Valley of Thracian Kings

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Archeologists have discovered a 2,400-year-old golden mask that was likely made for a Thracian monarch's funeral. The mask depicts a full face with moustache and beard. The rare artifact is made of 600 grams of solid gold and "is without paragon in archeology," according to Georgi Kitov and his team that unearthed the find in the summer of 2004 near the village of Shipka, in the so-called Valley of Thracian Kings. The mask may belong to King Seutus III, the Thracian  king who ruled in the fifth century BC. Besides the mask, archeologists also found a golden ring showing a rower, and many bronze and silver vessels. No remains have been found but archeologists continue to excavate the tomb.

The Valley of the Kings near Kazanluk

There are thousands of Thracian tumuli in the Bulgarian lands. However, the area around Kazanluk features very prominently among them, having deserved the name �The Valley of the Kings�. The tombs there are dated to the 5th - 4th century BC, and - similar to the Starosel - they demonstrate the flourishing of the Odrysian state.A tomb with remarkable frescoes was discovered near Kazanluk in the first half of the 20th century. The deceased Thracian king and his wife are depicted in the best style of Hellenistic art, sitting at their last dinner table on which abundant dishes have been served. Male and female slaves are serving wine and more dishes, and a young man is leading the horses of the chariot that is to take the ruler to the world beyond. In a separate frieze, other charioteers are competing in honour of their deceased king.


GOLD RUSH: Thracian artifacts, like this piece of horse's armor, reveal Bulgaria's past

Treasures Fit For The Kings

They had been digging for 12 years, 4 months a year, 18 hours a day. Since 1992, Georgi Kitov and his team have been searching through Bulgaria's Valley of the Kings, a 100-km, heavily forested region in the center of the country. The valley is dotted with ancient burial mounds erected by the Thracians, whose legacy as a pillar of ancient Europe lives on in texts and stories, but whose civilization remains a mystery. Kitov is slowly exploring the necropolis � and making some of the country's most incredible discoveries � in the hopes of adding to historians' limited knowledge of the Thracians, who flourished during the 5th and 4th centuries B.C. in Bulgaria and parts of modern Greece, Macedonia, Romania and Turkey before being conquered by the Romans.

Last July, he was taking a break from the valley to explore an enormous ancient temple near the central village of Starosel. But when the 62-year-old archaeologist, a short, plump man known as Bulgaria's Indiana Jones, got word that looters had been spotted in the valley � at the site of a mid-5th century B.C. tomb near Kazanlak, 170 km east of Sofia � he dropped what he was doing and rushed to the scene. Whatever was in that tomb, Kitov's crew had to get to it first. Otherwise, the tomb raiders could make off with priceless historical artifacts.

So Kitov and crew moved to Kazanlak, to a site near a spring with rumored healing powers. And they began to dig. Finally, about a month later, they struck gold � literally. Inside the tomb, they found the remains of a man who had been chopped into pieces, the bones of his legs, hands and lower jaw positioned carefully on the ground. Next to the dismembered skeleton was a life-size mask made of solid gold. Kitov was so excited, he now can't recall how he reacted. But his teammates remember him grabbing his head with both hands. "It can't be possible," he gasped. "It can't be possible."

The 2,400-year-old mask is just the first in a vast haul of treasures � including a gold ring engraved with the figure of an athlete, and a near-complete set of armor as well as bronze arrowheads, spearheads, swords and breastplates � that together amount to one of the most sensational archeological finds of recent years. The Thracian artifacts were first brought together at Sofia's National Archaeological Museum, but this week they move to a local museum in Kazanlak before heading off to Japan to appear at the World Expo in mid-June. Beautiful and intimidating, these objects bring the legends of a rich and powerful kingdom to life. "We always knew that the Thracians had great wealth from references in ancient texts," says James Sickinger, a professor at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. "These findings show that the Thracians had wealth that rivaled that of any other great kingdom of the time."

The Thracians were known as great warriors; Spartacus, the gladiator slave who led a rebel war against the Romans, was a Thracian. And they were renowned throughout the ancient world as expert metalworkers; in The Iliad, Homer describes the Thracian King's golden armor as "a wonder to behold, such as it is in no wise fit for mortal men to bear, but for the deathless gods." With little else to go on, historians have tended to rely on ancient Greek depictions of the Thracians as a savage, tribal society that had no politics and no alphabet of its own. But after three months of digging, Kitov surfaced with over 130 pieces of magnificent jewelry, weaponry and ritual artifacts that show Thracian culture rivaled that of the Greeks. They prove that the Thracians were "not a society of barbarians," says Alexander Fol, a Bulgarian expert on Thracian history. "They had a system of values and were consciously abiding by it. This was an aristocratic society with a great hierarchy."

And the man buried in Kazanlak with the golden mask was likely at the top of it. The mask is one of the highlights of the collection. Weighing in at 672 g and made of 23.5-carat gold, it has a menacing expression, and its mustache, beard and small locks of hair are rendered in exquisite detail. "There have been other gold masks discovered, but all of them are made of foil-thin gold," Kitov says. "Gold masks with this shape and weight are absolutely unknown." He believes the mask was owned by a Thracian ruler, who, in a ritual that has been described in ancient Greek texts, would drink wine from it at public occasions and then place the mask over his face. "His subjects, or foreign emissaries, would look in awe at the golden face of the divine ruler." The mask, and the way it was placed beside the skeletal remains in the tomb, suggest the Thracians' spirituality may have been as complex as their artistry. "The separation of body parts, the golden mask placed where the face must have been � it all seems like it has been designed to transfer the spirit into immortality," says Fol.

The exhibition also features items from a second tomb Kitov uncovered only 2 km from the first, called Goljamata Kosmatka (literally, the Big Hairy, because the hill over the tomb used to be covered in trees). Instead of the more common large single chamber, this tomb is made up of three rooms at the end of a 13-m-long corridor. When Kitov broke through the stone walls covering the entrances, he found the first room contained the remains of a sacrificed horse. The grave itself is in the third chamber, carved out of a single block of limestone weighing more than 60 tons. Inside was a ritual deathbed, a resting place for the spirit, covered in gold thread. But no bones: the body was most likely burned or buried.

Kitov believes the tomb, which was built around 150 years later than the one that contained the mask, belonged to King Seuthes III, who ruled in the late 4th century B.C. and fought Alexander the Great's predecessors. The first clue was the bronze head he found when he entered the corridor. It had been broken off a statue and hidden in a carved hole, under a pile of stones. The sculpture is eerily lifelike, even down to a small mole on the left cheek. And then there are the name tags: a series of carved dots on the handles of a vial and on a small pitcher are coded messages claiming the items belong to the King. "The Thracians believed in resurrection, but the rebirth was as a spirit, not a body," says Kitov. "They believed that the spirit has the same needs as the body. That's why they would put so many things inside."

Now that the ancient kings no longer need them, Kitov, along with fellow archaeologists and historians, can use those things to learn more about the lives of Bulgaria's ancestors. In the meantime, he and his team are busy planning more excavations. While there is still much mystery surrounding the Thracians, Kitov is determined to keep on digging.

With reporting by Reported by Anthee Carassava/Athens and Violeta Simeonova/Kazanlak

Fascinating! This was no mean culture, in fact it appears that by comparison, the conquerors were the more barbaric. It is obvious that the Romans copied the artwork style of the Thracians, or remaining assimilated Thracians continued their highly developed crafts under the conquerors. It is almost odd that much of the later Roman prized cultural art merely reflects an adoption of so many other cultures, perhaps indicating they had little originality, or degree of skill in their own. It seems that hundreds of years after the Thracians, Roman art finally arrived at the skill level of the ancients they conquered. Thank you for that clip, a picture truly is worth a thousand words.


The songs: Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares Volume 2- This second volume of Le Mystere des voix Bulgares features performances by the Bulgarian State Radio and Televison Female Choir and the Female Vocal Choir, Sofia won a GRAMMY award in 1990.(Elica Todorova & Stojan Jankulov - Water Bulgaria - 5th on Eurovision 2007)

The archaeological research of the Thracian culture started in the 20th century and especially after World War II, mainly on the territory of Southern Bulgaria. As a result of intensive excavation works in the 1960s and 1970s a number of Thracian tombs and sanctuaries were discovered. More significant among them are: the Tomb of Sveshtari, the Tomb of Kazanlak, Tatul, Seuthopolis, Perperikon, the Tomb of Aleksandrovo, Sarmizegetusa, etc.

Also a large number of elaborately crafted gold and silver treasure sets from the 5th and 4th century BC were unearthed. In the following decades those were exposed in museums around the world, thus gaining popularity and becoming an emblem of the ancient Thracian culture. Since the year 2000, Bulgarian archaeologist Georgi Kitov has made discoveries in Central Bulgaria which were summarized as "The Valley of the Thracian Kings".

On 19 August 2005, some Bulgarian archaeologists announced they had found the first Thracian capital, which was situated near Karlovo in Bulgaria. A lot of polished ceramic artifacts (pieces of roof-tiles and Greek-like vases) were discovered revealing the fortune of the city. The Bulgarian Ministry of Culture declared its support to the excavations.

In Dabene, Bulgaria, a cache of more than 15,000 gold Thracian artifacts were discovered, including thousands of rings. In August 2006 a sensational archaeological find was made near the village of Dubovo. A Thracian dagger made of an alloy of gold and platinum, sharp, and in perfect condition, was found in a tomb near the village of Dubovo.

tombs with mural paintings have been discovered near the town of Kazanlak so far. They prove the wide use of art of painting as a detail of inside decoration of the Thracian tombs during the Hellenic period. Undoubtedly the most interesting tomb is the Kazanlak Thracian Tomb.
An important moment for a substantial research of the history, culture and the urban development of the Thracian tribes during the early Hellenic period are the salvage excavations, undertaken because of the building of "Koprinca" dam. An ancient Thracian town -- Sevtopolis is discovered.
Around 6000 years ago, between the fifth and the second millennium B.C., the climate became warmer and the icebergs on the Earth quickly started melting. The water in the oceans and seas rose with 3 meters.
Fewer than 100 are the Thracian undermounded constructed structures in Bulgaria, which are usually called tombs. Fifteen buildings like these are put up in Kazanlak valley.
In the middle of our country, cuddled between the two big mountain ranges Stara planina and Sredna gora, is situated the Kazanlak valley. The land, amazing with its beauty, inebriates with its sweet scents and fascinates with its ancient history.
Bulgaria gold treasure tourism God music video Mystery property folklore world song winner JOURNEY LAND THRACIAN KINGS
Legend has it that about 9 - 10 millennia BC, after the submerging of Atlantis the only surviving principality was the "Manou - meaning "Principality of Knowledge"). The survivors found shelter in South-Eastern Europe, where they merged with the natives. The legend says that this is how the Thracians came to be. From the Carpathians to the Aegean, from the Adriatic to the Black Sea the numerous Thracian tribes spread but their peace did not lost very long. Then in the III century BC other tribes invaded from North. The Illyrians swept from Northwest and pushed the Thracians eastward. As a result some of the Thracian tribes searched for new land in the Near East. The Thracians were warriors, horse breeders, potters, weavers, goldsmiths and philosophers. Democritus and Protagoras were born in Abdera Thrace. They took part in the Trojan War as Trojan allies.. Homer first mentioned them in "Iliad". Courageous and daring warriors, they were hired mercenaries in the armies of the Hellenic era. Later they joined the Roman auxiliary troops, and from the second century onwards were in their legions. The Thracian soldiers were fearless, ready to face death, believing that beyond was another, better life, closer his Gods. Spartacus was one of them. During the IV century BC, Phillip II of Macedonia conquered the lands of the Thracians. His physician, a Thracian, was the father of Aristotle, the great philosopher who in his turn became Alexander the Great's tutor. Celts came to the Thracian lands at the beginning of the third century BC. They established a number of kingdoms on these lands, after stealing the gold from Apollo's tomb, which they dispersed to settle over the entire continent, reaching the British Isles, settling in Ireland. At the beginning of the 1st century AD, the Thracians joined the Roman Empire. Then they became part of the Eastern Roman Empire. The Slavs who in their turn came to the Balkan Peninsula during the 4-th century AD, and became part of the ethnic roots of the Bulgarians. The Thracians, through their philosophers, impacted the ancient Mediterranean civilization (Greco-Hellenic and Roman). Their cultural heritage, aside from the atomistic theory of Democritus, or the view that man is the measure of all things as propounded by Protagoras, and the Cybernetic view of the World that Artistotle proposed, reflecting the Thracian religion that the world was made of small particles in constant motion. They has left us with many examples of gold, silver and bronze ornaments, arms, tools and vessels. The Thracian culture that emerged, blending their own unique view of the world with those of other nations, became a link between Europe and the East. Indicative of the rich spiritual make-up, the Thracians, was the multiplicity of religious cults they upheld. They worshipped the Horseman and his female counterpart Bendida; they partook in the Dionysian orgies; upheld the Orphic teaching, based on the Dionysian cult, a God in the Thracian Pantheon. We would like you to join us on a tour to the valley of the Thracians rulers. Today, this valley is replete with tumular Temples and burial Monuments, Mounts, testifying to their great civilization .The multitude of gold, silver, iron and clay objects found so far and the numerous studied tombs are lasting marks left from the ancient Thracians' culture, revealing their notions of the world. It is here, at the bottom of Koprinka dam - lake one can still find remains of Seuthopolis - the Odrysae state capital from the time of Seuthe III, the only Thracian city that has been completely excavated, preserved and researched. With this tale we would like to take you to the dawn of our civilization, the way it has been preserved by wisdom of time as we believe that in order to live better in the contemporary world one should know its ancient roots.
My encounters with the monuments of human civilization on the territory of Bulgaria today were an exciting challenge for me.

Working on this project gave me the opportunity to travel again across my beautiful country viewing it from an entirely new perspective.

I had the opportunity to visit the Valley of the Thracian Kings near Kazanlak and ex�amine in tranquility the magnificent paintings of the tomb from Kazanlak, the tomb from Alexandrovo near Haskovo and the strange stone figures in the tomb from Svesluary near the town of Isperih. The feeling was odd - in the complete silence I had the sense of being an intruder let in there by mistake - a disturber of the eternal peace of these sophisticated and proud people.

While photographing I started painting with the light - my basic means of expression - rather than simply "lighting up".

I felt thai taking just "photographs of museum exponents" was not enough for me and wherever I came across a human face - in pottery, silver and gold - I aimed at achieving my attitude while portraying living people. I tried to reach a human touch with these beautiful images.

It may sound strange to you but I started finding resemblance between the human images - objects of my work, and people I meet accidentally during my journeys around Bulgaria. And it already seems to me completely natural, despite the thousands of years rhat have passed - today we arc Temporarily inhabiting the highest stratum, the same places where the heroes of this exhibition have once lived.

I had the ultimate pleasure of associating with my hosts - the museum people of Varna, Burgas, Sozopol and Nessebar, Kazanlak, Haskovo, Nova Zagora and Stara Zagora, Plovdiv, Vratza, Pleven, Silistra, Sofia - the Archeological Museum and the National Historical Museum. Warm people met me everywhere, excellent specialists bestowing great care on rich museum collections.

Seeing the wealth of these extraordinary museums spread all over Bulgaria, I realized that what I have photographed for this travelling exhibition is only the peak of an iceberg. These are just the main strokes of a picture, which is constantly complemented and enriched by new discoveries. Ihe museums' funds and their permanent exhibitions display are the source of inexhaustible opportunities for comparisons and reflections. Therefore the true place for a real communion with our unique cultural-historical heritage is Bulgaria itself - the cradle of ancient civilizations.

Ivo Hadjimishev

The lands of present day Bulgaria arc situated at a crossroads - very important in antiquity - connecting culturally undeveloped Europe with the developed civilizations of Asia Minor. The migrations through over it were directed from the poor North to the rich South, and cultural influences were going in the opposite direction.

The compactness of the ancient cultural layers in the Bulgarian lauds is so saturated that even the large scale treasure-hunting during the last two decades was not able to destroy it.

The finds from the Neolithic period (7-6 millennia BC) give an idea of beliefs and art of the first farmers, who were closely connected with the Anatolian culture.

The Chalcolith the Copper Age (5th millennia BC) gave birth to a new European civilization. The Varna necropolis comprises quantities of splendid gold objects unseen before - symbols of power and sacred symbols of the early rulers.

The Bronze Age starts a new page in the ideology of the ancient world. At the very end of this period the Thracians - the most numerous people after the Indians, came to the Balkans.

The presence of the Thracians is marked through ritual burials of treasures. Thrace shows the richest in Europe findings of this kind. Many precious objects came to us from the treasures.



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