Bulgaria’s Ancient Thrace Exhibition in Paris Enjoying ‘Enormous Success’, Louvre Director Says

Seuthes III Bronze Head 3

bronze head of King Seuthes III (r. ca. 331 BC to ca. 300 BC), the ruler of the most powerful Ancient Thracian state, the Odrysian Kingdom. The unique item was found in 2004 by late Bulgarian archaeologist Georgi Kitov (1943-2008). Photo: Ivo Hadzhimishev/Bulgaria’s Ministry of Culture

Bulgaria’s archaeological exhibition on Ancient Thrace which is on display in the Louvre Museum in the French capital Paris is enjoying “enormous success”, according to Jean-Luc Martinez, President-Director of the Louvre Museum, and head curator of the exhibit.

Martinez has sent a letter to Bulgarian Minister of Culture Vezhdi Rashidov expressing his satisfaction with the upcoming exhibition of the Louvre’s Boscoreale Treasure at the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia as part of the bilateral exchange of exhibitions which has provided for the Bulgarian Ancient Thracian exhibit in the Paris museum.

“The exhibition “Thracian Kings’ Epic. Archaeological Discoveries in Bulgaria” is enjoying enormous success with the public and the French and international press. This success gives me satisfaction and joy because the exhibition is an occasion to showcase Bulgaria’s rich history and cultural heritage, says the President-Director of the Louvre in his letter to the Bulgarian Culture Minister, as cited by the press center of Bulgaria’s Ministry of Culture.

Martinez points out further that so far over 150 articles, which are extremely positive and most of them are detailed, have been published by the press on the Ancient Thracian exhibition in the Louvre, which will be on display in one of the world’s top museums until July 20, 2015.

“The media coverage of the exhibit has helped us to achieve quickly and with ease one of the most important goals that we had set – the increased awareness of Thracian history and culture on part of the visitors of the Louvre. Allow me to express once again my most sincere gratitude for the dedication, support, and your personal devotion thanks to which this exhibition became possible,” concludes the letter of the Louvre President-Director.

Advertising posters in the French capital Paris for the Bulgarian exhibition about Ancient Thrace, "Thracian Kings' Epic. Archaeological Discoveries in Bulgaria" in the Louvre Museum. Photo: Bulgaria's Ministry of Culture

Advertising posters in the French capital Paris for the Bulgarian exhibition about Ancient Thrace, “Thracian Kings’ Epic. Archaeological Discoveries in Bulgaria” in the Louvre Museum. Photo: Bulgaria’s Ministry of Culture

The advertising campaign for the exhibit entitled “Thracian Kings’ Epic. Archaeological Discoveries in Bulgaria” (also translated as “The Saga of the Thracian Kings”; in French: L’Épopée des rois thraces. Découvertes archéologiques en Bulgarie) was recently extended because of the increased interest in the exhibition, according to Bulgaria’s Culture Ministry.

The advertising posters and banners in the Paris Metro feature the focal point of the exhibit, the bronze head of King Seuthes III (r. ca. 331 BC to ca. 300 BC), the ruler of the most powerful Ancient Thracian state, the Odrysian Kingdom. The unique item was found in 2004 by late Bulgarian archaeologist Georgi Kitov (1943-2008).

Bulgaria’s Culture Ministry has boasted that world famous Hollywood director and producer George Lucas was one of the first to see the Bulgarian Ancient Thracian exhibit in the Louvre, while the posts about the Thracian exhibit on the Louvre’s Facebook page have generated a lot of “Likes” and “Shares”, and the French culture magazine Exponaute has dedicated extensive coverage to the exhibition.

The exhibition (whose original working title was “Ancient Thrace. The Odrysian Kingdom”) showcases the most impressive treasures of Ancient Thrace, and the way of life of the little known internationally Odrysian Kingdom, the most powerful state of the Ancient Thracians, and some of the independent Thracian tribes such as the Getae (Gets) and the Tribali.

The Panagyurishte Gold Treasure (right), probably the most impressive Ancient Thracian treasure found to date, as displayed in Bulgaria's Ancient Thracian exhibit in the Louvre, Paris, France. Photo: Musée du Louvre / Antoine Mongodin / Louvre Museum Facebook Page

The Panagyurishte Gold Treasure (right), probably the most impressive Ancient Thracian treasure found to date, as displayed in Bulgaria’s Ancient Thracian exhibit in the Louvre, Paris, France. Photo: Musée du Louvre / Antoine Mongodin / Louvre Museum Facebook Page

A total of 1,629 Ancient Thracian artifacts from 17 Bulgarian and 11 foreign museums will be exhibited in four halls in the Richelieu Wing of the Louvre from April 14 until July 20, 2015.

It has been announced that museums in Croatia, Morocco, Romania, Russia, and the UK have already approached the Bulgarian authorities with inquiries about hosting the exhibition “Thracian Kings’ Epic. Archaeological Discoveries in Bulgaria”.

The artifacts from Ancient Thrace were shipped from Bulgaria to France by plane under utmost security measures on March 23, 2015.

The Odrysian Kingdom, a union of Thracian tribes dominated by the tribe of the Odrysians (also known as Odrysea or Odrusai), was the most powerful state of the Ancient Thracians. It existed from the 5th century BC till its conquest by the Romans in 46 AD on the territory of modern-day Bulgaria, Northern Greece, Southeastern Romania, and Northwestern Turkey.

The treasures displayed in the Louvre include the Panagyurishte Gold Treasure, the Rogozen Treasure (gold and silver), the Borovo Silver Treasure, the Letnitsa Treasure (silver and bronze), the Mogilanska Mound Treasure (also known as the Vratsa Gold Treasure), the Zlatinitsa Mound Treasure (gold and silver), and the bronze head of Seuthes III, king of the Odrysian Thracian Kingdom between ca. 331 BC to ca. 300 BC.

They have been insured for a total of EUR 165 million for the duration of the exhibition in the Louvre where they will be seen by about 4 million people, according to estimates by French experts. The bronze head of Odrysian King Seuthes III has been insured for EUR 13 million while the most precious threasure in the exhibit, the Panaguyrishte Gold Treasure, has been insured for EUR 50 million.

The catalog for the exhibition “Thracian Kings’ Epic. Archaeological Discoveries in Bulgaria” has 320 pages and contains 250 photos, and articles by Bulgarian and international scholars.

The preparation for Bulgaria’s Thracian exhibition in the Louvre started back in 2012 after then and current Bulgarian Minister of Culture Vezhdi Rashidov signed a five-year cooperation agreement with the Louvre.

The scientific concept and the selection of the exhibition items are the work of three French and two Bulgarian experts:

Jean-Luc Martinez, President-Director of the Louvre Museum, and head curator of the Ancient Thrace exhibit;

Prof. Dr. Totko Stoyanov from Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”;

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Milena Tonkova, head of the Thracian Archaeology Department at the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences;

Dr. Alexandre Baralis from the Louvre Department of Ancient Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities;

Dr. Neguin Mathieu, division head in the Scientific Research and Collections Directorate of the Louvre.

A map of the Odrysian Kingdom of Ancient Thrace presented at Bulgaria's Ancient Thracian exhibition in the Louvre Museum, Paris, France. Photo: Musée du Louvre / Antoine Mongodin / Louvre Museum Facebook Page

A map of the Odrysian Kingdom of Ancient Thrace presented at Bulgaria’s Ancient Thracian exhibition in the Louvre Museum, Paris, France. Photo: Musée du Louvre / Antoine Mongodin / Louvre Museum Facebook Page

List of the 17 Bulgarian Museums That Have Contributed Items to the Louvre exhibit of Ancient Thrace (Facebook pages are linked for those museums without active websites):

National Museum of History in Sofia

National Institute and Museum of Archaeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in Sofia

Plovdiv Museum of Archaeology

Varna Museum of Archaeology (Varna Regional Museum of History)

Burgas Regional Museum of History

Ruse Regional Museum of History

Shumen Regional Museum of History

Vratsa Regional Museum of History

Lovech Regional Museum of History (Facebook Page)

Haskovo Regional Museum of History

Kazanlak Museum of History “Iskra”

Ancient Nessebar Museum

Septemvri Museum of Archaeology

Sozopol Museum Center (Sozopol Museum of Archaeology – Facebook Page)

Isperih Museum of History

Karnobat Museum of History (on the Municipal Administration’s website)

Strelcha Museum of History (on the Municipal Administration’s website)

The Ancient Thrace exhibition in Paris also features a number of Ancient Thrace-related items from 11 foreign museums – including 20 items from the Louvre, as well as items from the British Museum in London, the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen, the Prado Museum in Madrid, the Naples National Archaeological Museum, and the Bari Archaeological Museum, among others.

Background Infonotes:

The Boscoreale Treasure is a treasure of luxury Ancient Roman artifacts discovered in the ruins of an ancient villa at Boscoreale, near Pompeii, Southern Italy. It consists of 109 pieces of silverware, as well as over 1000 gold coins and jewellery, and is kept at the Louvre Museum in Paris. The artifacts are dated from 4th Century BC to 1st Century AD. Boscoreale was the location of an important Roman villa that was destroyed and buried by volcanic ash following the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. In 1895, the remains of a vaulted box containing the treasure was discovered in the wine-pressing room of the villa, next to the body of a woman. Most of the Boscoreale Treasure was illegally smuggled out of Italy and was later purchased by Edmond de Rothschild, who donated it to the Louvre Museum in 1896.

The Ancient Thracians were an ethno-cultural group of Indo-European tribes inhabiting much of Southeast Europe from about the middle of the second millennium BC to about the 6th century AD on the territory of modern-day Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Greece, Turkey, Macedonia, Serbia.

The Odrysian Kingdom is a union of Thracian tribes dominated by the tribe of the Odrysians (also known as Odrysea or Odrusai bearing the name of a mythical ruler, Odryses or Odrisis, (ca. 715 – ca. 650 AD), was the most powerful state of the Ancient Thracians. It existed from the unification of many Thracian tribes by a single ruler, King Teres, in the 5th century BC till its conquest by the Romans in 46 AD on the territory of most of modern-day Bulgaria, Northern Greece, Southeastern Romania, and Northwestern Turkey.

The Getae or Gets were Thracian tribes inhabiting the regions on both sides of the Lower Danube in today’s Northern Bulgaria and Southern Romania.

The Triballi were a Thracian tribe inhabiting the region of modern-day Western Bulgaria and Southern Serbia.

King Teres I (r. ca. 475 – ca. 445 BC) was the first king of the Odrysian Kingdom uniting about 40 Thracian tribes. He was succeeded consecutively by his sons, Sparatocos (r. ca. 445-ca. 431 BC) and Sitalces (r. ca. 431 – ca. 424 BC).

King Seuthes III was a king of the Odrysian kingdom of Thrace from ca. 331 BC to ca. 300 BC, at first tributary to Alexander the Great of Macedon. In 2004, as part an expedition dubbed TEMP, late Bulgarian archaeologist Georgi Kitov discovered Seuthes III’s tomb on the Golyama Kosmatka Mound near his capital Seuthopolis (close to today’s towns of Kazanlak and Shipka), part of the Valley of Thracian Kings. The impressive finds included the famous lifelike bronze head of Seuthes III, his golden laurel wreath, golden kylix (ancient drinking cup), among others. Some of these finds (except for the ruler’s bronze head) are to be shown in the upcoming exhibit of Bulgaria’s Ancient Thracian treasures in the Louvre Museum in Paris, France, “Ancient Thrace. The Odrysian Kingdom”, between April 15 and July 20, 2015.

The Panagyurishte Treasure, also known as the Panagyurishte Gold Treasure, was found in 1949 by three brothers – Pavel, Petko and Michail Deikovi, who worked together at the region of Merul tile factory near the town of Panagyurishte, Bulgaria. It consists of a phial, an amphora and seven rhyta with total weight of 6.164 kg of 23-karat gold. All of the objects are richly and skilfully decorated with scenes from Thracian mythology, customs and life. It is dated to the 4th-3rd centuries BC, and is thought to have been used as a royal ceremonial set by the Thracian king Seuthes III.

The Rogozen Treasure was discovered by chance in 1985 by a tractor driver digging a well in his garden in the Bulgarian village of Rogozen. It consists of 165 receptacles, including 108 phiales, 55 jugs and 3 goblets. The objects are silver with golden gilt on some of them with total weight of more than 20 kg. The treasure is an invaluable source of information for the life of the Thracians due to the variety of motifs in the richly decorated objects. It is dated back to the 5th-4th centuries B.O.T.

The Borovo Treasure, also known as the Borovo Silver Treasure, consists of five silver-gilt decorated vessels found in 1974 while ploughing a field in Borovo, Northeastern Bulgaria. The set has a bowl, a rhyta jug, and three rhyta, the largest of them with a figure of a sphynx and an inscription reading: “[Belongs to] Cotys from [the town of] Beos.”, as well as the name of the craftsman, Etbeos, leading to speculations that the treasure may have been a gift to a local Getic ruler from Odrysian King Cotys I (r. 382-359 BC).

The Letnitsa Treasure is dated back to the 4th century BC. It was found by accident in 1963 during a dig near the town of Letnitsa in Central Bulgaria in a bronze vessel. It consists of a large number of small decorated silver items as well as a Thracian warrior’s decorated horse ammunition found nearby.

The Mogilanska Mound Treasure, also known as the Vratsa Gold Treasure, was found during excavations of a mound (which turned out to hold three tombs) in the downtown of Northwestern Bulgarian city of Vratsa in 1965-1966. The treasure found with the skeletons of people and horses, and chariots, consists of a golden crown of laurels, 47 gold appliqués, 2 golden earrings, 4 silver phialai, a silver jug, a rhyton-shaped amphora, and 50 clay figures. The Mogilanska Mound is believed to be a royal tomb connected with the dynasty of the Tribali tribe.

The Zlatinitsa Mound Treasure consists of a golden wreath with appliqués, a seal ring, a greave, and two silver rhyta. It was found in 2005 near the town of Zlatinitsa in Southeastern Bulgaria by the team of archaeologist Daniela Agre in the tomb of a Thracian ruler dated back to the middle of 4th century BC.

The Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari is located near the town of Sveshtari, Northeastern Bulgaria. It is a Getic tomb with unique caryatids and murals dating back to the 3rd century BC, and was found in 1982. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Sboryanovo Archaeological Complex is an archaeological preserve located near the town of Sveshtari including over 140 archaeological and cultural monuments – from prehistoric and Thracian necropolises to medieval and modern-day Christian and Muslim shrines. It includes the Sveshtari Tomb and the ruins of the Ancient Thracian city of Helis, capital of the Getae. In October 2014, Bulgarian archaeologist Diana Gergova discovered a rich necropolis of a Getic ruler (including more than 180 gold items) during excavations at the Sboryanovo Archaeological Complex.

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