Showing posts with label Bulgaria. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bulgaria. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Varna Gold

At the height of communism, proof of a pre-historic class stratified society was found behind the Iron Curtain. An ancient cemetery was found in the Bulgarian city of Varna when digging trenches for the electrical foundation of a new cannery. Much like the discovery of Kennewick Man in 1996, the discovery of what would come to be known as the Varna Chalcolithic Necropolis would completely reshape our understanding of prehistoric society. Unlike the discovery of Kennewick Man, archaeologists found something shinier, more telling, and worth far more money than bones--gold. 138 pounds (63 kg) of gold to be exact.

Image result for varna gold
Gold animal ornament found at Varna. This would most
likely be sewn onto clothing.
In October of 1972 Raycho Marinov found a dirty bracelet in the bucket of his excavator. He was digging in West Varna, where it wasn't too uncommon to find historical artifacts. Farmers frequently dug up copper coins in their fields, so Raycho didn't think too much of it. He gathered up the bracelet, as well as a few other pieces of jewelry he found lying in the area, and put them in a shoebox with his boots. He forgot about the box for a couple of weeks before giving the gold to his old teacher, and curator of the local history museum, Dimitar Zlatarski. Zlatarski, recognizing the value of the pieces, called in experts from the Varna Archaeological Museum.

Upon examination, it turned out that what Marinov had found was far more valuable than the copper coins found in nearby fields. The jewelry dated back to the Copper Age, and Marinov's find was the biggest find of Copper Age artifacts at the time.

A full fledged excavation began almost immediately. Though it had been months since Marinov found the original pieces of jewelry, the dig site remained mostly intact. Archaeologists descended on the site in droves, and a near constant dig was in progress from 1972 to 1991.

This clay head, adorned with gold, was found in one
of the 'ceremonial graves'. These clay figurines were
most likely buried for religious purposes.
What archaeologists found in Varna was a vast graveyard belonging to the long vanished Varna Culture, a Copper Age society living in Eastern Europe long before the invasion of Indo-Europeans. Hundreds of graves littered the landscape, buried under years of debris.

Much like many other societies, the people of the Varna Culture buried their dead with funerey goods--presumably to help the deceased in the afterlife. These grave goods gave insight into the dress and customs of the Varna Culture. The quality of (or lack thereof) of the goods proved that the Varna Culture had a system of social classes, making them one of the first cultures in the world to do so.

The evidence of some sort of class structure became evident when archaeologists opened what is now called Grave 43. It contained the bones of a man positively dripping in gold. The man wore bracelets, necklaces, rings, and carried a scepter. Gold disks, presumably once sewn to his long disintegrated clothing, surrounded him, as well as a gold sheathe for his penis. Though the archaeologists had found that some graves were nicer than others, they hadn't found a grave with such riches.

The fact that the skeleton was a male was particularly interesting to the archaeologists, because it challenged the contemporary theory that prehistoric Europe was a matriarchal society, and didn't become a patriarchal society until the invasion of the Indo-Europeans. Grave 43 was the first instance of a man who had been buried with a large amount of precious grave goods. Though some archaeologists suggest that this man could have lived during a period of transition, Grave 43 still leaves more questions than it answers.
Image result for varna gold
The contents of Grave 43

Actual humans weren't the only ones to be buried with tons of gold. Several graves full of gold and clay heads were also excavated. It is speculated that these are 'ceremonial graves', and that the gold jewelry is an offering for the deities represented by the clay heads.

Unfortunately, about 30% of the dig site remains unexplored. Excavation stopped in 1991 due to a lack of funds, and archaeologists have been unable to raise the money to begin again. Much of the discovered gold resides at the Varna Archaeology Museum, and the gold frequently tours museums across Europe.

The find at Varna represents a major piece of the puzzle that is pre-historic European society. Though these discoveries raise many more questions than they answer, the provide valuable insight into the wealth of the society, the size of the Varna Culture, and into their religious beliefs and practices.

Sources
Varna Man and the Wealthiest Grave of the 5th Millennium BC
The Oldest Gold Treasure in the World
Mystery of the Varna Gold

Thursday, March 9, 2017

War of the Stray Dog

As we've already established with The War of the Oaken Bucket, humanity is willing to go to war over the smallest things if tensions are already running high. It's hilarious on the surface, but it makes sense the more you think about it. Two parties are already angry and frustrated with one another, and eventually the last insult, no matter how dumb, is just too much. Sometimes these insults are actually insulting, like mass genocide of minority groups or direct attacks on foreign soil. But sometimes wars are fought over buckets and dogs. Like the 'Incident at Petrich' or the War of the Stray Dog.

Image result for petrich
Modern Petrich
So it's post WWI, post Balkan War, and Bulgaria and Greece are both finally free of the Ottoman empire. Problem is, its been so long since either of those places were independent countries, everyone is a bit fuzzy on exactly where the border is. Specifically where Thrace and Macedonia fit into the mix. Both Bulgaria and Greece feel they have a claim to Thrace, and Bulgaria is supporting the Macedonian separatist movement, which Greece isn't too keen on. To add to the border tensions, citizens on both sides keep making informal and unauthorized raids into the rival country.

Everyone's a little pissed off and itching for a reason to fight when a Greek border guard's dog gets away from him. Like any responsible pet owner, the guard goes after the dog, and ends up accidentally stepping into Bulgarian territory. A trigger happy Bulgarian, obviously expecting an imminent invasion of Greeks chasing dogs, shoots the man.

As you might imagine, the Greeks weren't too happy about this. The Greeks and the Bulgarians exchange fire for a bit, until a Greek officer steps forward under a white flag to negotiate a peace. The Bulgarians were either colorblind or just didn't care, because they shot the officer as well. *

This sparked outrage in Greece, largely because of Greece's new political leadership. Theodoros Pangolos had just been installed as dictator, and he wanted to establish a reputation for being a hardass, Nothing says 'fear me' quite like winning a war against your neighbor, so Pangolos set out to make a mountain out of that molehill. He instructed the press to leave the dog out of the story, and instead claimed that the Bulgarians had attacked a Greek military outpost for funsies with no good reason. Outraged, Pangolos demanded that the Bulgarian government pay 600,000 drachmas, prosecute the soldiers involved, and make a formal apology within 48 hours. The Bulgarians, predictably, refused.

Image result for league of nations
First session of the League of Nations
The Greeks decided that if the Bulgarians weren't going to pay up, then they were going to invade. They appealed to Serbia for help, then started merrily shelling the city of Petrich, and capturing outlying villages.

The Bulgarians, for the most part, evacuated the area. The government then went to the League of Nations, the beta version of the UN, and asked for help. The League of Nations was more than happy to assist. The League told the Greeks to knock it off, and get out of Bulgaria. Additionally, Greece needed pay the Bulgarians recompense of 45,000 pounds. To encourage the grumbling Greeks, they sent out military forces from France, Italy, and Britain to make sure that everything went smoothly. Under the eyes of their more powerful neighbors, the Greeks couldn't help but comply.

When it came down to it, the war lasted ten days (October 19, 1925- October 29, 1925), and had a death toll of less than 100. The Bulgarians emerged the victors, and League of Nations got a chance to prove that they were necessary and relevant. The dog was never heard from again.

*The Bulgarians didn't care about the white flag. There's no such thing as white/anything colorblindness.

This is one of the few successes of the League of Nations, what do you think about the League? What do you think happened to the dog? Make my day, and leave your answer in the commens below. :)
Sources
League of Nations
Military History Now
History.Com
War History Online