Unmasking Truth behind the Gold Face

Novinite Insider » EDITORIAL | September 17, 2004, Friday // 00:00
Unmasking Truth behind the Gold Face A unique archeological finding of a solid gold mask a couple of months ago stirred the world and rocketed Bulgarian pride of its history to unknown heights. Photo by Yuliana Nikolova (novinite.com)

By Ivelina Puhaleva

A unique archeological finding of a solid gold mask a couple of months ago stirred the world and rocketed Bulgarian pride of its history to unknown heights.

The face with closed eyes and robust expression found in the outskirts of Shipka Peak, near the town of Kazanlak, is believed to belong to one of mightiest Thracian kings - Seutus III, whose ruling dates around V-IV century BC. According to its discoverer and head of the archeological expedition TEMP 2004 Georgi Kitov, the image outruns all its analogs found so far, as it is made of pure, solid gold weighing more than half a kilogram.

It was sheer chance of luck that the mask was unearthed by Kitov's team as local treasure hunters have proved to be real competitors to the archeologists, digging and plundering mounds and suspected treasure forays in hunt of ancient artifacts.

It seemed that the good news finished at this very point.

Just a night after the news of the mask's discovery rocked the world, the site of the excavations was savagely attacked and many of the equipment were ruined. It came once again to alarm about the threat of drainage of Bulgaria's ancient treasures abroad because of the scarce finances and poor security guard over historic sites waiting to be excavated and researched.

This artifact is actually another reason of national platter; however, it instigated rows and mutual attacks from various institutions and interested parties in the country.

The local municipality of Kazanlak called on the mask to stay in the town, be exhibited in the local historical museum "Tchudomir", thus contributing for the boost in tourists expected to flock to see the mask and gravesite of the "ancient king".

The area is famous also for its century-long tradition of rose oil production, as well as its UNESCO-protected Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak, and the hundreds of gravesites making it Bulgaria's "Valley of the Kings".

The team of archeologist Georgi Kitov firmly objected the local appeals firing back that the mask is a national treasure, it belongs to the people of Bulgaria and, as one of most representative artifacts of its history should stay in national museums. The law is also on his side as according to Bulgarian legislation, the organizers and financing parts to an expedition are entitled to decide where their foundings would be stored and exhibited.

The stubborn efforts of Georgi Kitov and his team, who have also unearthed and researched a lot more sites of historic meaning across the country, were financed by a Dutch foundation that funded the TEMP 2004 expedition to Kazanlak. Their wish is also that the mask is stored in Sofia's central museums.

The royal mask is now exhibited in Sofia's Archeological Museum, staying open for public visit until September 22. Then the whole treasure found alongside the mask, including ancient vessels imaging Hercules, Priapus and maenads, a unique silver chain armour, silver and bronze vessels, a sword and a unique phial with grips, will be subject to restoration as some of them show severe signs of rust.

And last - but not least of points for consideration - is the security of this unique treasure. The mask alone, made of solid pure gold lump, suggested some preliminary estimations of as much as 50 million euro. It is doubtful that the local municipality of Kazanlak would manage to guarantee its security, while being unable to stop local plunders attack and robe historic sites.

Some experts have initially estimated the treasure at about 50 million euro, but for Bulgaria the mask of the mysterious Thracian King, who obviously could equal King Midas in wealth, is invaluable.

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