Ancient Thracian Gold Laurel Wreath Which May Have Originated in Ancient Troy Turned In to Bulgaria’s National Museum of History

This gold Ancient Thracian laurel wreath was dug up by treasure hunters somewhere in Southern Bulgaria, and then smuggled abroad. It has now been bought by a Bulgarian collector at a US auction house, and turned in to Bulgaria's National Museum of History in Sofia. It dates either to the 1st century BC, or it goes back to the time of Ancient Troy and the Trojan War. Photo: National Museum of History

This gold Ancient Thracian laurel wreath was dug up by treasure hunters somewhere in Southern Bulgaria, and then smuggled abroad. It has now been bought by a Bulgarian collector at a US auction house, and turned in to Bulgaria’s National Museum of History in Sofia. It dates either to the 1st century BC, or it goes back to the time of Ancient Troy and the Trojan War. Photo: National Museum of History

An authentic Ancient Thracian gold laurel wreath, which most probably had been dug up by treasure hunters somewhere in Southern Bulgaria and smuggled abroad, has been turned in to the National Museum of History in Sofia.

At first, the newly found Thracian gold wreath in question was dated to the 1st century BC; however, some archaeologists and thracologists have disputed this, claiming instead that the artifact might go back to 1200 BC – 1300 BC, i.e. around the time of the Trojan War, and might have even originated in Troy, the Museum has said in a statement.

The Ancient Thracian wreath is said to have been acquired by Bulgarian businessman and private collector Dobromir Petkov in an antiques auction house in the USA with all respective legal paperwork, and to have been imported legally back into Bulgaria where it is believed to have originated.

Petkov is said to have brought it to straight from Sofia International Airport to the Director of the National Museum of History Bozhidar Dimitrov on the occasion of the latter’s 70th birthday.

Dimitrov has then transferred the ownership of the Ancient Thracian gold laurel wreath to the Museum.

Petkov is said to be fully aware of Bulgaria’s cultural heritage legislation, which is why he made the donation immediately after landing in Sofia. He is also commended by the Museum for making a BGN 40, 000 (app. EUR 20,000) donation for the ongoing restoration of the 9th century Great Basilica, the huge cathedral in the early medieval Bulgarian capital Pliska.

Pending the setting up of a donation committee, the gold artifact will be formally entered in the Museum’s inventory book.

In its statement, the Museum points out that gold wreaths from Ancient Thrace are very rare archaeological finds.

Not more than 5-6 Thracian gold laurel wreaths are kept in Bulgarian museums or in private collections in Bulgaria.

Up until now, the National Museum of History in Sofia has had only one gold Thracian laurel wreath which was discovered in an Ancient Thracian burial mound (tumulus) in Zlatinitsa, Elhovo Municipality, in Southeast Bulgaria (compare the photos above and below).

This gold laurel wreath was discovered in an Ancient Thracian burial mound near Zlatinitsa and Malomirovo, Elhovo Municipality, in Southeast Bulgaria (it is part of the Zlatinitsa Gold Treasure, also known as the Zlatinitsa-Malomirovo Treasure). Until now, it has been the only gold Thracian gold wreath in the collection of Bulgaria's National Museum of History in Sofia. Photo: Tourbillon, Wikipedia

This gold laurel wreath was discovered in an Ancient Thracian burial mound near Zlatinitsa and Malomirovo, Elhovo Municipality, in Southeast Bulgaria (it is part of the Zlatinitsa Gold Treasure, also known as the Zlatinitsa-Malomirovo Treasure). Until now, it has been the only gold Thracian gold wreath in the collection of Bulgaria’s National Museum of History in Sofia. Photo: Tourbillon, Wikipedia

“Of course, the first thought that crossed our minds was whether this wreath was not part of Syria’s ancient cultural heritage which has recently been sold out by the jihadists. However, we remembered immediately that there never were any Ancient Thracians in Syria," Dimitrov is quoted as saying.

According to three archaeologists from the National Museum of History, Gavrail Lazov, Elka Penkova, and Lyubava Konova, the gold laurel wreath was part of a rich funeral of some of the last kings of Ancient Thracians in the 1st century BC (possibly of the Odrysian Kingdom), or a member of his family.

The archaeologists are unable to determine in what part of Bulgaria the wreath originated; however, it most certainly was discovered by treasure hunters and became one of Bulgaria’s countless archaeological treasures that were smuggled and sold abroad.

The statement of the Museum has provided no information as to which auction house in the USA the wreath was bought form, and how exactly it made its way to the vendor.

It also does not mention how much exactly Petkov paid for it; however, some Bulgarian media have reported that “according to experts, the artifact is worth at least USD 100,000".

In a second news release hours after its first announcement, the National Museum of History in Sofia has informed of a “heated discussion" among experts on Ancient Thrace regarding the age of the gold laurel wreath.

Scholars specializing in the Bronze Age and Early Iron Age, such as archaeologists Martin Hristov and Stefan Alexandrov, and thracologist Prof. Ivan Marazov, however, believe that the wreath might date back to 1200-1300 BC, and might have even originated in Troy.

Their main argument is that in all known Ancient Thracian gold wreaths from the 5th-1st century BC, the band holding the gold leaves has the shape of a rounded branch.

However, the newly donated wreath has an elliptical flat band holding the leaves similar to wreaths found in the region of Ancient Troy dating back to the time of the Trojan War.

“It is known that many chiefs of Ancient Thracian tribes fought on the side of Troy in the Trojan War. One of them, King Rhesus, was even murdered by Odysseus. Perhaps, some of the others survived and was awarded with a golden laurel wreath," hypothesize some of the scholars from the Museum.

In its statement, the Museum reminds that existing connections between Troy and Ancient Thrace have been proven long ago.

For example, the artifacts from the Bronze Age layer of the Ancient Thracian settlement mound in Karanovo, Nova Zagora Municipality, in Southeast Bulgaria, are said to coincide with layer 7b-2 from the excavations of Troy from the time of the city’s demise, most likely in the middle of the 13th century BC.

“This has given ground to the hypothesis that the Thracians and the Trojans were in fact a single ethnicity that spread to both peninsulas – the Balkans and Asia Minor. It was no accident that the King of the Edoni (Edones) tribe, Rhesus, who was glorified by Homer in the Iliad as having “the tallest, finest horses… whiter than snow and fast as the wind", went to fight on the Trojans’ side and died at the hand of Odysseus," concludes Bulgaria’s National Museum of History.

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.

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 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.

Treasure hunting and illegal trafficking of antiques have been rampant in Bulgaria after the collapse of the communism regime in 1989 (and allegedly before that). Estimates vary but some consider this the second most profitable activity for the Bulgarian mafia after drug trafficking. One recent estimate suggests its annual turnover amounts to BGN 500 million (app. EUR 260 million), and estimates of the number of those involved range from about 5 000 to 200 000 – 300 000, the vast majority of whom are impoverished low-level diggers.