A TEAM of Bulgarian archaeologists, led by Professor Georgi Kitov, discovered a 2400-year old golden mask in the tomb of an ancient Thracian king on August 19.
The mask bears the image of a human face and is made of 500 grams of solid gold, Kitov said. The discovery was made near the town of Shipka, in the heart of the Stara Planina Mountain.
Dozens of Thracian mounds are spread throughout this region, which archeologists have called "the Bulgarian valley of the kings", a reference to the Valley of the Kings near Luxor, which is home to the tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs.
"The unique mask looks even better than the famous image of King Agamemnon, the Greek anti-hero described by Homer in the Iliad," Kitov was quoted as saying by Bulgarian-language media. "This is the first Thracian mask of solid gold ever found," he said. Previously, archeologists had only found masks covered with golden foil.
Initially, Kitov suggested that the mask could belong to King Seuthes III, the Thracian king who in the fifth century BCE ruled the territory that now is in today's Bulgaria. Later however, he and his team changed their view, and said the mask is most probably of King Teres I, father of the famous Thracian ruler Sitalkes, who expanded the Thracian kingdom into a huge empire, uniting for the first time all Thrace south of the river Danube.
The tomb was covered with six stone slabs, each weighing at least two tons. The king's remains have not yet been found, but excavations at the tomb will continue. In addition to the golden mask, archeologists discovered a golden ring with the image of a rower, as well as many bronze and silver vessels.
The current find is in the area of the so-called Helvetia Tomb, discovered in 1996, which also dates back to the 4th century BCE. It is also near the town of Shipka. The Shipka Tombs are seven in total, all in the Valley of the Thracian Kings.
Also close is the Kazanluk Tomb, which is famous for its beautiful wall paintings of the early third century BCE, one of the most unique masterpieces of the Early Hellenistic pictorial art. This tomb was built during the reign of king Seuthes III, either for him personally or for close relatives among the nobility.
Thirty-five Thracian tombs have so far been discovered in Bulgaria and all of them have pre-classical vaults (false vaults) made during the period fifth to the third centuries BCE.