Pliska - 100 years of archaeological excavations
R. Rashev, Ya. Dimitrov

III. The legacy of Pliska

    9. Small finds

A significant collection of artefacts has been accumulated so far. Most of them have been published or are to be published, others are only mentioned in laconic reports. The location of all artefacts dug up during the initial excavations is not known. Some of them are being kept in the Varna museum. Others are at the National Museum of Archaeology in Sofia and at the Museum of History in Shumen. The post-1971 artefacts are kept at the Museum of Archaeology in Pliska.

There are few objects made of non-ferous metals. The early demise of the town and the repeated alien ethnic groups passing through Pliska contributed to the plundering, disspersing and melting down of such objects. The excavations into the pagan times’ layers have not yielded golden objects or coins, althought the writtern sources report significant quatities of gold coming into Bulgaria as part of the annual Byzantine tribute or as spoils of war. Golden woman’s adornments, composed of a ring, pendants and buttons, comes from the necropolis at the Large Basilica [17]. The belt of the man buried there, in sarcophagus ? 4, has a golden buckle and a point [18]. The double cross-reliquarium, found near the western fortress wall, is a fine example of Byzantine gold craftsmanship [19]. The bronze items include belt buckles, appliqués and points, rings, bracelets and ear-rings, dating mostly from the X-XI cc. A statuette-key in the form of a musician is a rare example of the bronze plastic arts. The musician plays a string instrument holding it high at his chest [20]. According to its style and the archaeological context, the statuette is part of the Byzantine art of the X-XI cc.

The items made of iron include various types of arrow-points, implements (ploughshares, hoes, goads, sickles), buckles for belts and for straps, casings, nails, hoops, door hinges, padlocks, etc. The finds make it evident that the agricultural tools were very important. Horse-trappings’ items are rare.

Items made of horn and of bones, cheap and more easily available, are frequently found. As early as during K. Skorpil’s time, a large heap of unprocessed or semi-processed antlers of deer and other animals was discovered in the Citadel. The awls for piercing leather were made most frequently of sheep bone. The branches of deer’s antlers were shaped into small horns with holes for hanging out from the belt. Their points are always polished which makes us suspect that they were used for unfastening of leather or rope fetters. One such small horn contains engraved symbols and an image of a horse [21]. Horse and sheep vertebrae were probably used in games. Their protruding side, which was probably the winng one, contains symbols and unclear figures. Lead had been embedded into some of them to give them stability.

Glass was rare and expensive during the early stage of the history of Pliska. In the X-XI cc. it is already comparatively widely spread, including locally made glass. Complete glass vessels have not been found so far, but the rarely found fragments prove their existence. Most common are the bracelets – round or twisted or flat ones, blue or blueish-green in colour, usually with plant decorations. Round or flat beads were part of necklaces. Some of these items were probably local produce, others were imported from Byzantium.

The most common type of finds are the clay vessels, found most frequently in the form of fragments. At some sites such vessel fragments are the only type of finds. In unexcavated areas, the fragments at the surface are the only indication that that area had been inhabited in the past. The total number of fragments has not been analysed but their abundance at every site speaks about the wide use of clay vessels. Complete vessels, and in some cases – groups of vessels, have been found. Such as the 35 vessels found in the burned remains of the secret underground passage connected to the Krum’s Palace. They were made out of fine and very well baked clay. As a whole they form a set – a large amphora, jugs and tea-pots. These vessels betray the characteristics of a specialised workshop, probably Byzantine [22]. More than 20 vessels – pots with polished surfaces and incised decorations, have been found in mound XXXIII [23]. They belong to the two main types of home-used pottery, widely known from all regions of the First Bulgarian kingdom till the end of the IX c. A dwelling near the western fortress wall yielded some 14 vessels, characteristic for the latest type of pottery in Pliska [24]. The production area which developed over the former Palace square yielded several dozen sphero-cones (either complete or fragmented) – an extremely rare find of this type of vessels from the modern Bulgarian lands [25].

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17. VUZHAROVA ZH. Nekropolut do Golyamata bazilika v Pliska. – Pliska-Preslav 1, 1979, p. 69-80.

18. MIHAYLOV ST. Kamennite sarkofazi do Golyamata bazilika v Pliska. – Pliska-Preslav 1, 1979, p. 44-58, examples 29-32.

19. DONCEVA-PETKOVA L. Croi d'or-reliquere de Pliska. – IAI 35, 1979, p. 74-91.

20. MIHAYLOV ST. Arheologicheski materiali ot Pliska. – IAI XX, 1955, examples 26, 27.

21. Ibid, examples 19, 20.

22. Unpublished excavation data of the author.

23. STANCHEV ST. Keramikata ot Golyamata mogila v Pliska. – RP III, 1949, p. 235-246.

24. DONCHEVA-PETKOVA L. Glineni sudove ot XI v. v Pliska. – Preslav 4, 1993, p. 250-262.

25. MIHAYLOVA T. Sferokonusi ot Pliska. – Arheologiya 1987, 1, p. 15-23.