It was in the hot summer of 2005. For more than 40 days archaeologist Daniella Agre and her team had been exploring a Thracian mound near the village of Zlatinitsa in the low Strandja Mountains. On July 23 she came across a tomb, untouched by treasure hunters, and full of magnificent finds. A perfectly preserved skeleton of the deceased – a man of athletic body, had been laid onto a hempen shroud with ornaments. By the side of the skeleton, bronze, ceramic and alabaster vessels were scattered. The head had been crowned with a magnificent gold wreath in the likeness of Nike, the Goddess of Victory. Around the wreath, on a hempen strip, 29 gold rosettes were sewn. The solid gold ring on the left hand was also of high carat gold. The miniature scene on its slab represents the Great Mother Goddess, offering a glass of wine to the king himself. By the side of the ruler was his entire weaponry: a sword with a silver handle in the shape of a gryphon, placed in a wooden scabbard; an iron scaly chain-mail; two quivers with 200 bronze arrows; a bronze helmet of the Attic type. Feast vessels were not lacking either: two rhytons and four phials of silver, covered with magnificent scenes and depictions of animals. And at the feet were the silver appliques from the harnesses of the horses, killed as a sacrificial offering.
Daniella Agre will remember this day forever. But the hardships were just about to begin. Because an archaeologist does not have just to find an important monument; he has to succeed in deciphering it and in answering the dozens of questions that arise. Whose tomb of a mysterious Thracian ruler had this one been; why had it not been in a sepulchre but in a common pit? The dating of the finds unambiguously pointed to the middle of the 4th century B.C. The location and the specificity of the objects found initially pointed to one of the kings of the Odryssae Thracians – Kersebleptes. He ruled the lands in what is today Southeast Bulgaria and as far as the Dardanelles between the years 359 and 341 B.C. He was the grandson of Seuthes I and the son of Kotis I, under whom the Kingdom of the Odryssae had attained its second flowering after the great Sitalkes. It was precisely Kersebleptes to whom fate had ordained the tough task of waging the heroic struggle of the Thracian people against the fearful Macedonian phalanx of King Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great.
But Daniella Agre knew that in 1997 the tomb of Kersebleptes had already been “uncovered” by Turkish archaeologists. At that time, in the vicinity of the present-day Tekirdag at the Sea or Marmara, a magnificent tomb of a Thracian ruler from the same period was excavated. Besides the treasures, the person buried had been in purple clothes – a token of supreme power. The hypothesis of the Turkish scholars regarding Kersebleptes, to whom, collapsed, when it was found out that the person buried had been aged 24-25. It is known from documents that at his death the renowned Thracian king was no younger than 50.
After scientific analyses, the same problem occurred up before the Bulgarian archaeologists, too. The person buried under the mound next to Zlatinitsa was no older than 18 or 19. But whoever could he have been then? Probably, one of the four known sons of Kersebleptes, who had taken over the state after his death. It was ascertained that two of them had fought against the armies of Philip II of Macedon during his invasions in the period 341-339 B.C. Adescendant of the great dynasty of Teres and Sitalkes might have been buried near Zlatinitsa, having fallen in one of the battles.
For the time being the expert opinions are along these lines. It has turned out, however, that the body of the one buried at Zlatinitsa was salted after his death. In Antiquity this was always done when the body of some ruler had to be transferred from the battlefield to the place of his eternal rest. Analyses point that under the chain armour and the head helmet the deceased had been dressed in the purple attire of a king. And it might have been precisely the times of unrest, which was the reason why no real sepulchre had been found. What lies ahead is probably the most important expert analysis – a DNA comparison of the buried Thracian aldermen at Zlatinitsa, of Tekirdages and those in the Golyama Kosmatka Mound, near Kazanluk, uncovered in 2004. It has been assumed that buried there was Seuthes III, probably a brother of Kersebleptes.
In this way, applying the methods of science, the gold of Zlatinitsa will reveal unknown historical developments. And it will show once again the incredible possibilities of the science of archaeology, the time machine developed by man.