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21 march '18

The Treasures from Dubene, Karlovo Region

The gold objects from the village of Dubene, Karlovo Region, were discovered in peculiar kind of structures, called ritual structures, as they reminded of low tumuli. Fifteen of them were studied so far but only few yielded gold finds.

These structures are from the Early Bronze Age, and may be dated with a relative precision between 2450 and 2100 BC. 

The objects were deposited together with various, sometimes richly adorned, ceramic vessels, bronze, silver and glass items, and were covered with pebbles. Over 21000 string elements, gold spirals, beads and appliques were discovered so far. The dimensions and shapes of the beads are different: small rings, wheels, cylinders, double pyramids or bi-conical. The smallest ones are 1.5mm in diameter, while the largest are almost 1cm in diameter. Three gold adornments were reconstructed that comprise various in kind elements – beads and string-separators. Such adornments were discovered in ritual structures nos. 3 and 5. The spirals are made of gold wire and show various numbers of coils, while the appliques are of two types and they had served as decorations and had been sewn onto garments. 

The gold dagger from ritual structure no. 5, weighting 42.8g, is of a particular interest. It is unique for the territories of ancient Thrace and Southeast Europe, likewise the small lidded box made of pure silver that has no analogue from the ancient times of other regions.

Interesting is the fact that the gold objects in each of the studied structure are different in shape and are distinguishable from the similar ones from the other structures. This is an evidence of a different style in their make, as well as of its duration. 

Similar objects were discovered in Troy in Asia Minor, as well as in Poliochni on the isle of Lemnos in the Aegean Sea. However, there are shapes among those finds that are not represented amid the treasures from Dubene. The techniques applied for their make differ from the ones evidenced in Dubene, and taking also in account the number of the latter finds, it might be reasonable to suppose that there had been a manufacturing center in Thrace, probably in the vicinity of the village of Dubene. Similar center had also probably existed in West Bulgaria, in the district of the village of Kraishteto, Kyustendil Region. More, there may be stated that the fashion among the population of the region of Thrace in respect to the gold objects surely differed from that in Asia Minor, but mutual influences cannot be omitted.

The make of so many objects supposes narrow specialization in this respect, and this profession had probably been practiced by a limited number of members of the ancient population.

The question why were these gold object deposited is also of interest. The differences between both structures and finds are significant. They may due to various reasons, but most likely – at least as working hypotheses – are the following ones: 

1. They were part of post-mortal rites connected with the closely situated necropolis showing two kinds of funeral practices; 
2. They reflect chronological reasons, i.e. they are due to the different date of deposition; 
3. They are due to economic reasons, i.e. the people who deposited the objects were of different social and financial status, thus some of the structures are particularly rich; 
4. Differences in the performed rites; 
5. The ecological one is another possible reason; 
6. It is also possible that some of the rituals comprising the depositing of these offerings had individual character, while others were of collective character; 
7. The variant that these were some kind of offering to a deity/deities should not be excluded as well; 
8. Of course, it is quite possible that these were due to a combination of some of the presented above working hypotheses.

The ritual structures and gold finds near Dubene are of important significance for the study of the extremely dynamic in processes Early Bronze Age. The processes of beginning of this type of metallurgy, of social organization, of the spread of the metals – especially that of gold, a noble and particularly precious metal for all societies – should be reconsidered in the context of these new finds. At the same time, they prove that the lands of ancient Thrace were in no way inferior in their development to the civilizations in the south and southeast, considering the make and usage of gold adornments.