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THE VRATZA TREASURE
THE FABULOUS TOMB OF A RICH THRACIAN PRINCESS

No one of the citizens of Vratza suspected that they were walking on a historical treasure. This is why in 1965-1966, when two burials of the ancient Thracian period were found under the foundations of a building in the very center of the town, they were all highly surprised. Archeologists most of all. Of course they knew that on this spot they’re existed an almost destroyed burial mound (the Mogilan Mound), but they didn't suspect they would discover one of the most precious Thracian monuments in this part of Bulgaria.
As a matter of fact the first tomb is a burial of a young woman of noble origin. The tomb is made of wood, an exceptional fact since most of the tombs of the same period are made of stone or brick. In the anteroom they discovered a chariot with four wheels and two horses harnessed and killed during the burial. Behind the chariot there was a skeleton of still another riding horse probably belonging to the guard who drove the chariot. On the skeleton of the horse they found 10 applications of its ammunition and many silver buttons. Again next to thed. Therefore she must have been a servant girl, killed during the burial ritual.
The skeleton of a young and delicate woman, 1.50 m high, occupies the center of the tomb and by it was found jewelry of exceptional exquisiteness. In the first place this is the crown on her head, which resembles a branch of laurels and is made of pure gold (24 carats). On the ears of the buried woman there were beautiful earrings, consisting of a flat disc, decorated with rosettes, winged sphinxes attached to it and decorative pendants. Probably the woman had some kind of veil over her face decorated with gold plates. By her stood a mirror, remains of a gold necklace and numerous small clay vessels.
Near the woman was found the skeleton of a man who was probably a warrior for near him there was a bronze shield, a clutch of more than 100 arrows, and an iron can-delabra, a set of silver vessels. On one of the vessels small indentations inscribe the name of the Thracian ruler Cotis and that of Elbeos, who made it and probably gave it to him as a present. There is no doubt that one of the most impressive finds is the silver shield (knemida), which is undoubtedly not a war but a ceremonial attribute. This is proved by the rich decoration consisting of a female head, two lion figures and snakes attacked by an eagle, as well as other ornaments. Seven or eight meters off this tomb there is a second one, built of crude stone pieces and a wooden roof. It also contained a skeleton of horse, bronze decorations of a wooden coffin, many vessels (local and foreign), two small decanters - a gold and a silver one. The gold decanter is decorated with palmates and a scene representing two Thracian warriors in a chariot with two wheels and with four horses each. The chariots face each other and between them there is a beautiful palmate.
It is clear from what we said so far that the Mogilan Mound housed the remains of a prominent Thracian princess who no doubt belongs to the Tribali tribe inhabiting these lands in ancient times. Together with her were buried her servants, the horses and the chariot. Later another member of the ruling family, but not of the same rank, was buried not far away.
The analysis of the finds in the tombs clearly shows that these are objects directly related to Thracian aristocracy. The ornamental and figural decoration suggests strong oriental (Persian) influence, mixed with motifs from Greek mythology and religious concepts. For example, the female head from the knee shield with the lion figures must be related with the goddess Artemis, the upright male figures from the chariots on gold decanters could be interpreted as scenes with Apollo. These concepts of different sort are expressed by typically Thracian artistic means. These are in the first place the flat, stylized and primitivist expression of separate images and of whole scenes.
The close inspection of the stylistic details can help in dating the finds near Vratza. Obviously the first tomb can be attributed to the beginning of the 4th c. and the second one to the third quarter of the same century. This is the time when the tribe of the Tribali actively opposed the strong Thracian state of the Odrizi. This is probably the time when the young relative of the local ruler was buried. The rich attributes found speak of active mixing of Eastern, Hellenic and local influences. In this sense the exceptional find of the Mogilan Mound in Vratza is an important contribution to the study of the diverse Thracian culture.

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Last update: Wed, 22 August, 2007 14:28