Over two thousand years ago, the Thracians thrived near the mouth of the Danube River… but who wouldn’t, if they lived near one of the largest ancient supplies of gold? Ruled by a warrior aristocracy, the Thracians had an excellent trade relationship with their neighbors, people like the Scythians (north) and the Greeks (south), and we’re able to see this in the art they created.
And what art it is! American archaeologist Fredrik Hiebert has said that “the styles that have been found in Thracian art and Thracian gold represent a mix of Scythian, Greek, and Macedonian cultures, and of course Thracian culture itself… [t]here are sites on the Bulgarian coast that are literally thousands of years older than any other culture that used gold in a ritual fashion.”
We see this history of incredible gold metallurgy reflected in a discovery of a 2,400-year-old treasure in a Thracian tomb in Sveshtari, Bulgaria! The tomb is the biggest out of 150 known tombs from an ancient Thracian tribe named the Getae.
The image here shows a golden horse head, which would have been an ornament from one end of a long-disintegrated iron horse bit—and alongside it to the right is a ring or brooch with intricate design work. Below are tiny gold busts of a woman that are thought to have decorated a piece or pieces of clothing. Other items like rings and threads of gold—likely part of a gold cloth that wrapped these items—were also found among the hoard.
“You’re looking at workmanship made for the elite… it’s very fine and the motifs reflect all sorts of different influences”, said Hiebert. And when asked about the tombs in general—since other nearby ancient gold-filled tombs were looted in ancient times—he mentioned that “there are literally hundreds of tombs, and they’re all subterranean. They were purposely built to try and avoid looting; they were covered up, and all the decoration is on the interior.”
Initial speculation is that these items were part of a ritual burial, and the archaeological team which uncovered the treasure says they expect to find a large burial ground nearby during the course of their work.
(Photo credit: Emil Iordanov, BGNES/Reuters)