Once upon a time the Thracians inhabited Bulgarian lands. Millennia after, their ancient and mysterious culture revealed its true magnificence. In the last few decades a number of significant collections of Thracian treasures have been discovered in present-day Bulgaria, providing much of our present knowledge of ancient Thrace.
Archeologists have discovered a 2,400-year-old golden mask that was likely made for a Thracian monarch's funeral. The mask depicts a full face with moustache and beard. The rare artifact is made of 600 grams of solid gold and "is without paragon in archeology," according to Georgi Kitov and his team that unearthed the find in the summer of 2004 near the village of Shipka, in the so-called Valley of Thracian Kings. The mask may belong to King Seutus III, the Thracian king who ruled in the fifth century BC. Besides the mask, archeologists also found a golden ring showing a rower, and many bronze and silver vessels. No remains have been found but archeologists continue to excavate the tomb.
While digging for clay for brick-making near the town of Panagyurishte in Sredna Gora mountain of central Bulgaria, a team of workmen came upon what was obviously an important treasure. When finally unearthed, it was found to consist of a phial and eight rhytons, one shaped like an amphora and the others like heads of women or animals. Dated to the turn of the fourth and third century BC, the find was sensational, not only for its weight in gold - over 6 kg, but also for the originality of its forms.
The Rogozen treasure, called the find of the century, was also discovered by chance. In this case the finder was a tractor driver, who in the autumn of 1985 was digging a trench in his garden when he discovered a collection of sixty-five silver receptacles. On January 6, 1986, in a second trench near the first one, a hundred more receptacles were found by the archaeologists of the local museum. The treasure consists of hundred and eight phials, fifty-four jugs and three goblets. All the objects are silver and some with a golden gilt. Their total weight is twenty kilograms.
The ornamentation, embossed in relief, is different in every case. This variety of motifs and decorative elements makes the Rogozen Treasure an invaluable source of information for the fifth and fourth centuries, BC.Several of these pieces seem to had been imported, but most were made in Thracia.
The treasure was discovered by accident on 18 December 1924 by two brothers who were deep-ploughing their field four kilometers from the village of Vulchitran, Pleven district. The ploughmen stumbled across 13 gold objects at a depth of about 40-cm. It consists of 13 vessels - a large, deep vessel with two handles, one big and three small cups with one handle each, two big and five smaller discs. All items are made of solid gold, the total weight is 12.425 kg. The vessels were used in cult ceremonies. This treasure is the most remarkable example of the art of the Later Bronze Age in Thracia (XIII-XII c. BC).
The Varna Chalcolithic Necropolis which experts qualify as "the world's oldest gold" and a trace of "Europe's most ancient civilization" was a sensational discovery. It is situated about 500m to the north of Lake Varna and about 4 km to the west of the downtown. In 294 graves were discovered more than 3000 golden objects dating back 6000 years. In Hall 6 of Varna Museum of History is exhibited the whole inventory from some of the most significant graves. On both sides of the entrance are represented the graves with masks of human faces shaped out on spot and appliquéd with gold plates. The rich variety of funeral utensils going along with the dead is best illustrated by two of the symbolic graves / No 4 and No 36/. In grave No 4 have been found two unique vessels where the typical for the time decoration of strongly stylized geometrical symbols is fulfilled in golden paint.
At the end of December 1974 another treasure, dated from the first half of the fourth century BC, came to light at Borovo. It consists of luxurious five-vessel drinking set. Three of them are rhytons ending in the protomes of a horse, a bull, and a sphinx. The fourth is a large two-handled bowl in the center of which a deer attacked by a griffin is depicted in relief. The fifth is a richly ornamented silver jugglet, with two bands in relief depicting scenes connected with the cult of Dionysus. On the upper frieze the god is tearing animals to pieces, and chasing satyrs or being chased by them. We can see Dionysus with Ariadne, standing out in a poetic dream. On the lower part the god marries Ariadne, who unbinds her belt The treasure bears an inscription in Greek letters with the name of the Thracian King Kotys I who reigned the Odryssaean Kingdom from 383 to 359 BC and that of the craftsman Etbeos.
The treasure of Loukovit must have been buried in the period of the Macedonian rule in Thrace, perhaps during the reign of Alexander the Great, when he was crossing the lands of the Tribally. It was dated to the second half of the fourth century BC. The treasure consists of three small pitchers, nine phials and a large number of silver appliqués, decorated with animal motifs and figures of horsemen. On two of them a lion with gilded mane attacks a stag whose legs are folded under the body. The artifacts are the work of different craftsmen which shows that it was brought together gradually and also proves the rich artistic life in the northern Thracian lands in the fourth century BC.
The treasure of Vratsa from the Mogilanska mound comprised three tombs which were yielded , during 1965-66 excavations in the heart of the city. Two were plundered back in antiquity, and the third contained a funeral of a man and a woman, one of the richest to be discovered in Thrace. There are several striking artifacts among the multitude of gold and silver objects intended to serve the deceased in the next life. A silver cone-shaped pitcher suggests that the dead were initiated into the Dionysian cult, since the cone was a symbol of Dionysus. The gold laurel wreath and earrings show remarkable sophistication and craftsmanship. The gold pitcher is interesting with its handle fashioned like a Herculean knot which is right over the plume-ornamented bodies of the two chariots drawn by four horses each. Since the chariot is always a symbol of the sun god, many scholars believe that the chariot driver is Apollo - the principle god of the Tribally. Here a unique knee-piece with a female head figure was found. Knee-pieces were part of ancient warriors' protective armor and were intended to protect legs. A perfectly symmetrical, framed by an intricate coiffure and crowned with a gilded ivy wreath human face covers the kneecap. There are bird-shaped earrings, with two serpents outlining the face in the background. In the lower part, their bodies blend into those of roaring lions, whose heads lock right under the chin. Another two serpents on the knee-piece have promotes that blend into griffin lions.
Letnitsa treasure dates back to 400 - 350 BC. It was found in a bronze vessel and like many treasures was an accidental discovery. It consists of a bit, a headstall and small pierced silver plaques, part of harness. Each appliqués has a ring on its back, through which the strap fastening is passed.
What is new about this treasure are the twenty-four square or rectangular scenes of mythology or of everyday life. For the first time in these appliqués a human figure is used for a horse trappings adornment. According to the depicted subject the appliqués may be divided into two groups: appliqués representing a fight between animals and others with mythological scenes.
In the summer of 2004 a team of Bulgarian archeologists unearthed a large, intact Thracian mausoleum dating back from the fifth century BC near the central Bulgarian town of Shipka. "This is probably the richest tomb of a Thracian king ever discovered in Bulgaria. Its style and its making are entirely new to us as experts," said Georgy Kitov, the head of the team. "This unique find will broaden our knowledge of the masterful goldsmith skills of the Thracians", he told AFP. According to Kitov, the mausoleum "features an incredible architecture and is laden with golden, silver, bronze and earthenware objects." The tomb probably dates back from the times of the dynasty founded by Seutus III and includes a 13-meter (40-foot) corridor leading to three rooms, one of them a huge granite block hollowed out to form a death chamber, its floor strewn with more than 70 gold, silver, bronze and clay objects. Inside one of the rooms the team found a golden crown of oak leaves and acorns, the first such object found in a Thracian temple. Also found were a complete bronze body armor adorned with goddesses, a sword with a gold-studded pommel, crafted ceramics and three big wine amphoras. The tomb is equipped with a marble door on the second chamber decorated with a female head and the God Apollo.
The Kazanluk Tomb in south Bulgaria is famous for its beautiful wall paintings of the early 3rd century BC, one of the most unique masterpieces of Early Hellenistic pictorial art. Despite the small surface containing the decorative friezes, the unknown artist has created an exceptional work of art. This tomb was built during the reign of king Seuthes III, either for him personally or for close relatives among the nobility.
It is situated 2,5 km south-west of Sveshtari (a village 42 km north-east of Razgrad). Uncovered during excavations of a sepulchral mound. Dating back, in approximation, to the first half of the 3rd century BC. The central camera of the vault is rich in decoration - it is designed as a facade of a temple with the image of a horseman, being bestowed with a golden wreath by a goddess, and a religious procession; on three of the walls - a high relief with 10 stone statues of clad women figures. The funeral rites, the building technique, the architectural design and the decoration, distinguished for Hellenistic models, provide evidence that a Thracian ruler has been buried there.
On July 29, 1996 a Thracian tomb of the 4th century BC was uncovered near the town of Shipka, in the south foothills of the Balkan Range. Large regular stones were used to build the tomb, situated five meters underground. The metal part of a Roman soldier's shoe found at the site indicates that the tomb may have been plundered as early as in Roman times. The Shipka Tombs are seven in total on an area of Central Bulgaria considered to have been the Valley of the Thracian Kings.
Teams of Bulgarian archeologists have made phenomenal discoveries in the summer of year 2000. One of the major discoveries was the grave of what is believed to be a Thracian ruler. The site, at the village of Starossel near Plovdiv in southern Bulgaria, has been dated from the forth or fifth century BC. The two-chamber grave is approached by monumental stairs and a corridor. It is surrounded by a wall made out of some 4 000 stone blocks and was hidden under a 20-meter high mound of earth. Within, archeologists found a magnificent trove of relics, including a large gold funerary wreath, other gold jewelry, bronze shields, helmets and swords, and two sets of silver decorations for horses. The grave and its surroundings are also thought to have been an important religious site for Thracians.