Golden Gifts from Bulgaria

Golden Gifts from the Capital of the Getae

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.

Bookmark and Share