Rogozen Silver Treasure – Rogozen, Bulgaria

The Rogozen Treasure, also known as the Rogozen Silver Treasure, was first discovered by accident in 1985 by Ivan Dimitrov, a tractor driver digging a ditch for water pipes in his own yard, and his wife Nadka Savova, in the town of Rogozen, Hayredin Municipality, in Northwest Bulgaria. A second stash of silver and gold plated vessels was found on January 6, 1986, during emergency excavations by archaeologists Bogdan Nikolov, Spas Mashov, and Plamen Ivanov.

The Rogozen Treasure consists of 165 receptacles, including 108 phiales, 54 jugs and 3 goblets. They have a combined total weight of more than 20 kg making it the largest Ancient Thracian treasure ever found. The treasure is an invaluable source of information for the life of the Thracians due to the variety of motifs from the Ancient Thracian and Ancient Greek mythology in the richly decorated artifacts.

Because the large number of vessels was collected over a long period of time, the treasure is dated back to the period from the 6th century BC until the middle of the 4th century BC. Some of the vessels were locally made in Ancient Thrace, while others are imports from Ancient Greece.

The Rogozen Treasure belonged to Thracian aristocrats, most probably the royal family of the Triballi tribe who inhabited the region of today’s Northwest Bulgaria. It is part of the collection of the Vratsa Regional Museum of History, with 20 of its 165 vessels loaned to the National Museum of History in Sofia.

The Ancient Thracian treasure from Rogozen boasts an unusual discovery story. The first 65 vessels from the Rogozen Treasure were found by Ivan Dimitrov, a local tractor driver, and his wife Nadka Savova, as they were digging up a ditch in their own yard in order to lay water pipes, in early June 1985.

Digging at a depth of 40 cm, Dimitrov hit a metal plate with his pickax. He removed the vessel and placed it on his fence having no idea that was a 2,600-year-old Thracian artifact. Then he hit another metal vessel, and together with his wife dug up another 63.

After that the family washed them up, and placed them on a table in their home, until the town holiday when the vessels were stored in shoe boxes so as to avoid exposing them to any guests visiting the home. Dimitrov and Savova had no idea that those were Ancient Thracian artifacts, and thought they were from the local church which had been robbed shortly before that.

One day during a conversation with other tractor drivers in the field and the town mayor discussing the activities of local treasure hunters, the discovery of the vessels slipped the man’s tongue. Days later Mayor Borislav Dramkin, while traveling on a train to Sofia, met his classmate, archaeologist Bogdan Nikolov, who immediately got interested in the tractor driver’s finds. The examination of the artifacts, however, was put off until after New Year’s because Ivan Dimitrov was busy for several days tending a local sheep herd.

Only in early January 1986 did the man show the Mayor the artifacts in his home. Dramkin was dismayed at the find, exclaiming, “Good you weren’t beaten up to death by the treasure hunters [for this find]."

After that, they took the silver treasure to the local town hall in three cardboard boxes, and called Tinka Pavlova, the then Director of the Vratsa Museum of History, who dispatched archaeologist Bogdan Nikolov to Rogozen to examine the find.

According to witnesses, Nikolov nearly fainted when he saw the Thracian treasure, uttering for a long time, “Do you have any idea what this is, what you have found?" He called up his team from the Vratsa Museum, and immediately started archaeological excavations in Ivan Dimitrov’s yard despite the fact that it was in the middle of the cold and snowy winter. Dimitrov later told stories about how he kept his guests, the archaeologists, warm with buckets of wine.

The archaeologists, Bogdan Nikolov, Spas Mashov, and Plamen Ivanov, found a second stash of silver and gold vessels consisting of 100 artifacts. It was located 5 meters northwest of the site where the first stash was found. This is how the date of January 6, 1986, came to be celebrated as the day the Rogozen Treasure was discovered.

Two years after the discovery of the treasure, a British TV crew went to Rogozen to film a documentary about the find, putting plastic replicas of the treasure vessels into the ground, and asking Dimitrov and his wife, Nadka, to dig them up as if they had just found them. It was then that Dimitrov himself made another discovery – a broken-off handle from one of the original silver vessels.

Back in 1986, the family of Ivan Dimitrov received a reward of a total of BGN 20,000 from the Bulgarian government which was quite a substantial sum in communist Bulgaria (1944-1989).

However, much of the reward was spent on welcoming lots of journalists and TV crews, archaeologists and historians visiting the site of the discovery over the next five years. The only major item the family managed to buy with the money was a large wardrobe.

The Dimitrov family used to say they were “lied to" by the authorities that they would be invited to travel abroad for the exhibitions of the Rogozen Silver Treasure; however, these promises never materialized which is understandable given the restrictions on international travel during the communist period. The first international exhibit of the treasure was in the Soviet Union, and the second – in the UK.

Thanks to the discovery of the treasure in Rogozen, the local chitalishte, i.e. a cultural community club, received a one-time subsidy of BGN 100,000 from the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture.

A couple of decades later, Ivan Dimitrov donated to an exhibit at the chitalishte the only thing he had left from the discovery – posters of the treasure printed and presented to him and his wife by the British TV crew that filmed the documentary in 1988.

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