Visitors Flocking to See Bulgaria’s Exhibition of Ancient Thracian Gold from Zlatinitsa – Malomirovo Treasure in Poland’s Capital Warsaw

Visitors Flocking to See Bulgaria’s Exhibition of Ancient Thracian Gold from Zlatinitsa – Malomirovo Treasure in Poland’s Capital Warsaw

The opening of Bulgaria’s Ancient Thracian “Insignia of Power” exhibition showcasing gold artifacts from the Zlatinitsa – Malomirovo Treasure in the Royal Lazienki Museum in Warsaw, Poland, is said to have generated great interest. Photo: Bulgaria’s Ministry of Culture

A “long line of visitors" formed for the opening of an exhibition of part of the 4th century BC Zlatinitsa – Malomirovo Treasure, one of Bulgaria’s numerous stunning treasures from Ancient Thrace, opened by Bulgaria and Poland in the Royal Lazienki Museum in the Polish capital Warsaw, the Bulgarian organizers have said.

The exhibition of gold artifacts from the Zlatinitsa – Malomirovo Treasure entitled “Insignia of Power. Thracian Gold from the Collections of the National History Museum in Sofia", has been officially opened on May 1, and can be seen until May 31, 2018.

Bulgaria’s National Museum of History in Sofia has released photos from the opening which show a long line of visitors waiting to see the displayed gold artifacts from the Zlatinitsa – Malomirovo Treasure.

The Thracian “Insignia of Power" Exhibition in the Royal Lazienki Museum in Poland’s capital Warsaw is going to feature only three of the artifacts from the Zlatinitsa – Malomirovo Treasure but those are three of the most impressive ones.

Namely, the gold laurel wreath of the Ancient Thracian ruler (or a ruler’s young heir) featuring a depiction of ancient victory goddess Nike, a massive gold seal ring found on the little finger of the Thracian ruler’s left hand, and a chain of 29 gold rosettes which were attached to a leather band placed on his head in the form of a crown.

The ring depicts scene from Ancient Thracian mythology which is known from other artifacts as well, namely, how the Great Mother Goddess offers a phiale (bowl) to the Horseman – King (also known as the Thracian Horseman) in order to make him part of the world of gods.

The official poster for Bulgaria’s exhibition of part of the Ancient Thracian Zlatinitsa – Malomirovo Treasure in the Royal Lazienki Museum in Poland’s capital Warsaw. Photo: Bulgaria’s National Museum of History

The line of visitors waiting to see Bulgaria’s Ancient Thracian “Insignia of Power” exhibition in the Royal Lazienki Museum in Warsaw, Poland, on its opening day. Photo: Bulgaria’s National Museum of History

The official opening of the Ancient Thracian “Insignia of Power” exhibition in the Lazienki Museum in Warsaw, Poland. Photo: Bulgaria’s National Museum of History

The exhibition of the Thracian “Insignia of Power" from the Zlatinitsa – Malomirovo Treasure has been opened by Kalina Stancheva, Director of the Bulgarian Cultural Institute in Warsaw, Pavlina Ilieva, Deputy Director of the National Museum of History in Sofia, and Zbigniew Wawer, Director of Poland’s Royal Lazienki Museum. Bulgaria’s Ambassador to Poland Emil Yalnazov has also attended the opening ceremony.

Lazienki Museum Director Wawer has pointed out that the Thracian “Insignia of Power" exhibition is the first time an Ancient Thracian gold treasure from Bulgaria is shown in Poland since 1976.

The Royal Lazienki Museum in Warsaw is going to present a guest exhibition at the National Museum of History in Sofia displaying selected 18th century paintings from its collection. The exhibition in question is to be held in June 2019.

The exhibition of gold artifacts from the Zlatinitsa – Malomirovo Treasure, “Insignia of Power. Thracian Gold from the Collections of the National History Museum in Sofia", is organized by the National Museum of History in Sofia (which is the owner of the Zlatinitsa – Malomirovo Treasure), Bulgaria’s Culture Ministry, and the Bulgarian Cultural Institute in Warsaw.

It is part of the cultural program of the Bulgarian Presidency of the European Union, which spans the first half of 2018, and is also dedicated to the European Year of Cultural Heritage, and to the 45th anniversary since the founding of the National Museum of History in Sofia (together with three more international exhibitions of Bulgaria’s National Museum of History – in Slovakia’s capital Bratislava, in the Russia’s capital Moscow, and in the Louvre Museum in France’s capital Paris).

The insignia of power from Bulgaria’s Ancient Thracian Zlatinitsa – Malomirovo Treasure as exhibited in the Royal Lazienki Museum in Warsaw, Poland: the golden laurel wreath, the crown of 29 gold rosettas, and the massive gold seal ring depicting the Great Mother Goddess and the Thracian Horseman, supreme deities from the Ancient Thracian mythology. Photos: Bulgaria’s Ministry of Culture (above) and Bulgaria’s National Museum of History (below)

The Zlatinitsa – Malomirovo Gold and Silver Treasure was discovered in 2005 by Bulgarian archaeologist Daniela Agre in a Thracian burial mound in Elhovo Municipality in Southeast Bulgaria.

It is considered especially notable for a number of reasons, including the fact that it came from a fully intact grave of an Ancient Thracian ruler from the Odrysian Kingdom (5th century BC – 1st century AD), the fact that the funeral inventory was especially rich, and the fact that discovering a treasure in Bulgaria during archaeological excavations is considered more of an exception than a rule since most of the most famous treasures from Ancient Thrace (and not only) have been found by accident.

The person who was buried in the Large Mound, an Ancient Thracian tumulus between Bulgaria’s Zlatinitsa and Malomirovo, may have been one of the four known sons of King Cersobleptes (Cersebleptes, Kersobleptes, Kersebleptes), son of Cotys I, King of the Ancient Thracian Odrysian Kingdom (r. 384 – 360 BC).

Learn more about the Ancient Thracian Zlatinitsa – Malomirovo Gold and Silver Treasure in the Background Infonotes below!

The exhibition will be open in the Palace on the Isle Tuesday through Thursday from 10 am until 6 pm, on Fridays from 10 am until 8 pm, and on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am until 6 pm. From 1 to 8 May, admission to the exhibition will be free, and on subsequent days, a ticket will be required to enter the Palace on the Isle (Thursdays are the day of admission-free visits).

The Palace on the Isle in the Lazienki Park in Warsaw which houses Poland’s Royal Lazienki Museum. Photo: Bulgaria’s National Museum of History

Poland’s Royal Lazienki Museum points out that the Zlatinitsa – Malomirovo Treasure was discovered in the burial ground of a young, athletic man, who was about 185-190 centimetres (6 feet 1 – 3 inches) tall.

“The discovery led to the finding that the ruler, who lived in the mid-4th century B.C. died at the age of 18 or 19. We can state with a high degree of certainty that he was the son of the Thracian king Kersobleptos and most likely died fighting the army of Philip II of Macedon during the latter’s invasion of Thracia between 341 and 339 BC," the Museum says.

“The grave found in the Great Burial Mound (Golyamata Mogila near Bulgaria’s Zlatinitsa and Malomirovo – editor’s note) is among the most valuable archaeological discoveries in Thracia (Thrace). The objects found inside are of great scientific and artistic value," it adds.

“The following insignia of the Thracian ruler and hero are presented in the Royal Lazienki: the wonderful golden wreath, which crowned the head of the deceased, golden rosettes from his leather diadem, and a large ring with a stamp, found on the little finger of the left hand of the man," the Polish Museum adds.

The 4th century BC golden laurel wreath from the Zlatinitsa – Malomirovo Treasure and the 29 gold rosettes attached to a band, which served as a crown to the Ancient Thracian ruler buried in the mound where the treasure was found. Photo: Bulgaria’s Ministry of Culture.

An image of ancient victory goddess Nike decorates the middle of the Ancient Thracian gold laurel wreath from the Zlatinitsa – Malomirovo Treasure showcased in the Polish capital Warsaw. Photo: Bulgaria’s Ministy of Culture

The ring from the Zlatinitsa – Malomirovo Treasure depicts a scene from Ancient Thracian mythology which is known from other artifacts as well, namely, how the Great Mother Goddess offers a phiale (bowl) to the Horseman – King (also known as the Thracian Horseman) in order to make him part of the world of gods. Photo: Bulgaria’s Ministry of Culture.

It emphasizes the description of the Ancient Thracian ruler’s insignia from Bulgaria’s Zlatinitsa – Malomirovo Treasure, as follows,

“The wreath is composed of three interconnected olive tree branches adorned with 70 leaves cast from a mould. The have an elliptic shape, considerably extended in the upper section. Olives have been placed between the two rows of leaves. The decorative part of the front of the wreath depicts the goddess of victory, Nike, wearing a long chiton tied at the waist with a belt. In her left hand – held downwards, in line with her body – is a wreath, and in her right hand, a phiale.

The chain consisting of 29 golden rosettes adorned the leather strap, which rested – together with the wreath – on the head of the deceased ruler. The diadem was not only a decoration, but also a Thracian symbol of authority.

The shank of the golden stamp ring was made of a large wire with a round cross section. The plate of the stamp contains an engraved depiction of the Great Mother Goddess handing a phiale to the Horse Rider coming to meet her. The ring was used for a long time; the internal part bears traces of repair by welding.

In the burial mound, archaeologists have also found a full battle armour of the ruler-fighter – an iron sword with a wooden hilt with the head of a griffin at its end, decorated with silver nails; 200 bronze arrows; seven lances; an iron woven scale armour adorned with three silver appliques, as well as a bronze helmet. For the first time in Thrace, a leather helmet liner was discovered, dyed in purple. One of the most valuable objects placed in the tomb was the ceremonial poleyn made of gilded silver. The poleyn is fully covered with sculptures depicting a mythical and religious tale of the deceased ruler. It is one of the most beautiful creations of Thracian metalwork.

The grave also contained two silver rhytons, which can be regarded as world-class treasures of ancient metalwork. The rhytons – conically-shaped receptacles used for drinking wine – are adorned with heads of deer at their ends. They were made with utmost precision and virtuosity, testifying to the artistic mastery of their makers. All sculpted elements of rhytons are gilded."

An item not included in the Warsaw exhibition: One of the two deer head-shaped gold-coated silver rhytons from the Ancient Thracian treasure of Zlatinitsa-Malomirovo dated to the first half of the 4th century BC. Photo: Bulgaria’s Ministry of Culture

An item not included in the Warsaw exhibition: The stunning gold and silver greave (knee-piece) from the Ancient Thracian treasure of Zlatinitsa – Malomirovo dated to the first half of the 4th century BC. Photo: Bulgaria’s Ministry of Culture

The Lazienki Park (“baths park") in Warsaw was originally designed in the 17th century for nobleman Stanislaw Herakliusz Lubomirski, “one of the most important politicians, writers, and philosophers of his time".

In 1764, the place was bought and transformed by Polish King Stanislaw August. A previously baroque pavilion on a small island was turned into a neoclassical palace, with the help of architects from Italy and Dresden. The Lazienki Park including the so called Palace on the Isle has been a public park and a tourist spot since 1918.

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Relevant Books on Amazon.com:

A Companion to Ancient Thrace (Blackwell Companions to the Ancient World)

Thrace: The History of the Ancient World’s Link Between East and West

Orpheus and Greek Religion (Mythos Books)

Dionysus in Thrace: Ancient Entheogenic Themes in the Mythology and Archeology of Northern Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey

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Background Infonotes:

The Treasure of Zlatinitsa – Malomirovo is a rich Ancient Thracian gold and silver treasure from the 4th century BC, the time of the Ancient Thracian Odrysian Kingdom.

The Zlatinitsa – Malomirovo Treasure was discovered in 2005 by archaeologist Daniela Agre from Bulgaria’s National Institute and Museum of Archaeology during rescue excavations of Golyamata Mogila (“The Large Mound"), an Ancient Thracian burial mound between the towns of Zlatinitsa and Malomirovo, Elhovo Municipality, Yambol District, in Southwest Bulgaria.

The rescue excavations were carried out after the Large Mound had been targeted repeatedly by treasure hunters trying to loot it. The mound in question was part of a large necropolis including a number of Ancient Thracian burial mounds.

Daniela Agre’s discovery is seen as especially rare not only because the better part of Bulgaria’s numerous stunning treasures from Ancient Thrace have been discovered by accident, and finding a treasure during excavations is deemed more of an exception than a rule, but also because the discovery of an intact grave of an ancient (Thracian) ruler is also extremely rare.

The grave found the Large Mound between Zlatnitsa and Malomirovo in Southeast Bulgaria in 2005 contained a big funeral inventory ranging from gold jewelry and adornments to armaments and horse harness decorations.

The most impressive treasure finds are:

A gold laurel wreath with an image of ancient victory goddess Nike;

29 gold rosettes which attached to a leather band placed on the deceased Thracian ruler’s head at the time of his burial;

A massive gold seal ring which the Thracian ruler wore on the little finger of his left hand featuring a Thracian mythology scene known from other artifacts as well, namely, how the Great Mother Goddess offers a phiale (bowl) to the Horseman – King (also known as the Thracian Horseman) in order to make him part of the world of gods;

A silver greave with gold plating richly decorated with images of the Ancient Thracian ruler and Thracian mythology scenes;

2 silver rhytons with gold plating shaped as deer heads – one of the rhytons is decorated with a relief showing two griffins tearing to pieces a bull, the other has relief showing two young warriors killing a boar;

4 silver phiales (bowls), a bronze jug, a bronze situla (bucket or pail), a bronze sifter, a wide dish decorated with an applique, a semi-spherical bronze vessel, a black-figure kylix (wine cup), a pelike (vessel similar to an amphora), four amphorae from the Island of Thasos in the Aegean (Mediterranean) Sea, and an alabastron (a small vessel for oils) made alabaster;

Horse harness decorations: two sets of silver horse harness appliques, 200 silver beads, and two iron reins.

The armaments found in the Ancient Thracian grave with the Zlatinitsa – Malomirovo Treasure include an iron sword of the makhaira type typical for the Thracians, 200 bronze arrows, 7 spears, an iron chain armor, and a bronze Chalcidian type helmet.

On his feet, the buried Thracian ruler had a pair of leather moccasins, the first such find from Ancient Thrace.

The grave from the Large Mound between Zlatinitsa and Malomirovo is one of the richest burials from 4th century BC Ancient Thrace to have been discovered in Bulgaria so far.

Bulgarian archaeologists especially emphasize the value of the gold laurel wreath and the silver and gold greave describing them as marvelous works of Thracian “toreutics", i.e. artistic metalworking, especially since the decorations scenes shed more light on Thracian mythology, religion, and funeral rites.

Anthropological analysis has shown that the buried Thracian aristocrat was 18 or 19 years old when he died. The artifacts found in his grave are symbols of power and status legitimizing him as an important figure in Thracian society.

Leading hypotheses state that the grave where the Zlatinitsa – Malomirovo Treasure was associated with King Cersobleptes (Cersebleptes, Kersobleptes, Kersebleptes), son of Cotys I, King of the Ancient Thracian Odrysian Kingdom (r. 384 – 360 BC). The person who was buried in the Large Mound may have been one of the four known sons of Cersobleptes.

In the mound, the archaeologists have also found the skeletons of two horses and a dog from an extinct breed. The laying of the Thracian aristocrat’s favorite animals in his grave is a well-known Thracian custom. The dog was found to have been ritually killed with a large stone judging from hairs stuck to the stone. The animal remains were covered with three hemp mats.

In order to honor their deceased ruler, the Thracians from the respective tribe dig up two moats at the burial mound which were used as alleys for remembrance rites such as horse and dog sacrifices, and leaving food and wine.

More offerings were made on top of the grave – there was a wooden structure above the grave itself, and stones were put on top of it. At this “monument", the Thracians would smash pottery vessels filled with food.

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