Bulgarian archaeologists unearthed ancient golden artefacts, including bracelets with snake heads, a tiara with animal motifs and a horse head piece during excavation works at a Thracian tomb in northern Bulgaria, they said on Thursday.
The new golden artefacts are dated back to the end of the fourth or the beginning of the third century BC and were found in the biggest of 150 ancient tombs of a Thracian tribe, the Getae, that was in contact with the Hellenistic world.
The findings also included a golden ring, 44 applications of female figures as well as 100 golden buttons.
“These are amazing findings from the apogee of the rule of the Getae,” said Diana Gergova, head of the archaeologist team at the site of the ancient Getic burial complex situated near the village of Sveshtari, some 400 km northeast from Sofia.
“From what we see up to now, the tomb may be linked with the first known Getic ruler Cothelas,” said Gergova, a renown researcher of Thracian culture with the Sofia-based National Archaeology Institute.
One of the tombs there, known as the Tomb of Sveshtari, is included in the World Heritage List of U.N. education and culture agency, UNESCO, for its unique architectural decor with half-human, half-plant female figures and painted murals.
The Thracians, ruled by a powerful warrior aristocracy rich in gold treasures, inhabited an area extending over modern Romania and Bulgaria, northern Greece and the European part of Turkey from as early as 4,000 BC.
They lived on the fringes of the Greek and Roman civilizations, often intermingling and clashing with the more advanced cultures until they were absorbed into the Roman Empire around 45 AD.
Archaeologists have discovered a large number of artefacts in Bulgaria’s Thracian tombs in recent decades, providing most of what is known of their culture, as they had no written language and left no enduring records.
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The walled fortified settlement, near the modern town of Provadia, is thought to have been an important centre for salt production.
Its discovery in north-east Bulgaria may explain the huge gold hoard found nearby 40 years ago.
Archaeologists believe that the town was home to some 350 people and dates back to between 4700 and 4200 BC.
That is about 1,500 years before the start of ancient Greek civilisation.
The residents boiled water from a local spring and used it to create salt bricks, which were traded and used to preserve meat.
Salt was a hugely valuable commodity at the time, which experts say could help to explain the huge defensive stone walls which ringed the town.
“The huge walls around the settlement, which were built very tall and with stone blocks… are also something unseen in excavations of prehistoric sites in south-east Europe so far,” he told AFP.
Similar salt mines near Tuzla in Bosnia and Turda in Romania help prove the existence of a series of civilisations which also mined copper and gold in the Carpathian and Balkan mountains during the same period.
BBC Europe correspondent Nick Thorpe says this latest discovery almost certainly explains the treasure found exactly 40 years ago at a cemetery on the outskirts of Varna, 35km (21 miles) away, the oldest hoard of gold objects found anywhere in the world.