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THE PRESLAV TREASURE
THE RISE AND FALL OF GREAT PRESLAV

By the unwritten history of archeological discoveries the finds near Preslav are made in a similar way and they will remain under the name of the Preslav Treasure. This happened in the autumn of 1977, when the farmers decided to plant a new vineyard in Kastana. Digging deeply into the ground during the previous year, the tractor driver unearthed several gold objects but he didn't notice them from where he was sitting. Thus winter passed and in spring they started planting the vines. Then one of the farm workers came across the precious jewelry and cried out: "Come over! Look what a large mengish I found!" (This was the local name for large earrings). People crowded round her, dug the ground and found more jewels. They were immediately taken to the mayor's office in Preslav where the mayor contacted the archeologists in Shoumen and archeological excavations began.
The treasure was not an ordinary one. It consisted of a large number of exquisitely made women's jewels and several silver Byzantine coins. Among them were earrings, necklaces, bracelets, buttons from expensive clothing, hair needles and the like. The plowshare had dispersed them over a large territory and archeologists couldn't understand where they were stored (in a leather or cloth bag or some wooden casket which had not been preserved). There were no traces of any building around and the place was at a considerable distance from the fortress wall of the capital city.
All sorts of techniques of jewelry making were used in producing the objects: casting in moulds, hammering of ornaments with metal instruments, welding of small gold balls (granules) or fine gold wire (filigree), inlays of pearls and multi-colored enamel. All this speaks of the perfect craftsmanship of the Preslav goldsmiths.
Among the numerous objects two are of special interest and originality. The first one is a necklace consisting of 13 gold plates, strung on a fine gold chain. From hang, again on chains, 7 drop-like medallions. On each of them and on the plates themselves are represented various images. By means of multicolored enamel are depicted the images of the Holy Mother and other saint, birds, beautiful leaves and other ornaments. This jewel is a perfect product of mediaeval goldsmith's craftsmanship. We don't have an analogy of it to this day.
The second jewel is a diadem of a noble lady. It also consists of several gold plates. Some are not preserved but those found show that the ornamentation on them is unusual. The central plate depicts the Macedonian king Alexander the Great, rising to the sky in a chariot with two griffins. This ancient motif is commonly used in Byzantine art from where it was borrowed into Bulgarian art. The plate also contains other fabulous and mythological images among which we notice winged dogs. This forms a composition unfamiliar to European medieval art and the result of the strong influence of antiquity. There is only one diadem from Kiev, which resembles it, but it is of a later period and of a cruder make.
It is not possible to describe all items of the treasure but it is important to determine the period when it was created and buried into the ground. This probably happened in difficult times for the Second Bulgarian capital Preslav. The Byzantines attacked the Bulgarian State and in 971 they captured Great Preslav. We learn about this period also from the coins in the treasure, which are related to the rule of emperors Constantine VII and Roman II (middle of 10th c). Therefore the treasure has been buried some time after this. The most probable explanation is that in these difficult moments some Bulgarian noble decided to leave the capital. He took with him his family and the most valuable things. For reasons unknown to us the treasure had to be buried into the ground and its owner intended to come back and take it. But it didn't happen and the invaluable monument was preserved for us to enjoy.
The Preslav Treasure helps us to come in contact with the rich culture of Great Preslav and in the same time to know of its tragic fate and its fall under Byzantine rule.


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Last update: Tue, 2 October, 2007 10:26