and silver played an important role as early in Late Chalcolithic era. A rich flat cemetery found near Varna on the Black Sea coast has provided a great variety of fine gold objects and adornments with a sheer amount weight of over 6 kilograms.

During the Bronze Age, except of the high development of pottery, we have an impressing gold treasure. The Vâlchitrân Treasure found in Central North Bulgaria in 1925, consisting of 13 gold articles weighing a total of 12.5 kilograms, is remarkable of its precise craftsmanship. There are seven lids and six other vessels: a large kyathos, a triple receptacle and four cups - a strange assortment of objects to find buried in the ground. This find is distinguished by the simplicity of the shapes of vessels, and also by the sobtiety of design. The treasure dates from the end of the Late Bronze Age and some vessels have closest parallels in Mycenae. It clearly testifies for the extensive cultural contacts of Thrace with the Mycenaean world.

With an exception of the gold vessels from Vâlchitrân and Kazichene near Sofia ascribed to a much earlier date, all other treasures were manufactured within the period from the 5th to the 3rd century BC. This was the time of the largest economic, political and cultural expansion of Thrace, the heyday of its kings and its rich tribal aristocracy chiefs. This was also the zenith of power of the Thracian Odrysian kingdom in the Balkan Peninsula, in particular during Kotys I (386-359 BC), the rival of king Philip II of Macedon in his first years of reign. Following a series of annexation wars and alliances, the Odrysian kings were reunited the greater part of Thrace after the Median wars and played an important role in the history of Southeastern Europe between 475 and 350 BC. Its kings were striving to create a unified and strong European state similar to the Persian empire. The Thrace economic, political and cultural connections with the rest of the Eastern Mediterranean, the Near East, the Balkans and the Black Sea hinterland states, had distinguished it as one of the largest and leading centres of the ancient world. And this happened in the immediate vicinity of the high culture of Greek cities and colonies, Macedonia, Persia, Central and Eastern European peoples.

Although many Classical authors mentioned the Thracians, they remained somewhat obscure to the modern world until the period of First World War. Until then, all Thracian Art objects were generally assigned to the Scythian culture, which enjoyed great popularity at that time. In 1917 professor Dr. Bogdan D. Filow, the first director of Bulgarian Institute of Archaeology, has written a study in which he has proved with serious arguments the indigenous character and style of the native Thracian Art. Since then a huge quantity of new and important Thracian art objects were recovered in Bulgaria. Today this is undoubtedly accepted by almost all Classical and primitive art historians, even from the Russian ones. Many other Thracian monuments also are known from southern Romania, northern Greece and Turkey.

In essence, the history of Thracian Art is the history of toreutics, as Greeks called the metal-casting and engraving. In fact, Thrace was known with its silver and gold mines. It is quite enough to mention only the famous Pangeion gold mines near the Strymon delta, captured by Philip II in 348 BC.

The Panagjurishte Treasure, made of pure gold, consists of 9 vessels weighing a total of 6.100 kilograms. Found in South Bulgaria in 1949, these vessels - eight rhyta and one large phiale was intended for use as a feasts set. It came from a workshop at Propontis or at Western Asia Minor, possibly in Lampsacus, produced in the latter part of 4th century BC. The phiale and amphora-rhyton in this treasure are marked with graffiti showing the weight of the vessels in two systems of measurement: one in units of Persian darics and another in units of Alexander (or Attic) staters. The Greek artists, that made the collection, depicted on these gold pieces various subjects taken from the mythology. On the amphora there is a scene from the "Seventh Against Thebes"; one of the rhyta with rams protome shows Aphrodite, Athena and Hera before the judgement of Paris, another Herakles fighting with Ceryneian Hind, and Theseus in combat with the bull of Marathon, and third, a very rare scene, Dionysos with the nymph Eriope and not with Ariadne. Sometimes the names of the gods are inscribed in Greek beside their images. In this way the artists has informed their rich Thracian clients on the identity of personages, a manner absolutely unknown in Classical Greek Art. The shapes of rhyta were unpopular in Greece also. One of them ends in a goat protome, another in a horned head of a ram, two in the stag’s heads, and three others are in form of Amazon’s heads. The faces are depicted in the minutest detail, even the irises of the eyes are marked. The goldsmiths preferred a clothed body as his subject. The images of the deities are not individualized, nor are they linked in a complete artistic composition. Panagjurishte gold hoard is by far the richest and the most brilliant hoard discovered so far. It has been calculated that a Thracian ruler in late 4th c. BC has been able to pay to 500 mercenaries for a year only with that gold quantity.

The Borovo Treasure found in 1974, consists a magnificent set of 5 silver-gilt vessels intended for drinking of wine, dated from ca. 375-350 BC. These are three rhyta ending in a protome of a horse, a bull and a sphinx, a large two-handled cup, and a amphora-rhyton showing scenes from the mysteries of Dionysos. Four of vessels are inscribed in Greek and we can read that they were gifted to Thracian king Kotys I from the inhabitants of the town of Beos in South-eastern Thrace.

Two other important treasures from the second half of fourth century BC found accidentally in North Bulgaria are deserving mention. Namely are the hoards from Lukovit and Letnitsa, both of silver and silver-gilt pieces. The first consists three small jugs, nine phialai, and three full sets of appliqués and ornaments for horse harness decorated with animal motifs and hunting horsemen. The latter, found in a large bronze receptacle, includes only such horse trappings appliqués. The new in this treasure are fifteen square and rectangular plaques showing scenes from Thracian myths. As a matter of fact, horse harnesses ornaments decorated with fabulous animal motifs are wide spread among the Thracians in 6th-2nd centuries BC. Always in pairs, they were placed symmetrically on either side of the headstall adorning the horse’s head. At first sight their animal decoration looks like Scythian, but the precise analysis and a more careful study of the style reveals that the latter was influenced by skilled Thracian craftsmen and workshops.

Finally, the splendid Rogozen Treasure was accidentally discovered in the winter of 1986 in North-western Bulgaria. The 165 pieces of silver in this hoard has the overall weight almost 20 kilograms. Nearly all the objects were phialai and jugs. Thirty-one of them are gilded. Divided into two parts, one of 100 objects, the other of 65, they were found in five metres apart and only in 0.4 m depth. This immense bulk of vessels is a large collection which has been created, expanded and multiplied within a long period of time from the middle of 5th century to the last quarter of 4th century BC, or nearly 150 years. It is also the biggest ancient treasure ever found in South-eastern Europe. It includes vessels which can be attributed to certain Anatolian, Eastern Greek, Southern Thracian (= Odryssian) and Northwestern Thracian (= Triballi) workshops. Many of them are inscribed in Greek with poincon. The inscriptions point out at least ten royal Thracian names (Satokos, Kotys, Kersebleptes, Didykaimos, Disloias etc.) and geographical sites (Beos, Apros, Geiston, Argiskes, Sauthabas, all in South-eastern Thrace). Another important moment is that the weight of some objects easily can be read in terms of Persian silver sigloi or in Thraco-Macedonian drachmae. The phialai are the predominant majority in the Rogozen hoard (108, which probably exceeds twice the total number of such cups presently preserved in the museums around the world). Among them there are some interesting and unique pieces. The very beautiful silver-gilt phiale no. 4 decorated with central medallion with Auge and Herakles have been imported from a Greek city on the western seaboard of Asia Minor. A typical northern Thracian phiale is no. 95 even the motif around omphalos is Greek. Six embossed bull’s heads (bucrania), depicted in vigorous realism, altenating with six acorns. Most of jugs are native Thracian. They depicting divine and cult scenes are governed by a definite canon and a strictly established stylistic iconography. There is a remarkable ‘boar hunting’ scene depicted on jug no. 159. Another central scene on no. 157 represents the Great Thracian Goddess riding in a chariot-quadriga. A third scene on jug no. 155 shows again her riding on a lioness like an Amazon as a part in hunting action.

The great number of the items in this exhibition came from Thracian burial mounds (tumuli). The abundant archaeological material, excavated in those millenary earth embankments, has greatly enriched our knowledge of Thracian life, usages, traditions and history. About 15,000 such massive ground barrows remain existing in Bulgarian countryside, still visible today, distinctive in the surrounding hilly and plain lands north and south of the Balkan Range, ancient Haemus. Except as an inseparable part of the landscape, they provide us today with a great deal of information about the civilization of the Thracians. Up to the present more than 350 of them are excavated systematically, spanning the period between the end of 3rd millennium to the 4th century AD. The most richest and important burials dates from 6th-3rd centuries BC, the apogee of the Thracian state of Odryssae. The finds from Varbitsa, Rahmanli, Brezovo, Dalboki, Ezerovo, Duvanli, Mezek, Mogilanska, Sveshtari, Kazanluk, Shipka etc. have most convincingly shown the several centres of political activity existed in Thracian lands of that period.

The Mogilanska mogila mound in Vratsa has provided another important group of magnificent Thracian art objects. In this ground barrow, situated exactly in the downtown of the city, in 1966 three stone tombs of noble Thracian chiefs was unearthed. The first had a circular plan but had been plundered in Antiquity. The richest was the second tomb. It had rectangular plan and two funerary chambers. In the outer chamber were disposed the remains of a biga. The straps of the horse’s bridle were wealthy decorated with silver appliqués. In the main chamber were recovered two skeletons - an adult and a young man. Around the adult’s skeleton were set 2 silver jugs, 4 inscribed phialai, a wood quiver (gorythos) with many bronze arrowheads, iron spearheads, a bronze Chalkidian type helmet, a silver-gilt greave (knemis) and a group of four Greek bronze vessels for feasts. Close to the man was discovered the skeleton of a young Thracian prince, unusually with face downwards. He was found dead by an iron spearhead, probably during war. An elegant gold wreath was still crowned with his head, a pair of heavy gold earrings with elaborate disc and lunate pendant were by the ears, a gold hairpin and a tiny gold spoon. Among the bones also gold buttons, pendants and rosette-shaped appliqués were scattered, apparently sewn to his dress. The last, third tomb of Vratsa had been partially robbed in Antiquity. In its chamber there were skeletons of a man and a woman. Next to the man were found a gold and a silver jugs, another quiver with arrowheads and iron heads for spear. Two galloping quadrigae with a man in a hauberk are represented on the gold jug. Its handle is shaped like the so-called ‘Heracles’ or reef knot. The female burial in this tomb also yielded wealthy gold jewelry and votive clay objects. The dating of the Vratsa tombs was facilitated by several Attic pottery vessels. Consequently, the burials in the Mogilanska mogila mound can be dated about 375-340 BC.

Thracian rulers and members of the nobility were buried in monumental stone tombs. Up to the present time approximately fifty tombs were uncovered in Thracian mounds in Bulgaria. Only for the period 1992-1996 were found 10 structures. They were the place for ritual ceremonies in honour to the deceased ruler, to whom were offered rich funeral gifts. In this sense, they constituted underground temples of heroes - heroons. Tombs from 5th-3rd centuries show great diversity in lay-out and structure but with some common elements. They were made of regularly cut stone blocks, and occasionally in baked bricks, and are sometimes adorned with a painted decoration. The two main categories are chamber with rectangular plan and circular, topped by a dome (tholos). The entrances of many Thracian tombs have sophisticated facades like the Macedonian, Persian and Lycian ones, with covered passages (dromos) and with painted walls and ceilings like the Etrurian ones.

A large accumulation of Thracian tombs from 4th-2nd centuries BC has been noticed in the Valley of Roses, near Kazanluk in South Bulgaria. The best known Kazanluk Tomb by its beautifully wall paintings of early 3rd century BC is one of the unique masterpieces of Early Hellenistic pictorial art not only in Thrace but in whole Eastern Mediterranean basin as well. Regardless of the small surface which the decorative friezes occupy, the unknown artist has succeeded in producing a work of art, which is exceptional in its character and impact, and at the same time fully native Thracian in its figural scenes. It has been suggested that the tomb was built during the reign of king Seuthes III, for him personally or for his close noble relative.

Seven new imposing tombs with developed facades and totally different one from another were recently uncovered in that area at the south foot of Balkan Range (near Shipka village). Most of them have been robbed yet in ancient times, and just one was absolutely unaffected by treasure-hunters.

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Addendum: Given the limited format of our presentation we continue the scenario research on Ivan Venedikov's two-volume set "Copper Cornucopia" and "Golden Cauldron", preponderantly books on Bulgarian ethno-mythology. The idea of the author was to trace the millennium history of autochthon populace on these lands based on their golden treasures — most of them casted from silver and gold with appliqués and engraving scenes from mythology. This artistic style is known as Toreutics in the Antiquity parlance. While arranging our materials on the Golden Treasures it appeared on surface that Ivan Venedikov was preparing at least one more book on the topic but couldn't finish it as conclusion of his "Proto-Bulgarian Universum". This book appeared with title "Demise of the Gods" /1997/, but didn't reflected the original conception of the author; moreover, it was published by different printers and editorship that didn't consulted the titular personally.

We tried very hard to systematize the large amount of literature that acknowledge the fact that Thracians, and their successors Proto-Bulgarians, were Gold-based civilization. Though not appropriate term for classification, a golden lexicon for this culture seemed most appropriate. Since sources on the Thracian-Bulgarian treasures are very scattered, we decided to analyze the whole data-base in several reliquary clusters or better time-frames — 1) Because the separate treasure hoards belong to at least three or maybe even four cultural stratums that are divided by significant time episodes. For example, between the oldest gold (Hotnitza treasure, 4th millennium BC) and the latest gold (Nikopol treasure, 15th century AD) there persist an interval of almost 5000 years; and 2) Because the numerous archaeological finds, whole repositories and isolated artifacts, were relinquished by the National Archaeological Museum for a period of some 100 years up-to-date. We don't know exactly how much gold relics have been looted by treasure hunters nor how much gold lies still unearthed. Future evaluation is necessary, ipso facto.

Enclosed below is a provisional list of Golden Treasures belonging to the Thraco-Bulgarians — the way goodness-of-fit appropriate them to various cultural stratums; additionally, date and place of find are mentioned:

— Exhibition Period I: Thrace from Neolithic to Late Bronze Age ~ Hotnitza treasure (4000 BC, found 1956, location Turnovo); Varna treasure (3200 BC - Eneolith, found 1972, location Varna); and Vulchitrun treasure (1300 BC - Geometric, found 1924, location Pleven).

— Exhibition Period II: Thrace from Early Iron Age to 5th-3rd centuries BC ~ Kazicene treasure (8th c. BC, found 1975, location Sofia); Barzica treasure (7th c. BC, found 1983, location Varna); Douvanli treasure (6th c. BC - Moushovitsa, Koukova, Arabadjiiska, Golyamata, and Bashova mounds, found 1934, location Plovdiv); Mezek treasure (5th c. BC, found 1937, location Haskovo); Letnitsa treasure (4th c. BC, found 1963, location Lovech); Vratsa treasure (4th c. BC - Mogilyanska mound, found 1966, location Vratsa); Borovo treasure (4th c. BC, found 1975, location Ruse); Loukovit treasure (4th c. BC, found 1957, location Sofia); Panagyurishte treasure (4th c. BC, found 1949, location Sofia); and Isolated or Accidental finds (5th-3rd cc. BC - Brezovo /Plovdiv/, Raduvene /Lovech/, Bukjovci /Vratsa/, Orizovo /Stara Zagora/, Bednjakovo /Stara Zagora/, Rozovec /Plovdiv/, Varbica /Shumen/, found 1950 to 1980, mostly located in Sofia).

— Exhibition Period II (continued): Thrace from Late Iron Age 2nd-1st centuries BC ~ Kralevo treasure (2nd c. BC, found 1983, location Targivishte); Jakimovo treasure (2nd c. BC, found 1973, location Mihajlovgrad); Galice treasure (1st c. BC, found 1920, location Sofia); and Bohot treasure (1st c. BC, found 1961, location Pleven).

— Exhibition Period III: Roman and Early Byzantine 1st-6th centuries AD ~ Bazaurt treasure (Emperor Hadrian 117-138 AD, found 1916, location Dobrich); Chaoushevo treasure (Emperor Gordian 238-244 AD, found 1936, location Ruse); Nikolaevo treasure (Emperor Philip the Arab 244-249 AD, found 1910, location Pleven); and Ratiaria treasure (unknown, found 1916, location Vidin).

— Exhibition Period III (continued): Late Byzantine and Proto-Bulgarian 7th-15th centuries AD ~ Nagi Saint-Miklosh treasure (unknown, found 1799, location Vienna); Pereshchepina treasure (unknown, found 1912, location Kiev); Varna treasure (unknown Christian Art, found 1961, location Varna); Madara treasure (unknown Christian Art, found 1926, location Shumen); Preslav treasure (unknown Christian Art, found 1977, location Shumen); and Nikopol treasure (unknown Christian Art, found 1915, location Sofia).

Most recent additions not included in Ivan Venedikov's catalogue ~ Dabene treaure (3000 BC, found 2010, location Plovdiv); Rogozen treasure (4th c. BC, found 1989, location Vratsa); Shipka treasure (4th c. BC - Malkata, Bimova, Sashova, Tsviatkova mounds, found 1992, location Kazanluk); Koznitsa treasure (3th c. BC, found 1989, location Kjustendil); and Muletarovo treasure (2nd c. BC, found 1995, location Blagoevgrad).

 

 

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