Newly Restored 3,000-Year-Old Gold Breastplate from Huge Thracian Necropolis in Western Bulgaria Shown for the First Time

The newly restored Ancient Thracian golden breastplate discovered in the 1st millennium BC necropolis near Bulgaria's Dren and Delyan during the rescue excavations in 2012 has never been shown before. Photo: Pernik Municipality

The newly restored Ancient Thracian golden breastplate discovered in the 1st millennium BC necropolis near Bulgaria’s Dren and Delyan during the rescue excavations in 2012 has never been shown before. Photo: Pernik Municipality

A newly restored golden breastplate and some 500 other artifacts, mostly adornments and jewels, discovered during rescue excavations of an enormous Ancient Thracian stone necropolis from the 1st millennium BC in Pernik District in Western Bulgaria have been shown for the first time.

The breastplate and the hundreds of other Thracian artifacts were found in 2012 when the construction of the Struma Highway in Southwest Bulgaria exposed a huge necropolis located near the towns of Dren and Delyan.

The necropolis in question was used by the Ancient Thracians from the 11th century BC until the 4th century BC, i.e. for more than 600 years.

The golden breastplate and the other artifacts are now being presented to the public for the first time in an exhibition of the Pernik Regional Museum of History entitled “Time’s Way", which was opened on Friday, April 22, 2016, and will be on display until September, the press center of Pernik Municipality informs in a release.

The showcasing of the breastplate and most of the rest of the Thracian artifacts has become possible after their restoration with funding from the American Research Center in Sofia and the America for Bulgaria Foundation.

Archaeologist from the Pernik Museum Filip Mihaylov, who was also the lead archaeologist in the research of the huge Ancient Thracian necropolis back in 2012-2013, notes that about 200 of the some 500 finds are glass beads.

Mihaylov’s most favorite find from the necropolis is a tiny spindle whorl. He says he had not seen anything like it before since it seems to be a miniature urn model.

The newly restored Ancient Thracian golden breastplate with colorful glass jewels from the Ancient Thracian necropolis in Bulgaria's Radomir Municipality. Photo: Pernik Municipality

The newly restored Ancient Thracian golden breastplate with colorful glass jewels from the Ancient Thracian necropolis in Bulgaria’s Radomir Municipality. Photo: Pernik Municipality

Some 500 artifacts discovered in the Thracian necropolis have been shown to the public for the first time in the exhibit of the Pernik Museum. Photos: Pernik Municipality

Some 500 artifacts such as gold, silver, bronze, and glass jewels, horse ammunition, arms, urns, and other vessels discovered in the Thracian necropolis have been shown to the public for the first time in the exhibit of the Pernik Museum. Photos: Pernik Municipality

Pernik Thracian Necropolis Exhibition 4 The Ancient Thracian necropolis near the towns of Dren and Delyan, Radomir Municipality, Pernik District, in Southwest Bulgaria has a total area of about 100 decares (app. 25 acres) making it the largest known necropolis in the Central Balkans.

In it, the archaeologists have excavated three chain-like complexes of stone graves with a combined length of 400 meters.

They have unearthed a total of 55 Thracian graves dating back to the 11th-9th century BC, and another 50 graves from the 6th-4th century BC. The corpses of the buried ancient people had been burned before the funerals.

The artifacts discovered in the grave inventories include gold, silver, bronze, amber, and glass adornments and decorations, including the relatively well-preserved golden rhomboid breastplate, fragments from several other golden breastplates, sets of golden earrings, golden hairpins, a pair of gold-plates tweezers, silver medallions, and glass jewels painted in green and blue. Other finds include parts of horse reins and ammunition, weapons, urns, and lots of other pottery vessels from a previously unknown archaeological culture.

The necropolis near Dren and Delyan is said to be remarkable not just because of its size and funeral inventories but also because of its structure. Even though the location of the necropolis has no stone deposits, the Ancient Thracians covered the graves with enormous grave stones.

It has also been established that the necropolis itself was built in accordance with a preliminary planning meaning that it had been designed for long-term use, a fact proven also through the dating of the funerals and their inventories.

“Its usage for a period of over 600 years is evidence that it was one and the same population that buried its relatives in it," says the Pernik Museum in a release.

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Advertising poster for the "Time's Way" Exhibition of the Pernik Regional Museum of History which shows for the first time hundreds of Ancient Thracian artifacts from as early as 1100 BC. Photo: Pernik Regional Museum of History Facebook Page

Advertising poster for the “Time’s Way” Exhibition of the Pernik Regional Museum of History which shows for the first time hundreds of Ancient Thracian artifacts from as early as 1100 BC. Photo: Pernik Regional Museum of History Facebook Page

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 enormous Ancient Thracian stone necropolis from the 1st millennium BC located near the towns of Dren and Delyan, Radomir Municipality, Pernik District, in Western Bulgaria, was discovered during the construction of the Struma Highway in 2012. It was in use from the 11th century BC until the 4th century BC, i.e. roughly from the Early Iron Age until the Late Iron Age.

The team of lead archaeologist Filip Mihaylov from the Pernik Regional Museum of History who conducted the rescue excavations unearthed there a total of 55 Thracian graves dating back to the 11th-9th century BC, and another 50 graves from the 6th-4th century BC. The funerals were performed through corpse burning.

The artifacts discovered in the grave inventories include gold, silver, bronze, amber, and glass adornments and decorations, including the relatively well-preserved golden rhomboid breastplate, fragments from several other golden breastplates, sets of golden earrings, golden hairpins, a pair of gold-plates tweezers, silver medallions, and glass jewels painted in green and blue. Other finds include parts of horse reins and ammunition, weapons, urns, and lots of other pottery vessels from a previously unknown archaeological culture..

The discovery of horse reins in the necropolis shows that horses were bridled as early as the 5th century BC. The numerous weapons and gold jewels indicate that local aristocrats were buried in the Thracian cemetery.

The Ancient Thracian necropolis near the towns of Dren and Delyan in Southwest Bulgaria has a total area of about 100 decares (app. 25 acres) making it the largest known necropolis in the Central Balkans.

In it, the archaeologists have excavated three chain-like sets of stone graves with a combined length of 400 meters.

Even though the location of the necropolis has no stone deposits, the Ancient Thracians covered the graves with enormous grave stones. It has also been established that the necropolis itself was built according to preliminary planning meaning that it was designed for long-term use, a fact proven through the dating of the funerals and their inventories. The long-term usage of the necropolis itself is seen as evidence that it was in use by one and the same population.

The necropolis was first discovered in the spring of 2012 but the discovery was kept secret for several months so as to preclude treasure hunters from looting the site. The finds themselves were rescued at the last moment because of the urgency in the construction of the Struma Highway whose EU funding had strict deadlines.

The artifacts found in it are part of the collection of the Pernik Regional Museum of History which showcased many of them for the first time after their restoration in an exhibition in April 2016.

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