• The Golden Wreath made with technology from the future
• A dog of an unknown breed guards the king’s grave
• The earliest imported silk in Europe
When in the early afternoon of July 20, 2005, a large piece of soil broke off and revealed a hole in the mound between the Elhovo villages of Malomirovo and Zlatinitsa, no one in the team of our great archaeologist Daniela Agre believed that luck had smiled on them. Everyone thinks they’ve stumbled upon another badger lair. And how could it be otherwise – they have been digging for weeks, and they have found nothing more than wonderful, but valuable only for scientific literature, specimens of the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages. The mythical Thracian tomb, for which Agre spent 5 years seeking funds to excavate, never appeared. And with each subsequent hour of work, scientists increasingly believe that she, too, fell victim to the thieves of history. Even so, the holes from mining raids can be seen at all ends of the mound…
It is not by chance, however, that Agre is known among her colleagues as the most persistent archaeologist.
She doesn’t talk much, but if she goes on a trail, she doesn’t let it go. That day, she simply picked up the pickaxe and began digging until animal bones came to the surface. The skeletons of two sacrificed horses slowly take shape. And next to them – a cult site, with five ceramic vessels broken on it. Enthusiasm returns and the team rolls up their sleeves. Soon the skeleton of a dog appears next to the horses. It is of a breed unknown today and is one of the three things that are found only in the mound near Malomirovo and Zlatinitsa. They have no analogue in the rest of the Thracian lands, which is why they make the story of the tomb particularly intriguing even today.
It took the archaeologists three days to clear the embankment, reach the tomb, and realize that they actually had the greatest luck. They came across an intact royal tomb. The view is stunning. One after the other, incredible artifacts came to light over the centuries – an iron sword (mahaira), a quiver with 200 bronze arrows, 7 spears, a woven iron breastplate and a Chalcidian-type bronze helmet. Among the incredible treasure are two more silver rhytons shaped like deer heads and four silver phials, expensive alabaster objects and of course the appliqués for the two sacrificial stallions with 200 beads and two iron bridles. But three objects shine with particular beauty
And today they are pearls in the collection of the National History Museum in Sofia.
The first is a bejeweled golden wreath, in the center of which shines goddess Nike. It is distinguished from other Thracian laurel diadems – of Sevtus III. Because unlike them, the open end of the Zlatinitsa wreath is on the back of the head, not on the forehead. Between the eyebrows of the king who wore it, the goddess of victory shines. What’s more – together with the diadem, the ruler also put on his head the perfectly preserved leather band with 29 gold rosettes – a sign of the extraordinary power that this man had.
Most curiously, the gold jewelry was created using a technology believed to have been discovered three centuries later. The method of the drawn plate, which until this moment in world science is considered an achievement of the Roman era from the 1st century AD, was applied. Thus, the find in Zlatinitsa-Malomirovo seriously raises the question of whether the Thracian Torevti were not the ones who gave Rome the golden laurel wreaths…
The second object is no less exquisite – a massive gold signet ring that the ruler wore on his little finger.
The image on the jewel is well known from other Thracian monuments – the Great Mother Goddess, who offers the phial to the horseman king and thus introduces him to the world of the gods.
The third artifact amazes even our greatest trachologists – Prof. Ivan Marazov and Prof. Valeria Fall, who spend days studying it.
Silver knee brace with gilding. The decoration is perfect. It depicts the Thracian ruler and scenes from mythology. The kneeler from Zlatinitsa-Malomirovo is one of the best preserved in our country. And perhaps the most beautiful.
The three symbols of power were worn simultaneously as a sign of the king’s enormous ruling power. But who was he?
The grave goods and the treasure definitely indicate that a king rests in the “Big Mound” near Zlatinitsa and Malomirovo.
The dating of the artifacts puts the time bar back to the middle of the 5th century BC. Therefore Agre stops at the Odrysian king Kerseblept. He is the grandson of Seutus t and the son of Cotis t, under whom the Odrysian kingdom reached a second flourishing after the great Sitalcus. Kerseblept was one of three brothers who succeeded their father’s throne and divided the kingdom in 358 BC. His part of the Odrysian kingdom was located east of the river Heber (Maritsa) to Byzantium, reaching the Dardanelles in 341 BC.
King Kerseblept was to lead the heroic struggle of the Thracians against the Macedonian invasion. And he does it successfully. It became Philip II of Macedon’s nightmare.
Kerceblept’s tomb has not been discovered, although in 1997 Turkish archaeologists announced that they had found it. A very rich burial of a Thracian ruler of the same era was excavated in the vicinity of Tekirdag near the Sea of Marmara. In addition to the treasures, the man was dressed in purple, a definite sign of supreme authority. But the hypotheses of the Turkish scientists collapsed when the analyzes of the bones showed that the buried was 24-25 years old. It is documented that Kerceblept died at least 50 years old.
Alas, Agre experiences the disappointment of his Turkish colleagues. The analysis of the human remains in the grave she discovered indicate that the man is 18-19 years old. The bones speak of an exceptional athlete, which leads scientists to think that the crown is most likely his trophy from the Olympic Games.
On his mortal remains there are two more objects that have no analogue. One is the shoes. They are made of stitched leather and look a lot like today’s moccasins. Under the helmet, there is a special hat made of expensive and very soft purple cloth, which protected the head from the injuries of the metal. The color unequivocally speaks of a king.
“According to all analyses, this grave dates from the middle of the 4th century BC (355-345),” Daniela Agre told Dossie magazine. And he states: “Combining it with the historical sources, it can be reasonably assumed that the buried person is one of the sons of the Thracian king Kerseblept – probably Iolaus.” The prince continued his father’s cause, but met his death on the battlefield too young.
The strange thing is that, despite his lineage and military merits, the young man was not laid in a special tomb, in which Thracian kings are usually buried. Most likely, his final home for the path to the afterlife simply hadn’t been built yet.
“When I entered, I saw in the center of the tomb, on a hemp shroud with ornaments, the perfectly preserved skeleton of the deceased,” Agre recalls. And here comes another surprise. She and her team find that Iolais has been doused with a large amount of salt. This proves that the young man died elsewhere and it was a long time before his body was brought to the tomb. In ancient times, salt was the only way to preserve the bodies of dead rulers from the battlefield to their resting place. It is probably the salt that also preserved the fragments of leather, the moccasins, the piece of textile with a woven pattern and the hat under the helmet, with the soft fleece turned inside out. Archaeologists come across such artifacts for the first time. The fabric was subsequently found to be the earliest imported silk in Europe!
The grave from Malomirovo-Zlatinitsa is one of the richest discovered in Bulgaria. He reveals the entire funeral ritual of the Thracian rulers and shows the path of his merging with the gods.
Photo credit: The golden wreath in the center of which shines goddess Nike / standartnews.com