THE THRACIAN TREASURE FROM ROGOZEN

The fund of Thracian monuments of art and culture has increased steadily in the last decades. One after the other Thracian gold treasures were found at Vulchi Trun and Panagyurishte and silver treasures came to light at Boukyovtsi, Caliche, Vladinya, Letnitsa, Loukovit, Radyuvene, Borovo and Yakimovo. They were supplemented by a series of exquisitely worked objects, made of precious metals and found at the rich Tracian burials at Mogilanska Mogila in Vratsa, Branichevo and Kralevo. In the early days of 1986 the horn of plenty was poured out over Bulgaria once more. The largest Thracian treasure found so far, dated to the pre-Hellenistic Age, was discovered at the village of Rogozen, Vratsa District. This treasure was rightly called the find of the century, because it is a huge collection of 165 beautifully worked silver vessels. Thirty-one of them are gilded. All the Rogozen vessels have a total weight of 20 kg. These exquisite silver vessels had belonged to a rich family of rulers of the tribe of the Triballi. They were made, collected and added to over a long period, from the end of the 6th century B.C. to the mid-4th century B.C. or in the course of about 150 years. This treasure was buried in the earth in two separate pits near one another. They were probably hidden, because of the danger of the campaigns threatened to be undertaken by the Macedonian rulers, Philip II and Alexander the Great, who attacked the Triballi in 341, 339 and 335 B.C. The first part of the treasure was accidentally discovered by Ivan Dimitrov, a tractor driver, who took 65 silver vessels to the museum in Vratsa. The archaeologists at the museum immediately organized an expedition and began careful investigations at the site at which Dimitrov had made his discovery. They found the second part of the treasure consisting of exactly 100 silver vessels. This treasure is unique of its kind in Bulgaria up to the present, as archaeologists took part in its discovery and its value to science therefore becomes all the greater. The Rogozen treasure shows sufficient examples of a local school of art which came into being and developed in the land of the Triballi. Deities and scenes of a Thracian mythology little known and only slightly studied so far are depicted on the vessels. At least ten personal Thracian names of the owners and rulers have been deciphered to date, and also the names of five long-forgotten Thracian cities: Apros (or Apri), Beos, Gaeiston, Erkistes and Saythabas, have been deciphered on the jugs and phiales. All this provides us with excellent opportunities for finding logical correspondences with other Thracian monuments found in Bulgarian and the neighbouring lands, and a sound basis for studying the development of the Thracian artistic style over a longer period.

THE PHIALES are the most numerous vessels in the Rogozen treasure. There are 108 of them and this is more than all the phiales to be found in the museums of the world. There are forms and images hitherto unkown among them. Some of them are decorated with geometrical and plant ornaments, expressing the definite symbolism of the Thracian cosmogony. Mythological scenes, sacred animals and deities are depicted on others. The heads of bulls, birds and lion-griffins are found among the images.

THE JUGS number 54. These silver vessels, so graceful in form and silhouette, were little known in the East and in Aegea, and can be considered to have appeared on local soil. Their ornamentation divides the Rogozen jugs into two varieties: jugs decorated with geometrical, plant and animal ornaments and motifs, and jugs decorated with mythological scenes. Taken together the jugs with ordinary decorative motifs show us a specialized profile of the art of Thracian goldsmiths. Everything shows that these beautiful products completely satisfied the taste of the goldsmiths' customers. The jugs, on which there are images of deities and cult scenes, are subjected to a definite canon and a strictly established style. Lightness and calm in developing the schema of ideas, scenes and images are felt in them. They are dedicated to at least two deities of the Thracian pantheon the Great Goddess and the Thracian god-horseman. Very little or almost nothing was known about these cults in the early period of development of Thracian art, since monuments decorated with similar subjects were exceptionally rare. Before the Rogozen treasure came to light we had no certain idea about a Thracian iconography of the Great Goddess. Yet now the Rogozen treasure shows us her domestic image which is the fruit of a centuries-long tradition. The other deity is depicted as horseman in different scenes and actions. The most characteristic of them is the 'boar hunt'. Processions of mythical monsters, of lion-griffins, panthers, bulls, stags and other animals are depicted on other jugs. They all further build up and define a definite idea or narrative connected with the Thracian mythology or religion.

There are only three CUPS in the Rogozen treasure but they are different in form and ornamentation. On the largest of them there is a picture of a solemn procession of animals: a bird of prey holding a fish in its beak and a hare in its talons; a bearded he-goat with huge horns is before it and there are three stags in front. Three more similar cups have been found in Romania. The same animals and scenes, with very little differences, are depicted on them. Similar images have been found on the silver helmet also discovered in Romania. The images on the Rogozen cups reveal the mystery of the images and scenes on the Romanian cups and helmet. It is known that the Thracian had no script and their mythology was figurative. Images taken from their pantheon are to be seen on many objects of Thracian art which have come down to us. The Rogozen treasure supplements and elucidates them. Specialists will be busy studying the Rogozen treasure for decades on end in the future: the composition of the silver, the technique of working and chiselling it, the detailed deciphering and explanation of the inscriptions. The scenes and images will be deciphered in the language of art, if the right cipher is found. Historians will look for the real place of the Triballi and their culture in Antiquity and amid the other peoples and cultures. South- Eastern Europe, the Near East and the Aegean world. The Rogozen treasure provides invaluable material for this.

BOGDAN NIKOLOV, M. A.

Senior Research Fellow

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