For a couple of archaeologists, one of the highlights of visiting Ruse is a trip to the Regional Museum of History, one of Bulgaria’s wonderful archaeological museums. Housed in the grand Battenberg Palace, it overlooks a square surrounded by fine examples of Ruse’s 19th century architecture.
Best of all is the Borovo treasure. The 3 rhyta (drinking horns), a bowl and a small jug delicately crafted in silver gilt are among the most beautiful artifacts I have ever seen. They were discovered in 1974 close to a burial mound near the village of Borovo in western Ruse.
They are thought to be gifts from the King of Thrace to the king of the Getic tribes living in the region in the 4th-3rd centuries BC. Ritual gift giving played an important part in Thracian history. It is amazing that these artefacts survived buried in a field for thousands of years. They were discovered by a farmer and only the bowl was damaged by the plough. It has been reconstructed. The other three pieces are perfectly intact.
The decoration on the little urn depicts a scene of the marriage of the god of Dionysus to Ariadne, the daughter of the king of Minos, Crete. Eros approaches the couple while Silenus, companion and tutor of Dionysus, sits behind them. They are surrounded by dancing Bacchae, sileni and satyrs.
We imagined them being used as part of traditional wedding rituals of Thracian princesses but it is thought they would have been used in the festival of Dionysus. The ancient festival of Rural Dionysa celebrated the cultivation of vines. Interestingly, this tradition carries on today and every February there is a Bulgarian festival celebrating the vines. In the true tradition of Dionysus, at the Palamartsa festival there is a visit to the vines followed by plenty of Bulgarian music, sampling of wines and general merriment. There is a little competition in which villagers bring their home made wines and last year we were very honoured to win a prize for our red wine!
We run one day excursions to visit the wonderful sites of Ruse, including the Borovo Treasure; and also archaeological tours of north Bulgaria.