Head of Thracian King Seuthes III, Panagyurishte Gold Treasure Are Bulgaria’s Most Popular Archaeological ‘Gems’ Abroad, Culture Ministry Says

Head of Thracian King Seuthes III, Panagyurishte Gold Treasure Are Bulgaria’s Most Popular Archaeological ‘Gems’ Abroad, Culture Ministry Says

The bronze head of Ancient Thracian Odrysian King Seuthes III (r. ca 331 - ca. 300 BC) has been returned and displayed at its "home" - the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia, after having been part of exhibitions in Paris and Los Angeles. Photo: Bulgaria's Ministry of Culture

The bronze head of Ancient Thracian Odrysian King Seuthes III (r. ca 331 – ca. 300 BC) has been returned and displayed at its “home” – the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia, after having been part of exhibitions in Paris and Los Angeles. Photo: Bulgaria’s Ministry of Culture

The bronze head sculpture of Ancient Thracian Odrysian King Seuthes III (r. ca. 331-ca. 300 BC) and the Ancient Thracian Panagyurishte Gold Treasure are Bulgaria’s most popular archaeological treasures abroad, and are in greater demand than any other Bulgarian artifacts for exhibitions by foreign museums, the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture has said in a statement.

The Ministry has announced museums from Italy, Croatia, Turkey, and Morocco have recently requested exhibitions of Bulgaria’s best known Ancient Thracian artifacts.

The British Museum in London and the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg have also expressed interest in Bulgaria’s Thracian treasures as well as in some of the latest archaeological discoveries in the country.

As part of its statement, the Bulgarian Culture Ministry has also released photos from the return of the bronze head of King Seuthes III to the the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in Sofia (see the photos above and below), after having been part of major exhibitions in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, USA, and in the Louvre in Paris, France.

It reminds that the bronze head of King Seuthes III was one of the numerous sculptures in the exhibit entitled “Power and Pathos. Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World" in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, which took place from July 28 until November 1, 2015.

The bronze head of the glorious Ancient Thracian ruler, a contemporary of Emperor Alexander the Great (r. 336-323 BC) of Macedon, was found in the Ancient Thracian tumulus (burial mound) Golyama Kosmatka in 2004 by late Bulgarian archaeologist Georgi Kitov (1943-2008).

The “Power and Pathos. Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World"exhibition was organized by the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington with the participation of the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici della Toscana.

The ancient bronze sculptures came from the collections of international museums such as the Louvre in Paris, the British Museum in London, the National Prado Museum in Madrid, Palazzo Massimo in Rome, Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Museum, the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, and the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia.

In its statement, the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture also reminds that the bronze head of King Seuthes III was the focal point of the Bulgarian exhibition on Ancient Thrace in the Louvre Museum in the French capital Paris, which 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).

In fact, the bronze head of Seuthes III was the emblem of Bulgaria’s Ancient Thracian exhibition in the Louvre, which was featured on all advertising banners for the exhibit all over Paris.

Photos showing the arrival of the bronze head of Thracian King Seuthes III "home" at the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia. Photos: Bulgaria's Ministry of Culture

Photos showing the arrival of the bronze head of Thracian King Seuthes III “home” at the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia. Photos: Bulgaria’s Ministry of Culture

Photos showing the arrival of the bronze head of Thracian King Seuthes III "home" at the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia. Photos: Bulgaria's Ministry of Culture

Bronze Head Seuthes III 3 In addition to the head of Seuthes III, Bulgaria’s other most popular archaeological treasure abroad is the Panagyurishte Gold Treasure – a stunning example of Ancient Thracian goldsmiths’ craftsmanship.

Discovered by accident in 1949 by three brothers – Pavel, Petko and Michail Deikov, who worked together at the region of Merul tile factory near the town of Panagyurishte, the Panagyurishte Gold Treasure has been featured in hundreds of exhibitions all over the world since the 1950s.

“It has become a priceless source of knowledge about the Thracian Antiquity, and a symbol of Bulgaria’s [cultural] capital confirming its position among Europe’s top three countries in terms of cultural heritage (the other two being Italy and Greece – editor’s note)," reads the statement of the Bulgarian Culture Ministry.

It points out that in September 2015, the National Museum of History in Sofia published a new book entitled “Mysteries and Truths about the Panagyurishte Treasure" which presented the results from the latest comprehensive chemical, technical, and archaeological analysis of the Thracian gold vessels.

The analysis has confirmed once again the treasure’s authenticity, and has tested for the first time the components of the gold that it was made of.

At present, the Panagyurishte Gold Treasure is featured in the “Golden Legend" exhibition showing some of Bulgaria’s most impressive treasures from the Prehistory and Ancient Thrace been in The National Museum of Western Art in the Japanese capital Tokyo.

The Golden Legend exhibition in Tokyo, which will also be shown in the Japanese cities Sendai and Nagoya, shows the Valchitran Gold Treasure, several vessels from the Panagyurishte Gold Treasure, and two golden tiaras, and part of the Varna Gold Treasure discovered in the Varna Chalcolithic Necropolis which have been recognized as the world’s oldest gold.

Learn more about these treasures in the Background Infonotes below!

Bulgaria’s Ancient Thracian and prehistoric treasures that are included in “The Golden Legend" exhibition in Japan’s Tokyo, Sendai, and Nagoya come from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia, the Plovdiv Museum of Archaeology, and the Varna Museum of Archaeology (Varna Regional Museum of History).

The Golden Legend exhibition in Japan is organized by the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo, the Japanese newspaper The Tokyo Shimbun, and the Japanese TV station TBS. It is sponsored by Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. Ltd. The exhibit’s head curator is Takashi Yizuka from the National Museum of Western Art in Ueno.

The Golden Legend exhibit of the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo concentrates on presenting how gold has been seen throughout the ages, and its importance in human history and mythology. It focuses on the Mediterranean civilizations which include the gold treasures contributed by the Bulgarian museums.

Background Infonotes:

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.

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The Odrysian Kingdom, a union of Thracian tribes dominated by the tribe of the Odrysians (also known as Odrysea or Odrysai bearing the name of a mythical ruler, Odryses or Odrisis, (ca. 715 – ca. 650 AD)), was one of the two most powerful states 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.

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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.

In 2015, the bronze head of King Seuthess III was shown in the exhibition in the Louvre Museum in Paris 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), and in the exhibition in J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles entitled “Power and Pathos. Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World".

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The Panagyurishte Treasure, also known as the Panagyurishte Gold Treasure, was found in 1949 by three brothers – Pavel, Petko and Mihail Deikovi, who worked together near the Merul tile factory in the town of Panagyurishte, Plovdiv District, in Southern Bulgaria.

The treasure consists of a phial, an amphora and seven rhyta with a combined total weight of 6.164 kg of 23-karat gold. All of the artifacts are richly decorated with scenes from the 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 (r. ca. 331-ca. 300 BC).

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The Valchitran Gold Treasure was found in 1925 by accident in a vineyard near the town of Valchitran, Pleven District, in Northern Bulgaria. It is the largest Ancient Thracian gold treasure to have ever been found in Bulgaria. Its total weight is 12.5 kg, and its gold content is 88.15%, with the rest being silver and copper. The treasure consists of 13 vessels, including seven vessels in the shape of lids, four cups (one large, three smaller ones), a vessel consisting of three leaf-shaped interconnected vessels, and a krater similar to a kantharos (a large cup with a pair of handles) weighting 4.5 kg. The Valchitran Gold Treasure is dated to the 16th-12th century BC, i.e. the end of the Bronze Age. It is believed that the gold vessels were used for religious rituals by Thracian priest-kings. The treasure is part of the collection of the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia; a replica can be seen in the Regional Museum of History in Pleven.