Thracian priestess

A Buried Thracian Priestess Uncovered

The day was Saturday, August 26, 2006. The heroine of this story was again Daniella Agre. For quite a long time her expedition had been working at the mound in the Strandja Mountain. On one of the very few days off work the expedition decided to take a walk to the close by Black Sea coast and they opted for Sinemorets, a settlement near the frontier with Turkey. Not far away they suddenly saw some kind of excavations. At first sight, these resembled a Thracian mound, but its top had been removed by bulldozers. Later on it was to be learned that the owner of the nearby hotel had sent the machines there a few months earlier, because the mound had stood in the way of the view to the sea. He had knowledge about some archaeological excavations, conducted on the site years earlier, after which the mound had been declared “unpromising”.

In the practice of archaeologists practice rainfall plays a special role. Michaela, a member of the team, found a clay amulet in a piece of earth, broken off the vertical pit left by the shovels. Everybody quickly raked around the earth and uncovered 11 finds. These were parts of a spindle, rhombs and zoomorphic figurines. A human idol, which was man on the one side and woman – on the other, was particularly impressive. Daniella Agre had long been dealing with such objects and knew that using them once upon a time, the ancient people had made forecasts and prophesies of the future.

But at that point, another one of the participants in the expedition – Deyan, called the others to go to him. Something sparkled in the profile of the pit. When they drew closer they saw a gold object, a two cm piece of which was sticking out. This is how the uncovering of the treasure of Sinemorets began.

The excavations proceeded in two stages and produced remarkable results. It has turned out that a tomb was located centrally in the mound, where in a pit the ritual of “cremation of the dead body” had been performed. When the body had been cremated on the pyre, gold, silver and clay vessels had been placed on the still warm ashes. Among the most interesting finds is one solid gold slab. It was crafted with precision, whereby a semi-precious stone was mounted in the centre, while the entire surface has been decorated by filigreed small discs and granules. The slab was probably the clasp of a wreath of triumph, which was exquisite, with laurel leaves and small fruits. The most valuable thing is the inscription in Greek, skillfully inserted amidst the ornamentation. It gives the name of the master craftsman, Demetrios, who crafted this masterpiece for the owner. The presence of the text increases by many times the significance of the monument, because such finds with inscriptions had well-nigh never been unearthed in Thrace.

Unique pieces of the Thracian art of jewelry have also been the uncovered gold earrings and ear-pieces one of which was preserved intact. Depicted on it in an incredible way was Nike, the Goddess of Victory, driving a biga (a two-wheeled chariot). The composition is extremely expressive: the Goddess has spread her wings and is striving forwards in a grand manner; the horses have frozen in a leap, which is to turn into flight. The superb craftsmanship in the making of the miniature sculptures, of the woman and of the animals, reveals the skill of a virtuoso artist. No less exquisite is also the magnificent gold head of a bull. It appears as a central pendant of one of the necklaces, placed in the tomb. A stone, resembling the stone of the slab-clasp, stands out in the centre of this jewel. An analogous stone has was placed in the cassette of one of the largest rosettes, unearthed in the tomb. It was crafted in the best traditions of this type of art and also decorated the central part of one of the necklaces. It is a safe bet that at least part of the jewels were the work of one and the same master craftsman or at least had their origin in a workshop with a characteristic style of work. The overall picture was finally completed with five silver discuses, interpreted by archaeologists as elements of the ceremonial wear.

All the finds have been dated to the mid-3rd century B.C. Further scientific research is still ahead, but scientists are of the view that this was a splendid burial of a woman. It could be guessed that the husband of the high-ranking lady, buried in the mound, had ordered it. The jewels also indicate her role in society. Most of them were definitely distinctive signs of rank, the so-called insignia. The gold pieces, and especially the strange clay figurines and objects point to the cult functions of the dead woman. She might very probably have been a priestess in her lifetime, and the gifts around her might have been associated with the rituals performed by her.

 

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