Bulgarian khans' gold
The Nagy Szent Miklos treasure will be on display in Sofia from April to June
13 April, 2017
The most famous image in the treasure - the khan drags a captured enemy.
The treasure is abundant in Persian ornaments.
A zoomorphic vessel.
Shallow bowls with various decorations.
Most Bulgarians invariably associate the word “treasure” with the Thracian collection of artifacts. But there is also a group of Proto-Bulgarian treasures, just as beautiful and impressive. One of those, scientifically established to have Bulgarian origin, was found in Nagy Szent Miklos (modern Banat, Romania) in the estate of Bulgarian settlers in 1799. They gave the treasure to the Emperor Joseph II of Austria, who ruled over the area at the time. Today, the treasure is on display at the Art History Museum in Vienna, listed as a Proto-Bulgarian treasure from the 9th century. The collection is set to leave Vienna to be put on show for the first time at the National Archaeological Museum in Sofia from the beginning of April through June.
With a combined weight of about 10 kilos, the golden treasure is comprised of 23 utensils, including 7 pitchers, one oval dish (patera), 4 bowls with clasps so that they can be put on a belt, 2 mugs, 2 cups, 3 zoomorphic bowls, 2 shallow ladles, a drinking horn, and a soup-plate. Eight of these are made of 22-carat gold and richly ornate.
The variety of shapes and workmanship styles indicates that the objects have been collected over an extended period of time, which puts their potential time of origin in a wider timeframe - 7th-9th century. Some of the items are Proto-Bulgarian and others are Pannonian Avaric.
Three types of inscriptions can be seen on the objects - in Greek, Proto-Bulgarian using Greek characters and runic Proto-Bulgarian. By deciphering the names of some of the rulers of the First Bulgarian Empire in those inscriptions, scholars have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the treasure is Bulgarian. It is believed that most of the vessels were made in late 7th century under the rule of Khan Asparukh. Boila Glad and his grandson Ohtum, who governed the Bulgarian district to the northwest of Danube (modern Banat) in 8th-9th century, are thought to have owned the collection next and expanded it. By far the most interesting inscription is one in Greek capital letters on the periphery of a richly decorated with open-work patterns golden plate roughly reading: “This is the cup Jupan Buila ordered made and inscribed so that Jupan Butaul can drink to his health.”
The walls and the bottoms of the vessels are engraved with human and animal shapes in various scenes framed by plant and geometric interlaced designs. The ornaments are classic Greek, Byzantine, Scythian or Sassanido-Persian with traces of Ahemenidian art. The pitchers are mostly egg-shaped, with the exception of a slightly flattened one. In the most striking engraved scene a horseman returns victorious from battle dragging his defeated enemy. Two of the pitchers depict historic and mythological ritual scenes, while two of the bowls have crosses, probably from a later period (Christian) when the treasure had more objects added to it.