Previously Unseen Ancient Thracian Weapons Showcased in Special Exhibition in Bulgaria’s Danube City of Ruse

Previously Unseen Ancient Thracian Weapons Showcased in Special Exhibition in Bulgaria’s Danube City of Ruse

Part of the official poster for the “Thracian Armanents from the 1st Millenium BC” exhibition at the Ruse Regional Museum of History. Photo: Ruse Regional Museum of History

Previously unseen Ancient Thracian weapons from the 1st millennium BC discovered in Thracian settlements and burial mounds in Northeast Bulgaria have been showcased for the first time in a special exhibition at the Regional Museum of History in the Danube city of Ruse.

The exhibition entitled “Thracian Armaments from the 1st Millennium BC" is a guest exhibition put together from experts from the Regional Museum of History in the city of Shumen, also in Northeast Bulgaria.

The Ancient Thracian tribes inhabited most of the Balkan Peninsula as of the Bronze Age, after the Proto-Thracians took over the local prehistoric population that gave birth to the Lower Danube Valley civilization, also known as Old Europe.

While probably the most powerful Ancient Thracian kingdom was the Odrysian Kingdom (5th century BC – 1st century AD), dominated by the Odrysae, which was centered in the Valley of Odrysian Thracian Kings in Central Bulgaria with its impressive Hellenistic Era capital Seuthopolis submerged by the Bulgarian communist regime in the 1950s, the Getae (Gets) which inhabited today’s Northeast Bulgaria and Southeast Romania probably had the second most power Thracian kingdom.

They were either the same as, or closely related with the Dacians north of the Danube, in today’s Romania, so much so that scholars often talk of Getae – Dacians.

One of the best-known maps of Ancient Thrace from a book co-authored by the founder of thracology, Prof. Alexander Fol. Photos: TV grabs from Kiss13 TV

All of Ancient Thrace south of the Danube, including the remnants of the Odrysian Kingdom, was conquered by the Roman Empire in 46 AD, in a conquest that took two centuries, after which the Thracian aristocracy became well integrated in the Roman imperial system.

The Dacians north of the Danube were conquered by the Romans only in the early 2nd century AD, and the Roman domination north of the Lower Danube proved short-lived as the province of Dacia was lost towards the end of the 3rd century AD.

The Thracian weapons collection of the Shumen Regional Museum of History consists of nearly 4,000 exhibits, and some of the most intriguing are presented in the newly opened exhibition in the Danube city of Ruse.

A total of 125 Ancient Thracian armaments have been put on display in the Ruse Museum of History in the exhibition opened on July 9, 2019, the Museum has announced.

The displayed Thracian arms include both offensive and defensive weapons but the bulk are from the offensive type.

Several types of Thracian battle axes are shown in the exhibition of the previously unseened Thracian weapons. Photo: Ruse Regional Museum of History

The various types of swords, spear tips, and arrow tips from the Ancient Thracians in Northeast Bulgaria. Photos: TV grabs from Kiss13 TV

Lead projectiles for slings that worked similarly to bullets. Photos: TV grabs from Kiss13 TV

The offensive Thracian armaments from the 1st millennium BC showcased in the exhibition include makhairai – a makhaira is curved single-edged sword; acinaci – an acinaces (akinakes) is a double-edged short sword or dagger; a rhomphaia, a Thracian curved short sword; battle axes; spear tips including of a sarissa; arrow tips; as well as lead sling projectiles some of which even have inscriptions on them.

“Artifacts that make an impression are the discovered molds for the casting of bronze arrow tips showing the intensive manufacturing of weapons by the local craftsmen," the Ruse Museum of History says.

“The offensive weapons in the exhibition include different types of spear [tip]s. One of those is a sarissa, a spear used primarily in the Ancient Macedonian phalanxes which reached up to 7 meters in length," explains archaeologist Nikola Rusev from the Ruse Regional Museum of History, as cited by local TV station Kiss13.

“Another part of the offensive weapons shown in the exhibition are the swords. We have long swords such as the rhomphaia and long swords from the [Celtic] La Tene culture, curved swords acinaci, a makhaira – short curved sword, as well as several types of battle axes," he adds.

“The lead sling projectiles are generally connected with the advances of the Macedon troops against the Thracians, and were an extremely dangerous weapons," the archaeologist emphasizes.

“Of course, slings from back then didn’t resemble today’s slings, or the ones that I know from my childhood, they had a different look. And their range was 200 meters, which almost as much as a bow’s range. What is more, there were extremely quiet and could inflict severe damages. They were almost like today’s bullets, plus they were also made of lead," Rusev elaborates.

Defense armaments from Ancient Thrace in the 1st millenium BC showcased for the first time in the exhibition. Photo: Ruse Regional Museum of History

Defensive weapons from the new Ancient Thracian exhibition. Photos: TV grabs from Kiss13 TV

The exhibition on “Thracian Armaments from the 1st Millennium BC" features a smaller number of “defensive" in the Ruse Museum features a smaller number of defensive items discovered in Thracian necropolises in Bulgaria’s Shumen District.

These include bronze and iron helmets, chain armors, and breastplates found in the Thracian necropolises located near the towns of Branichevo, Kalnovo, and Kyolmen.

Most of the exhibits on display in the exhibition put together by the Shumen Museum of History include Thracian weapons discovered during archaeological excavations in the Shumen District, with many artifacts derived form a very rich archaeological site near the town of Dragoevo.

“The Thracian armaments [on display] are impressive with their huge diversity. The influence of neighboring people’s is also observed as it was reconsidered by the local [Thracian] warriors and their weapon makers. The making of the weapons reveals the professional craftsmanship of the Thracians, especially in the defensive arms found in Kalnovo and the swords and spears from Dragoevo," the Ruse Museum of History notes.

The impressive Thracian weapons collection of the Shumen Regional Museum of History partly shown in the new exhibition in Bulgaria’s Danube city of Ruse has been collected over the years with the tremendous contribution of late curator Georgi Atanasov, who was in charge of the Museum’s Antiquity section for more than 30 years, from 1975 until 2006, and who authored a number of papers dedicated to Ancient Thracian armaments.

Ruse Museum Director Nikolay Nenov (left) and archaeologist Nikola Ruse (right) unveiling the Thracian weapons exhibiion. Photos: Ruse Regional Museum of History

The official poster for the “Thracian Armaments from the 1st Millenium BC” exhibition in Ruse. Photo: Ruse Museum of History

The main building of the history museum in Ruse. Photo: Ruse Museum of History

The main building of the Shumen Museum of History. Photo: Shumen Museum of History

The Ancient Thracian makhairai, acinaci, spears, arrows, axes and the other weapons in the exhibition of “Thracian Armaments from the 1st Millennium BC" of the Shumen Regional Museum of History can be seen in the Knyaz Alexander I Hall of the Ruse Regional Museum of History from July 9, 2019, until the end of October 2019.

A particularly impressive collection of prehistoric, ancient, and medieval weapons belongs to Plovdiv-based Bulgarian private collector Boyko Vatev, whose exhibition entitled “From Stone to Gun Powder" back in 2016 was hosted by the Plovdiv Museum of Archaeology, and generated enormous local and international interest. In particular, his collection of maces is said to be about as rich as that of the British Museum.

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