A file photo shows archaeologist Georgi Ginev, already retired, as he views the Kralevo Gold Treasure upon its return to the Targovishte Museum of History in 2012, for the first time since he discovered it 33 years earlier, back in 1979.
Bulgarian archaeologist Georgi Ginev best known for discovering the Ancient Thracian Kralevo Gold Treasure back in 1979 passed away on January 11, 2019.
An expert in the Antiquity period, Ginev was part of the team of the Regional Museum of History in the city of Targovishte in Northeast Bulgaria from 1966 until 2004.
During his career, the archaeologist participated in the research and registering of over 800 archaeological sites from the Antiquity and the Middle Ages in the Targovishte District.
“Thanks to his collecting and research, the collections of the Targovishte Museum of History have been enriched with thousands of cultural heritage artifacts, while hundreds of historical monuments of local and national importance have been saved," the Museum says.
In 1976, archaeologist Georgi Ginev excavated the Late Antiquity / Early Byzantine and medieval fortress of Krumovo Kale (Krum’s Fortress, also known as Missionis) near Targovishte and the fortress near the town of Dolna Kabda, and a Roman villa near Targovishte.
In 1983 – 1984, he researched a Roman necropolis near the town of Mogilets, and a necropolis of Ancient Thracian burial mounds near the town of Paydushko.
In 1992, he excavated a Thracian tomb from the 4th – 3rd century BC near the town of Chernokaptsi, and in 1996, an Ancient Thracian burial mound near the town of Vrani Kon, Omurtag Municipality, among many other sites.
However, Ginev is best known for having served as the lead archaeologist for the excavations of the necropolis of six Ancient Thracian burial mounds near the town of Kralevo.
It was there, in Mound No. 3, that he discovered the Kralevo Gold Treasure in the grave of a cremated Thracian aristocrat from the 3rd century BC.
“Thanks to his discovery, the name of Targovishte has been featured in all major exhibitions and catalogues of presenting Bulgaria to the world (in the USA, Japan, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Mexico, and many other countries," the Targovishte Regional Museum of History says.
“Georgi Ginev had the authority of a serious, meticulous, and successful researched of the Antiquity among the archaeological and museum community in Bulgaria," the institution adds.
“He supported and passed his knowledge and experience to the young archaeologists and museum experts in the Targoviste Museum," it concludes.
The Kralevo Gold Treasure is an Ancient Thracian gold and silver treasure discovered in a Thracian burial mound near the town of Kralevo, Targovishte Municipality, Targovishte District, in Northeast Bulgaria.
The Kralevo Gold Treasure was discovered in July 1979 by archaeologist Georgi Ginev from the Regional Museum of History in the city of Targovishte. (Ginev passed away in January 2019, nearly 40 years after he discovered one of Bulgaria’s most notable Thracian threasures.)
At the time, Ginev was researching an Ancient Thracian necropolis near Kralevo consisting of six Thracian burial mounds.
The Kralevo Gold Treasure was discovered in burial mound No. 3. Before that, however, in mound No. 1, the archaeologists found a bronze helmet, an iron sword, and Ancient Greek pottery vessels decorated with black polish.
In burial mound No. 2, Ginev’s team found a bowl filled with burned bones and ashes. Mounds No. 4 and 5 were found to contain no tombs or traces of burials whatsoever.
In burial mound No. 6, the researchers discovered a rectangular Thracian tomb which, however, had been completely looted by treasure hunters.
Burial mound No. 3 from the Thracian necropolis near Kralevo turned out to be the best preserved of all six.
It was inside it that archaeologist Georgi Ginev discovered an intact grave containing an urn with the bones and ashes of the buried person together with rich funeral gifts for the afterlife – the Kralevo Gold Treasure.
The Kralevo Gold Treasure consists of some 60 gold, silver, and iron artifacts:
Two gold earrings, two gold coated silver bracelets, a silver breastplate, an iron ax, strigils (an ancient tool for scraping off dirt and oil from the body, especially after sports games), and a total of 47 ornate appliques for decorating a horse harness (horse tack) weighing a combined total of 300 grams.
The Ancient Thracian burial in question and the Kralevo Gold Treasure discovered in it are date to the 3rd century BC.
Not unlike many other Ancient Thracian treasures discovered in Bulgaria, the Kralevo Gold Treasure is notable for the sophisticated craftsmanship of its jewels.
The silver bracelets plated with gold are shaped like snakes with double tales, while the earrings depict lion heads.
The golden harness medallion designed for the horse’s forehead is shaped like an eight, and decorated with an eagle head sticking forward; 4 round appliques depict ancient hero Hercules (Heracles) whose epic was especially popular in the Antiquity world, while 2 rectangular appliques feature griffins deemed symbols of power, wisdom, and immortality.
Further excavations of burial mound No. 3 in the necropolis near Bulgaria’s Kralevo demonstrated that the mound containing the cremated remains and the gold treasure was erected on top of a shrine.
The archaeologists discovered there clay altars, hearths, and ritual pits containing two horse skeletons and one dog skeleton. A notable find is one of the clay altars which appears similar to clay alters discovered during the excavations of Seuthopolis, the capital of the Ancient Thracian Odrysian Kingdom whose ruins remain today submerged on the bottom of the Koprinka Water Reservoir near Kazanlak (in the Valley of Odrysian Thracian Kings).
In the time of Ancient Thrace, today’s Northeast Bulgaria was inhabited by the powerful tribal union of the Getae (Gets) (whereas the Odrysians were based in today’s Southern Bulgaria).
Both the Kralevo Gold Treasure and the fact that the burial mound where it was found was built on top of an ancient shrine prove that the man buried in it was a very prominent Thracian aristocrat.
The discovery of the 23-karat Thracian gold treasure was made at the last moment – on the last evening of the excavations when Ginev had remained behind still digging only with the help of three students.
After its discovery by Georgi Ginev, the Kralevo Gold Treasure remained in the city of Targovishte for only several days. It was quickly added to the collection of the recently established National Museum of History in Sofia.
It was returned to the Targovishte Regional Museum of History to much fanfare only in 2012, 33 years after its discovery. In 2015, it was announced that the treasure would remain there, much closer to Kralevo where it was discovered.