Discovery of Ancient Thracian Primorsko Gold Treasure Explained in New Paper in Bulgaria’s e-Journal of Archaeology

The Primorsko Gold Treasure is one of the not so many complete sets of Ancient Thracian horse harness decorations discovered in Bulgaria. Photo: Primorsko Museum of History

A paper publushed in the Bulgarian e-Journal of Archaeology reveals the story of the discovery of the most recently found Ancient Thracian gold treasure in Bulgaria – the Primorsko Gold Treasure, which was dug up in 2016 in a burial mound near the Black Sea resort of Primorsko.

The paper’s abstracts are published in English and Bulgarian, and have also been released on the website of the Primorsko Museum of History (available in PDF here).

It is authored by Assoc. Prof. Petar Balabanov from New Bulgarian University in Sofia and Daniel Pantov, Director of the Primorsko Museum of History.

The paper is entitled “Treasure of Gold Appliqués for Horse Harness from Primorsko, and is published in the Bulgarian e-Journal of Archaeology, vol. 8 (2018) 1–1.

The Primorsko Gold Treasure was recently returned to its home town after being showcased in a traveling exhibition. It has been exhibited once again in the Treasury Hall built specially for it in the Museum of History of the Black Sea town in Southeast Bulgaria.

The Primorsko Gold Treasure is a complete set of Ancient Thracian gold appliques for a horse harness from ca. 300 BC.

The Primorsko Ancient Thracian Gold Treasure was formally shown to the public at the end of October 2016.

It consists of a total of 37 gold appliques which decorated the harness of the horse of an Ancient Thracian dynast (i.e. ruler) during parades and formal religious ceremonies.

It was discovered in a tomb during the rescue excavations of an Ancient Thracian burial mound located in an area known as Silihlyar, about 7 km away from the town of Primorsko, near the Black Sea coast.

The gold appliques are dated to the end of the 4th – beginning of the 3rd century BC, more precisely, to ca. 320 – 280 BC.

In order to guarantee the safety of the newly discovered gold treasure, the Primorsko Museum of History had a special safety vault built.

The Ancient Thracian gold treasure from Primorsko consists of a total of 8 large and 29 small appliques.

The top applique is made up of two round shields and a protome depicting an eagle’s head.

Thracian rulers used the harness adornments for their horses only on very special occasions.

The harness decorations were placed in their tombs as part of the burial inventories together with the horses who were sacrificed in order to follow their master into the afterlife.

The gold appliques from the Primorsko Treasure are believed to have been the work of a local Ancient Thracian goldsmith. Their decorative motifs are said to be typical of the Early Hellenistic Period.

The treasure has been discovered during rescue excavations of one of some 10 Thracian burial mounds situated in the Silihlyar area near Primorsko, after they had been attacked by modern-day treasure hunters.

The Ancient Thracian burial mound where the treasure was found was probably erected after the burial of the local Thracian ruler to whom it belonged. It is the largest of the burial mounds in Silihlyar, being 6 meters tall, and measuring 110 meters in diameter.

It was also the first of all mounds in the area to have been excavated in rescue digs following the modern-day treasure hunting raids.

The Primorsko Gold Treasure appears similar to other Ancient Thracian treasures containing gold horse harness decorations such as the Ivanski Gold Treasure found in 1986 near the town of Ivanski, Shumen District, in Northeast Bulgaria, and the especially impressive Sveshtari Gold Treasure found in 2012 in the the Sboryanovo Archaeological Preserve, Razgrad District, also in Northeast Bulgaria, which also contains other jewelry in addition to harness decoration appliques.

The Sveshtari Gold Treasure belonged to a dynast of the Getae (Gets), a powerful Thracian group of tribes who inhabited today’s Northeast Bulgaria and Southern Romania, and the Ivanski Gold Treasure belonged to a dynast of the Krobyzoi tribe which was part of the tribal union of the Getae.

The newly found Primorsko Gold Treasure is associated with a different group of Thracian tribes which inhabited today’s Southeast Bulgaria and Northwest Turkey, and especially the region of the Strandzha Mountain, a large Ancient Thracian kingdom consolidated in the Strandzha Mountain, with its capital in Bizye, today’s Vize in Turkey.

Bulgaria’s Primorsko, a Black Sea resort, plans to promote as cultural tourism destinations archaeological sites excavated around the town in recent years .

An entire previously unknown Ancient Thracian fortress, the Pharmakida Fortress, which was the fortified residence of a dynast in the 2nd-1st century AD, was discovered nearby in 2015. Primorsko Municipality is also famous for the Beglik Tash Thracian rock shrine.

Fortified homes of aristocrats from the Ancient Thracian tribe Asti have also recently been discovered and/or excavated near the towns of Brodilovo and Sinemorets in Tsarevo Municipality on the Black Sea, right to the south of Primorsko Municipality.

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