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THE KRALEVO TREASURE
THE HORSE ORNAMENTS OF A PROMINENT THRACIAN

The name of the Kralevo Treasure does not come from the title kral 'king' but from the name of a village in the Turgovishte region. Many items from different historical periods have been found near this village. Probably the most mysterious ones are the seven burial mounds situated in the foots of the hill on whose top a Thracian fortress stood in ancient times.
Several of these mounds have been excavated by archeologists and in one of them (the third in a row) in 1979 were found an original burial related to the end of the 4th and the beginning of the 3rd c. BC. Under the mound, 7 m high was found a tomb and the burial of a prominent representative of the ancient Thracian society. The tomb is built of ordinary uncut stone pieces and archeologists discovered in it a large vessel - an urn decorated with gold foil. After a big burial ceremony the remains of the diseased were burnt on the stakes and laid in it. Various objects were spread around him which, following the ancient conceptions, were to serve the dead person in his afterlife: beautiful small vessels, silver bracelets (some gilded), an iron ritual axe, parts of a harness, various gold objects which constitute a small gold treasure with overall weight of 300 g. Despite its small size and weight, this treasure is distinguished for its very good illustrations, which makes it extremely valuable for science.

The objects of the gold treasure can be divided into two groups: decorations for the body (two bracelets, a pair of earrings, a silver breast plate) and ornaments (applications) used for the horse harness. The bracelets from the first group represent spiral-like thin plates ending with a snake's head. It must be noted that in this period the image of the snake had a positive value as a symbol of knowledge. The earrings have at the rims beautiful lion heads, which no doubt express the symbol of power and might. Therefore these decorations carried specific ritual and representative symbolic importance in accordance with the Thracian religious system.
What are most impressive in the Kralevo Treasure are the ornaments of the horse harness. It consists of four round plates with the image of Heracles and two rectangular plates with the image of a griffin, the head of an eagle, a rosette, and many small details of the trappings. Obviously the tomb contained the ornaments of a beautifully harnessed horse, which was probably killed and laid separately, but side by side with the diseased, as many other archeological discoveries show. The bones prove this and the skull of a horse found in the mound.
The images on the ornaments deserve special attention. We can see the mythical Heracles and the figures of fabulous creatures - the griffins. It is known that Heracles was the son of the supreme Greek god Zeus and the earthly woman Alkmena. His father to perform 12 great heroic deeds blessed him. The first one was the killing of the sinister lion of Niamey. After performing this deed Heracles put on the hide and the head of the defeated animal. This is the way we can see him depicted on the four plates from Kralevo.
The two griffins on the rest of the plates are also symbolic creatures. They have the body of a lion, the head of an eagle and a snake's tail. The ancient people saw in this way the combination of the first (the lion) with the bravery of the second (the eagle) and the wisdom of the third (the snake).
Thus the ornaments of the buried horse which no doubt belonged to a noble Thracian, was supposed to designate its strength and might. This explains the precious metal used for the ornaments. It is difficult to imagine the figure of the harnessed horse with the ornaments on its head - the front plate in the form of an eagle's head and the rosette under it, the leather straps on the horse's head with the ornaments describes above and the lead with the numerous gold beads and tassels attached to it.
We must ask the question — who made these exquisite ornaments? The careful inspection and comparison with other similar finds show that it must have been made in a goldsmith's workshop on the Black Sea shore, at that time inhabited by colonists from the old Greek polis-towns. Most probably this happened in the Greek colony of Mesambria (today's Nesebar). May be the local Thracian ruler of the tribe of the Geti ordered these beautiful ornaments for his horse's harness. This once again confirms the close relation between Thracian and Greek culture during the so-called Hellenistic period (4th-3rd c. BC).

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Last update: Mon, 1 October, 2007 16:58