THE VULCHITRUN TREASURE
VESSELS OF THE SUN CULT
Many people have heard of the famous treasure of 12.5 kg of gold, but a few know its history. The brothers Todor and Nikola Tzvetanov discovered the Vulchitrun Treasure on 28 December 1924 while working in their vineyard in the village of Vulchitrun, Pleven region. The two of them, together with the mayor of the village, tried to hide the valuable treasure. One of the vessels was shown to a goldsmith in Pleven, Kosta Zlatarev, who immediately contacted the authorities and the National Archeological Museum. The curator of the Museum Ivan Velkov took to Vulchitrun on the moment and managed to save the treasure. He put it in a rucksack, got on the train to Sofia, put the rucksack on the rack in the compartment and fell asleep. Such were the times then, there was no police or bodyguards to protect him and there was nobody to rob him.
Naturally the scholars were greatly interested in the function of the set. It was clear it was not produced for ordinary feasts. Most of them thought that this was a set (or part of a set) of ritual sacred vessels, in some way related with nature and primarily with the Sun. The round vessels resemble the oval shape of this celestial body. The triple-shaped vessel must have been used for magic ritual acts, for fortune telling by using some kind of liquid.
This story has a tragicomic continuation. The state paid the two brothers a reward of 1 500 000 levs, which was a considerable sum for those years. But they could not agree how to divide it, started endless court suits and finally the money went into the hands of the lawyers.
The Vulchitrun Treasure consists of 13 vessels, different in form and size. Only one of the vessels weighs 4.5 kg - a bowl with two handles. People say that one of the brothers put it in the domestic pigsty and used it to feed the pigs in it. The other vessey have one handle only. They also found 7 gold discs with decorations - two larger ones and five small. One of the vessels was exceptionally interesting and mysterious and consisted of the smaller vessels of leaf-like form and connected with a small tube and having a single handle.
It was probably poured into one of the three small vessels and then it filled the remaining two. A group of scholars came up with an intriguing theory – which the liquid was of three kinds: wine, honey and milk. By mixing them the fortune-tellers determined the future and this is definitely connected with the cult for the Greek god Dionysus, who was also worshiped by the Thracians.
When was this treasure created and to whom did it belong? Opinions vary widely. Many scholars think that it was created in the Mycenaean or post-Mycenaean period (1500-1100 BC), about which we know from the works of the great Greek poet Homer and his famous works The Iliad and The Odyssey. Others relate it to a much later period - 8th-5th c. BC and attribute it to the culture of the Thracians who had succeeded in building a vast state at that time. Today the first opinion prevails - that the treasure was produced in the Carpathian-Balkan region (the Balkan Peninsula) about the year 1300 BC. Scholars today are still not sure whether the creators of the treasure were predecessors of the Thracians or not.
The Vulchitrun Treasure is not only one of the oldest and the largest in Europe. It is also of high artistic value. Its decorations are the product of all gold-working techniques known in antiquity: casting, hammering, beating out, with embossed ornaments covered with silver (the so-called nielo technique), and with welded handles. The forms of the vessels themselves are extremely original and strange. For that reason this treasure is one of the most valuable ones in the National Archeological Museum in Sofia. The world public can enjoy its beauty at impressive exhibitions among which the EXPO'92 in Seville, Spain, in the United States and many other places.