Bulgaria’s National Institute & Museum of Archaeology Publishes Catalog of Exhibition on ‘Female Beauty over the Centuries’

This ring made of gold and amthyst from the 3rd-2nd century BC found in a necropolis of ancient Messembria (today's Black Sea resort Nessebar) is one of the 170 items on display in the "Mirror of Time" exhibition. Photo: Krasimir Georgiev, National Institute and Museum of Archaeology

This ring made of gold and amthyst from the 3rd-2nd century BC found in a necropolis of ancient Messembria (today’s Black Sea resort Nessebar) is one of the 170 items on display in the “Mirror of Time” exhibition. Photo: Krasimir Georgiev, National Institute and Museum of Archaeology

Bulgaria’s National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia has published a catalog of its current dedicated to the exhibition “A Mirror of Time: Female Beauty over the Centuries".

The exhibit was opened at the end of May 2016, and will be on display at the Museum’s main building in downtown Sofia until September 25, 2016.

It features a total of 170 archaeological artifacts from all major historical periods since the 8th century BC, including both female adornments, and depictions of women on various kinds of vessels. One of the most interesting items on display is a 2,500-year-old Ancient Thracian toiletries box consisting of a gold-coated silver shell.

The artifacts in the exhibit come from the collections of a total of 16 museums of archaeology, history, and ethnography all over Bulgaria: the National Institute and Museum of History in Sofia, the Sozopol Museum of Archaeology, the Ancient Nessebar Museum, the Elhovo Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography, the Kazanlak Museum of History “Iskra", the National Museum of History in Sofia, the Plovdiv Museum of Archaeology, the Blagoevgrad Regional Museum of History, the Burgas Regional Museum of History, the Varna Museum of Archaeology (Varna Regional Museum of History), the Vratsa Regional Museum of History, the Pazardzhik Regional Museum of History, the Silistra Regional Museum of History, the Sliven Regional Museum of History, the Smolyan Regional Museum of History, and the Shumen Regional Museum of History.

The newly published 172-page catalog of the exhibition “A Mirror of Time: Female Beauty over the Centuries" is a bilingual edition – in Bulgarian and English funded by Bulgaria’s Ministry of Culture.

Its editors are Dr. Nataliya Ivanova, Assist. Prof. Petya Andreeva, and Assoc. Prof. Maria Reho from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology.

The catalog consists of four parts presenting chronologically the female costume and accessories characteristic for each period in the history of today’s Bulgarian territories.

The first part is dedicated to the traditions of female fashion in Ancient Thrace and the influence of Ancient Greece, with six articles presenting the characteristic clothing of Ancient Thracian and Ancient Greek women, the distinctive Thracian jewelry as well as the toiletries which were typical for the period.

The second part presents the influence of Ancient Rome, the adoption of new fashion in clothing as well as the typical hairstyles and jewelry, with an article reviewing the secrets of female beauty in Roman times based on the works of ancient authors and archaeological data.

The third part of the catalog presents female beauty during the Middle Ages, including the traditions and changes in aesthetics, costumes, jewelry, and accessories.

The last part of the book features photograph and annotations of all 170 artifacts in the exhibition, including jewelry from the necropolis near Duvanli, Plovdiv District, the oenochoe from the Rogozen Silver Treasure, the silver phiale from the Lukovit Treasure, the appliqué of horse trappings from the Letnitsa Treasure, the silver shell from Golyama Kosmatka Mound near Shipka in Central Bulgaria, the grave finds of noble Thracian women discovered in Kitova Mound and Raykova Mound, artifacts from from the Ancient Bulgar capital Pliska, the first capital of the First Bulgarian Empire (632/680-1018) south of the Danube, as well as the treasure from Nikolaevo, Pleven District, in Northern Bulgaria.

Beauty will save the world", beauty is a woman’s most important quality" are both expressions dismissed by many as cliches or even as offensive for the fair sex. The women’s genetic desire to be attractive is, however, an undeniable fact. Not surprisingly, the authors of the present exhibition are all women. This is probably why they tell in such a fascinating way and with competence about the clothing, jewels and cosmetics of the Thracian and medieval Bulgarian women as well as about the impact of Greek, Roman and Byzantine fashion," Assoc. Prof. Lyudmil Vagalinski, Director of the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology, has stated with respect to the catalog and the exhibition.

Over 170 selected items of gold, silver, bronze, glass, bone, marble, alabaster, clay, and cork illustrate the rich history of costume in the Bulgarian lands for more than 2,500 years (from the 8th century BC till the 18th century). Fifteen Bulgarian museums have helped the specialists from the oldest museum in Bulgaria – the National Archaeological Museum – to accomplish their idea to the fullest. I would like to thank also the Ministry of Culture for supporting financially this catalog.The mirror of time reflects" the Thracian tattoos and the piercings of our great-great-grandmothers as much as the contemporary sense of aesthetics. I hope that the female visitors and readers of this exhibition would like themselves even better after this journey through time," he adds.

For more detailed information about the catalog of the exhibition “A Mirror of Time: Female Beauty over the Centuries" view its full table of contents (PDF) in Bulgarian and English.

Ivanova, P. Andreeva, M. Reho (eds). The Mirror of Time: female beauty through the ages. Sofia. NIAM-BAS. 2016. ISBN: 978-954-9472-44. 172 р.

Download the ArchaeologyinBulgaria App for iPhone & iPad!

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr!

A poster for the "Mirror of Time" exhibition. Photo: National institute and Museum of Archaeology

A poster for the “Mirror of Time” exhibition. Photo: National institute and Museum of Archaeology

Save