Treasures for the afterlife

The necropolis near the village of Duvanlii sheds light on Thracians' beliefs

A gold necklace from the 5th century BC is one of the most precious artefacts found in the necropolis.

The afterlife beliefs of the ancient Thracians have always fired up the imagination of those who are fascinated with ancient history while the specialists are trying to elucidate them on the basis of the available material. One of the most abundant sources of data shedding light on these beliefs was discovered in the necropolis near the village of Duvanlii, where according to experts the mortal remains of members of the Odrysae dynastic family have been buried.

The necropolis is located 25 kilometres to the north of Plovdiv. It consists of about 50 burial mounds and some of them have not been thoroughly studied yet. The first findings in one of them, Kukova Mogila, were unearthed by chance during farm work in 1925. In the following decades the archaeologists continued with the excavations and expanded the site, unearthing hundreds of invaluable objects.

All in all, the artefacts found in the complex date back to at least three periods - the Chalcolithic, Bronze and Iron ages. These findings undoubtedly prove the Thracians believed in afterlife. One argument in support of that is the fact that all bodies were buried with a wide array of objects which they supposedly could use in their afterlife.

And while the artefacts dating back to the earlier periods are more primitive in their appearance and intended purposes (mostly ceramic vessels), the findings from later periods which are made of gold and silver become more frequent: votive vessels, rings, earrings, necklaces, breastplates, etc. One of the vessels is of special value because a Thracian name has been identified on it, probably this was a local ruler or at least a nobleman.

A priceless example of Thracian toreutics is a silver amphora found in one of the burials and dated to the 5th century BC. It has peculiar handles, one of them in the shape of a Gryphon. In terms of its artistic value, this is the most precious piece among the Duvanlii findings, which clearly testifies to the ties of the local craftsmen with Ancient Greece and Asia Minor. As a whole, the amphora is made in the Persian oriental style, with visible influences from Greek art.

The amphora's neck is divided from the spherical body with a girdle of ovals, 27 rosettes decorate its bottom. The handles are shaped as monsters whose heads are turned backwards. They have pointed ears and big arched horns which on one of them have broken tips. Their shoulders are shaped as the number eight and the tails end in fanlike furry tufts. The forelegs are three-dimensional, the muscles are stylised as lotus blossoms and the ribs are shaped as slightly curved multi-leaved palmettos. The hind legs rest on a high pedestal.

The treasures from this necropolis are now exhibited at the archaeological museums of Plovdiv and Sofia. Among the other artefacts worthy of note are also a gold breastplate decorated with hammered ornaments, eight earrings shaped as open rings, two oval open bracelets with clasps in the shape of snakes' heads and two rings shaped as ellipsoid shields.

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