April 24th - May 26th 2013
On 7th of November 2012 a wooden box with golden objects was found during the excavations of the highest Getic tumulus near the village of Sveshtari.
The tumulus belongs to the necropolis of the Getic religious and political center of the 1st mill.BC. Most probably this was the enigmatic Dausdava ( “The city of the wolves” ) from Tabula Nona of Cl. Ptolemaios, the place where the polis Helis was built during the Hellenistic period protected. It was a huge complex of sanctuaries and cult places, a town and tumular necropolises of more than 120 tumuli, now in the frames of the Sboryanovo National reserve. In the Northern part of the Eastern, Royal necropolis in 1982 was discovered the Sveshtari tomb with caryatids(on the UNESCO list). The Great Sveshtari tumulus is situated in the Southern part of the same necropolis and is the highest one (19 m.).
The earlier excavations of the tumulus in 90 ies of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21 st century unveiled a monumental Thracian tomb with semi - cylindrical vault and Doric columns, destroyed by an earthequake in the beginning of 3 rd century BC., ritual pits and animal sacrifices.
Geophysical prospecting of the tumulus had shown the unusual for the Thracian Getic tumuli existence of another, second anomaly in the only center of the tumulus. The excavations in its Western part aimed the further investigation of the tumulus and this anomaly.
The remains of the square wooden box with golden objects were found in the profile of the tumular embankment, at a depth of about 8 m below the surface of the tumulus. It had been superimposed on the slope of the smaller and earlier tumulus that was covering the central and still unexplored anomaly, in the process of the piling of the tumulus.
The golden objects belong to three groups. The first one includes female jewelry - a golden spiral diadem with sculptured figurines of lions, panthers, rosettes and fantastic creatures, 4 spiral bracelets with lions heads and a golden ring with Eros in high relief. The second group consists of the appliques of a bridle set laid around an iron bridle- a headstall with a sculptured horse’s protome, cheek pieces - 2 disks with relief head of Athena in a helmet , more than 50 other appliqués with female (Athena) faces, or floral ornaments, and more than 120 with semispherical form.
Three types of appliques, some inlaid with blue and white enamel, hundreds of miniature cylindrical and round beads, and golden threads suggest that a brocaded cloth was also laid in the box.
The archaeological context of the box is of an extremely great importance as a source for the burial rites of the Getae, who according to Herodotus were practicing the immortality. The reconstruction of the Getic rites of the immortalization, after the long term excavations of the elitarian Getic necropolis, show that the rites of immortality includes a system of specific practices - reburial of the human bones , of gifts, of animal sacrifices, accompanying the piling of the tumuli in three stages.
The wooden box with the golden objects is the brightest illustration of these burial practices. It can be dated to the end of 4th - the beginning of the 3rd c BC - the period of the political and cultural apogee of the Getic state.
Most probably the tumulus and its still to be excavated central burial could be connected with the Kotela - the famous Getic king the last decades of the 4th century BC, who played an important role in the political and military events on the Balkans, also as an ally of Philip II in their common struggle against the Scythian king Ateas.Meda, the daughter of Kotels became one of the Philip’ wives in 339 BC.
The stylistic characteristics of the objects show similarity with some of the most remarkable golden pieces of art from Thracian and Scythian tumuli from 4 th -3rd century BC, throwing new light on the problems of the cultural and political relations in the Hellenistic - Geto -Scythian world.
It is even more important to know that the Getae – prophets and propagators of the Orphic teaching of the immortality of the soul played an important role in the formation of the religious belifs of the other ancient European peoples. Specific for the Getic burial clay altars are widely distributed in Northern Europe and mainly in Danemark.Unique pieces of art, like the Gundestrup cauldron, confirm the close ideological contacts between these key for the understanding of cultural proecess in ancient Europe Northern and Southern lands. Alexandrian autors also mention the influence of the mythical king, priest and god of the Getae Zalmoxis on the druids understanding of the immortality of the soul.
The continuation of the investigations of the Great Sveshtari tumulus in 2013 includes new Georadar prospecting and the excavations will certainly throw light on unknown aspects of the culture and burial practices of the Getae.