Lead plaques in the shape of bull heads are among the most interesting and relatively rare finds from the necropolis of Apollonia Pontica.

Lead bucrania from the necropolis of Apollonia Pontica (now Sozopol)

Lead plaques in the shape of bull heads are among the most interesting and relatively rare finds from the necropolis of Apollonia Pontica. So far, similar objects are known only from ancient Olbia (in present-day Ukraine), from the region of Odessos (present-day Varna) and from the Sboryanovo reserve, where single pieces were found. It is assumed that some of them were produced in the workshops of Olbia, Apollonia and possibly Odessos. The discovery of bucrania in the context of domestic or public sanctuaries is testimony to their character as dedicatory gifts. On the other hand, their placement in graves, on sacrificial grounds and ritual hearths in the necropolis suggests their role in the funerary rite as "magical" objects that accompany the dead on his way to the Beyond.

Regardless of the differences in the style and details of the images, the common elements are the ribbon, garlands or wreath, the decoration of grapes, ivy leaves, vines, rosettes with which the bull's head is crowned. The presence of the attributes and symbols of the sacrificial animal links the lead plaques to the sacrifice of a bull - primarily a zoomorphic incarnation of Dionysus, god of dying and regenerating nature, but also patron of the dead and lord of souls. On some of the Apollonian bucrania a human face is represented on the forehead of the bull. Its similarities to images on an issue of silver coins (diobols) of the city have given rise to conflicting identifications of the image as the Gorgon Medusa or as Apollo. This extends the interpretation of the bucranii as apotropaes protecting and warding off evil and, at the same time, as guides and protectors of the dead in the Hereafter.

Author: L. Konova
Photos: T. Dimitrov, N. Genov

References:
– Venedikov, Iv. Thracians in the Greek art of Pontic Apollonia. – Soviet Archaeology, 1969, 3, 70-73.
– Zaitseva, K.I. Lead products in the form of bull's heads, ram's heads and axes from Olbia. – Bosporus studies, VII, Simferopol – Kerch, 2004, 356-390
– Konova, L. Lead bucrania from the necropolis of Apollonia Pontica. - Notices of the National History Museum, vol. XIII, 2003, pp. 46-53
– Minchev, Al. Miniature double hatchets-meals from Odessos and its surroundings. – In: "Art & Ideology", Collection dedicated to the 70th anniversary of Prof. Ivan Marazov. Sofia, 2012, 752-767
– Stoyanov, T., Nikolaeva, M. Lead bucranium from the Getan capital Helis. In: Chr. Popov, Yu. Tsvetkova (ed.) KRATISTOS. Collection in honor of Prof. Petar Delev, Sofia 2017, 545 – 552
– Stoyanov, T., Nikolaeva, M. Lead bucranium from the Getic capital Helis. In: (Bulgarian with English abstract) Konova, L. Opfer- und Götterdarstellungen (Bleibukrania), Proceedings of the Eight International Congress of Thracology Thrace and the Aegean. (Sofia – Yambol, 25 – 29 September 2000), Yambol 2002, S. 595-598

  • Bucranius, lead, necropolis of Apollonia Pontica, mid 34000th - early XNUMXrd century BC, NIM, inv. No. XNUMX
  • Bucranius, lead, necropolis of Apollonia Pontica, mid 37915th - early XNUMXrd century BC, NIM, inv. No. XNUMX A bull's head with a diamond-shaped muzzle and long, downward-curving horns. A ribbon is tied above the ears, ending in snake heads. A rosette in relief is presented on the forehead.
  • Bucranius, lead, necropolis of Apollonia Pontica, mid 64917th - early XNUMXrd century BC, NIM, inv. No. XNUMX Bull's head, the horns and part of the muzzle are missing. A garland with bunches of grapes is visible under the horns. On the forehead is represented the head of the Gorgon Medusa (?) or Apollo (?).
  • Bucranius, lead, necropolis of Apollonia Pontica, mid 64921th - early XNUMXrd century BC, NIM, inv. No. XNUMX A bull's head with a trapezoidal muzzle and relatively short, downward-curved horns. The tuft of hair on the forehead is stylized as a lotus (?) flower with triangular leaves.
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