The National Historical Museum houses several interesting and rare examples of geometric art from the XNUMXth - XNUMXth centuries BC.

Early Iron Age Bronze Animal Figures

The National Historical Museum houses several interesting and rare examples of geometric art from the XNUMXth - XNUMXth centuries BC. The schematically represented images of animals, cast from bronze as independent figures or as elements of the decoration of various products (axes, vessels, etc.), were widespread in the territory of the pre-Achaemenid East as early as the XNUMXnd millennium BC. The zoomorphic motifs that appeared in the Balkan lands in the second phase of the Early Iron Age show certain similarities with the eastern prototypes, but also their own local specificities. The known specimens from Thrace represent a deer, a horse, a bull, a goat, a ram, birds - animals that, according to the ancient written tradition and pictorial monuments, were offered as sacrifices in the royal rite in Thrace.

So far, the context of discovery of the objects, as well as their purpose, are not sufficiently clarified. One of the axes was discovered in a mound grave from the XNUMXth - XNUMXth centuries BC. near the village of Kameno Pole, Vrachansko. Similar axes and figurines of animals are also present among the finds from some large Hellenic sanctuaries of that time (Dodona, Aegina, Ephesus, Delphi, Olympia, etc.).

Based on the available data, it can be assumed that some of the objects (miniature axes and figurines with holes or hanging rings) decorated clothing or were worn as amulets, while others were probably elements of sceptres or vessels. Some of them were placed in graves of prominent Thracian aristocrats as a symbol of their priestly functions performed during their lifetime, and others as votive gifts in various sacred places.

1. Statuette of a deer, bronze, the area of ​​the town of Petrich, VIII - VII centuries BC, NIM, inv. No. 33475 Abstract, geometrical image of a fallow deer with wide antlers. The figure is irregularly proportioned, with an elongated cylindrical body and neck.

2. Statuette of a goat, bronze, unknown location, 59253th – XNUMXth century BC, NIM, inv. No. XNUMX The body is elongated, prismatic, the ears and tail are cone-shaped, and the muzzle is pyramid-shaped. There is an attempt to realistically convey individual details - the muscles of the butt are rounded, plastically shaped, and the horns are long, massive, curved back. A hanging loop is cast on the back.

3. Miniature axes, bronze, unknown location, 59252th – 59254th century BC, NIM, inv. №№ XNUMX, XNUMX One has a trapezoidal blade with a wide rounded edge and arched side contours, and the second one has a narrow square blade with a rounded edge. The body of both axes is cast together with the heel, which is bifurcated and ends with two symmetrically placed schematic bull (?) heads and ram protometas (?) facing in opposite directions. In the upper part, round and drop-shaped rings are cast between them.

– Venedikov, I., Gerasimov, T. Thracian art. Sofia, 1973.
– Kitov, G. Thracian symbolic axes and amulets with animal images. – Archeology 2 (1979), 13 – 19
– Konova, L. Bronze figure of a fawn from NIM. An attempt at interpretation. In: Georgi Kitov, Diana Dimitrova (eds.) The lands of Bulgaria - the cradle of Thracian culture / Vol. I, abstracts, articles. Geo Press, 2003
– Konova, L. The royal sacrifice. - Bulletin of the "Arete" Foundation, 1, 2-3 (2003), 17 - 28
– Karadzhinov, I. Miniature Axes with Zoomorphic Protomes from Greek Sanctuaries in the Light of Thraco-Greek Contacts in the 8th-6th Century BC. – Archaeologia Bulgarica XV, 1 (2011), 1-12 Vassileva, M. Bronze Animal Figurines from Gordion. In: A. Çilingiroglu, A. Sagona (Eds.) Anatolian Iron Ages 7. The Proceedings of the Seventh Anatolian Iron Ages Colloquium held at Edirne, (19–24 April 2010), Peeters Leuven – Paris – Walpole, Ma 2012, 317 – 332.

Author: L. Konova
Photos: R. Kolev, I. Tavityan