French Magazine Says Bulgaria’s Ancient Thracian Exhibit in Louvre Was One of Europe’s Best in Summer 2015
Bulgaria’s Ancient Thracian exhibit in the Louvre Museum in Paris, France, which lasted from April until July 2015, was one of Europe’s best exhibitions in Summer 2015, according to French magazine “Connaissance des Arts” (“Knowledge of the Arts”), as cited by the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture.
The Louvre’s Bulgarian exhibition, which was on display between April 15 and July 20, 2015, was entitled “Thracian Kings’ Epic. Archaeological Discoveries in Bulgaria” (also translated as “The Saga of the Thracian Kings”; in French: L’Épopée des rois thraces. Découvertes archéologiques en Bulgarie).
The exhibition “Thracian Kings’ Epic. Archaeological Discoveries in Bulgaria” (whose original working title was “Ancient Thrace. The Odrysian Kingdom”) showcased the most impressive treasures of Ancient Thrace, and the way of life of the little known internationally Odrysian Kingdom, the most powerful state of the Ancient Thracians, and some of the independent Thracian tribes such as the Getae (Gets) and the Tribali.
A total of 1,629 Ancient Thracian artifacts from 17 Bulgarian and 11 foreign museums were exhibited in four halls in the Richelieu Wing of the Louvre from April 15 until July 20, 2015.
The Odrysian Kingdom, a union of Thracian tribes dominated by the tribe of the Odrysians (also known as Odrysea or Odrysai), was the most powerful state of the Ancient Thracians. It existed from the 5th century BC till its conquest by the Romans in 46 AD on the territory of modern-day Bulgaria, Northern Greece, Southeastern Romania, and Northwestern Turkey.
The July-August print issue of the French magazine “Connaissance des Arts”, which is dedicated to the best exhibitions in Europe in Summer 2015, features an article entitled “The Thracians in the Louvre, in Search of the Lost Kingdom” (“Les Thraces au Louvre, à la recherche du royaume perdu”).
“Building on the recent discoveries of the archaeologists, the Louvre reveals a brilliant and yet enigmatic civilization: that of the Thracians, the refined elite warlike people, who ruled the borders of the Greek world and the Persian Empire,” states the article.
The article by author Jerome Coignard discusses in detail the religious beliefs and customs of the Ancient Thracians, the excavations of the tomb of Odrysian King Seuthes III in the Golyama Kosmatka Mound, the bronze head sculpture of the ruler, and the way the Thracians depicted their gods.
The author also notes that Bulgarian-French cooperation in archaeology, including the study of Ancient Thrace, has a hundred-year-old tradition: French archaeologist Georges Seure carried out excavations in Bulgaria’s Veliko Tarnovo in 1904, and the French consul in Plovdiv at the time, Alexandre Degrand, participated in the excavations of the ancient city of Apollonia Pontica (today’s Sozopol).
This cooperation is seen as continuing today with the joint curating of Bulgaria’s Ancient Thracian exhibit in the Louvre by Prof. Dr. Totko Stoyanov from Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”; Assoc. Prof. Dr. Milena Tonkova, head of the Thracian Archaeology Department at the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences; Dr. Alexandre Baralis from the Louvre Department of Ancient Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities; and Dr. Néguine Mathieux, division head in the Scientific Research and Collections Directorate of the Louvre.
The treasures displayed in the Louvre included the Panagyurishte Gold Treasure, the Rogozen Treasure (gold and silver), the Borovo Silver Treasure, the Letnitsa Treasure (silver and bronze), the Mogilanska Mound Treasure (also known as the Vratsa Gold Treasure), the Zlatinitsa Mound Treasure (gold and silver), and the bronze head of Seuthes III, king of the Odrysian Thracian Kingdom between ca. 331 BC to ca. 300 BC.
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The Ancient Thracians were an ethno-cultural group of Indo-European tribes inhabiting much of Southeast Europe from about the middle of the second millennium BC to about the 6th century AD on the territory of modern-day Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Greece, Turkey, Macedonia, Serbia.
The Odrysian Kingdom was a union of Thracian tribes dominated by the tribe of the Odrysians (also known as Odrysea or Odrusai bearing the name of a mythical ruler, Odryses or Odrisis, (ca. 715 – ca. 650 AD), was the most powerful state of the Ancient Thracians. It existed from the unification of many Thracian tribes by a single ruler, King Teres, in the 5th century BC till its conquest by the Romans in 46 AD on the territory of most of modern-day Bulgaria, Northern Greece, Southeastern Romania, and Northwestern Turkey.
The Getae or Gets were Thracian tribes inhabiting the regions on both sides of the Lower Danube in today’s Northern Bulgaria and Southern Romania.
The Triballi were a Thracian tribe inhabiting the region of modern-day Western Bulgaria and Southern Serbia.
King Teres I (r. ca. 475 – ca. 445 BC) was the first king of the Odrysian Kingdom uniting about 40 Thracian tribes. He was succeeded consecutively by his sons, Sparatocos (r. ca. 445-ca. 431 BC) and Sitalces (r. ca. 431 – ca. 424 BC).
King Seuthes III was a king of the Odrysian kingdom of Thrace from ca. 331 BC to ca. 300 BC, at first tributary to Alexander the Great of Macedon. In 2004, as part an expedition dubbed TEMP, late Bulgarian archaeologist Georgi Kitov discovered Seuthes III’s tomb on the Golyama Kosmatka Mound near his capital Seuthopolis (close to today’s towns of Kazanlak and Shipka), part of the Valley of Thracian Kings. The impressive finds included the famous lifelike bronze head of Seuthes III, his golden laurel wreath, golden kylix (ancient drinking cup), among others.
The Panagyurishte Treasure, also known as the Panagyurishte Gold Treasure, was found in 1949 by three brothers – Pavel, Petko and Michail Deikovi, who worked together at the region of Merul tile factory near the town of Panagyurishte, Bulgaria. It consists of a phial, an amphora and seven rhyta with total weight of 6.164 kg of 23-karat gold. All of the objects are richly and skilfully decorated with scenes from Thracian mythology, customs and life. It is dated to the 4th-3rd centuries BC, and is thought to have been used as a royal ceremonial set by the Thracian king Seuthes III.
The Rogozen Treasure was discovered by chance in 1985 by a tractor driver digging a well in his garden in the Bulgarian village of Rogozen. It consists of 165 receptacles, including 108 phiales, 55 jugs and 3 goblets. The objects are silver with golden gilt on some of them with total weight of more than 20 kg. The treasure is an invaluable source of information for the life of the Thracians due to the variety of motifs in the richly decorated objects. It is dated back to the 5th-4th centuries B.C.
The Borovo Treasure, also known as the Borovo Silver Treasure, consists of five silver-gilt decorated vessels found in 1974 while ploughing a field in Borovo, Northeastern Bulgaria. The set has a bowl, a rhyta jug, and three rhyta, the largest of them with a figure of a sphynx and an inscription reading: “[Belongs to] Cotys from [the town of] Beos.”, as well as the name of the craftsman, Etbeos, leading to speculations that the treasure may have been a gift to a local Getic ruler from Odrysian King Cotys I (r. 382-359 BC).
The Letnitsa Treasure is dated back to the 4th century BC. It was found by accident in 1963 during a dig near the town of Letnitsa in Central Bulgaria in a bronze vessel. It consists of a large number of small decorated silver items as well as a Thracian warrior’s decorated horse ammunition found nearby.
The Mogilanska Mound Treasure, also known as the Vratsa Gold Treasure, was found during excavations of a mound (which turned out to hold three tombs) in the downtown of Northwestern Bulgarian city of Vratsa in 1965-1966. The treasure found with the skeletons of people and horses, and chariots, consists of a golden crown of laurels, 47 gold appliqués, 2 golden earrings, 4 silver phialai, a silver jug, a rhyton-shaped amphora, and 50 clay figures. The Mogilanska Mound is believed to be a royal tomb connected with the dynasty of the Tribali tribe.
The Zlatinitsa Mound Treasure consists of a golden wreath with appliqués, a seal ring, a greave, and two silver rhyta. It was found in 2005 near the town of Zlatinitsa in Southeastern Bulgaria by the team of archaeologist Daniela Agre in the tomb of a Thracian ruler dated back to the middle of 4th century BC.
The Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari is located near the town of Sveshtari, Northeastern Bulgaria. It is a Getic tomb with unique caryatids and murals dating back to the 3rd century BC, and was found in 1982. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Sboryanovo Archaeological Complex is an archaeological preserve located near the town of Sveshtari including over 140 archaeological and cultural monuments – from prehistoric and Thracian necropolises to medieval and modern-day Christian and Muslim shrines. It includes the Sveshtari Tomb and the ruins of the Ancient Thracian city of Dausdava (“Wolf City”) or Helis, capital of the Getae. In October 2014, Bulgarian archaeologist Diana Gergova discovered a rich necropolis of a Getian ruler (including more than 180 gold items) during excavations at the Sboryanovo Archaeological Complex.