These five rein rings from a Celtic chariot, found in a Thracian burial mound, are five of the seven artifacts with which Bulgaria is participating in the “Celts” exhibit in Edinburgh. Photo: National Institute and Museum of Archaeology
The exhibition entitled “Celts" of the National Museum of Scotland was opened on March 10, 2016, and is to continue until September 25.
It features more than 300 artifacts from all over Europe representing a period of 2,500 years, focusing on the evolution of art styles, including through the contact of different cultures.
The National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia is participating in the “Celts” exhibit in Edinburgh with rein rings from a Celtic chariot discovered in an Ancient Thracian tomb of the Maltete tumulus (burial mound) near the town of Mezek, Svilengrad Municipality, in Southeast Bulgaria.
The Maltepe tomb was discovered by accident in 1931 by locals, and was excavated by Prof. Bogdan Filov and Dr. Ivan Velkov, curator at the National Museum of Archaeology in Sofia.
The tumulus and the tomb are dated to the 4th century BC; they yielded a rich inventory of artifacts including gold jewels, bronze and ceramic vessels, bronze items, Bulgaria’s National Institute and Museum of Archaeology notes.
In 1941, German scholar of Celtic art Paul Jacobstahl identified seven bronze appliqués (rein rings) among all artifacts found in the Matele burial mound as fittings of an Ancient Celtic chariot.
The rein rings are pictured here in the 1970s before their cleanup. Photo: National institute and Museum of Archaeology
In the 5th-1st century BC, the Ancient Celts had close interaction and exchange with the Ancient Thracians. In the 3rd century BC, from ca. 277 BC until ca. 213-214 BC, for a period of about 60 years, the Celts even conquered the southeastern part of Ancient Thrace, and established a Celtic state along the valley of the Tundzha River.
The capital of their short-lived kingdom was a city known as Tille (or Tile) whose location has not been discovered by the Bulgarian archaeologists yet (assuming that it was located in today’s Bulgaria, and not in today’s European Turkey).
There have been different hypotheses as to how the bronze appliqués from a Celtic chariot ended up in the Maltepe tomb which is known to have been a Thracian aristocratic tomb.
Artifacts from the Celts exhibit in Edinburgh. Photo: National Museum of Scotland
Here is the description of the “Celts" exhibition of the National Museum of Scotland from its website:
“The idea of a shared Celtic heritage across ancient Europe retains a powerful hold over the popular imagination. But many common ideas about the people known as ‘Celts’ are in fact more recent re-imaginings, revived and reinvented over the centuries.
This major exhibition, organised in partnership with the British Museum, unravels the complex story of the different groups who have used or been given the name ‘Celts’ through the extraordinary art objects they made and used.
Spanning more than 2,500 years, the exhibition explores history through these powerful decorated objects and examines how art styles have changed considerably over time, often flourishing during periods when different cultures came into contact.
Discover magnificent Iron Age treasures adorned with intricate patterns and fantastic animals, rich with hidden meanings, which were used for feasting, religious ceremonies, adornment and warfare. Learn how these distinctive art styles were transformed and took on new influences in response to the expanding Roman world and the spread of Christianity. Then examine how the decorative arts of the late 19th century were inspired by different ideas about Europe’s past, and played a key role in defining what it meant to be Irish, Welsh, Scottish and British.
Featuring more than 300 treasured objects from across the UK and Europe, assembled together in Scotland for the first time, this is a unique opportunity to explore the idea of ‘Celts’ as one of the fundamental building blocks of European history."