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Tomb-raid boffins find golden hoard of the warrior Thracians

Spartan-arse-kickers who produced Spartacus

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Archaeologists in Bulgaria are chuffed today to announce that golden treasures and artifacts produced by the ancient Thracians have been discovered in a subterranean tomb complex in the north of the country.

The treasures include snake-headed bracelets, a golden crown or tiara type affair, a golden horse head and piles of smaller solid gold items including rings, statuettes and buttons. They're thought to date from the third century BC and to have been produced by the Getae, a tribe among the ancient Thracians.

"These are amazing findings from the apogee of the rule of the Getae," Diana Gergova, Bulgarian government archaeologist and head boffin at the site, told Reuters. "From what we see up to now, the tomb may be linked with the first known Getic ruler, Cothelas."

Thrace was the ancient name for the region which is now eastern Bulgaria, eastern Greece and Turkey north of the Sea of Marmara. In times of old it was viewed by the Mediterranean civilisations as a tough frontier region inhabited by hardcase borderers and wild barbarians.

Thracian warriors played prominent parts in many of the wars of antiquity. The peltast javelineer style of fighting was said to have originated in Thrace, gradually superseding the armoured hoplite warrior: an entire phalanx of the formidable Spartans was crushed by peltasts fighting for Athens during the Peloponnesian War, and the lightly armoured Greek/Thracian warriors are also said to have inflicted severe damage on heavy Persian cavalry.

Alexander the Great - from the neighbouring area of Macedonia - is also said to have used Thracian mercenaries in his world-spanning campaigns, and later on Thracian warriors were prominent in the armies of Rome and then the Eastern empire. In particular, the famous gladiator and rebel Spartacus had originally been a Roman auxiliary soldier from Thrace. Later on - after the fall of Rome, when the Empire was ruled from Constantinople - both the emperor Justinian and the great general Belisarius are said to have been Thracians.

However, despite being desperate hardcases, the Thracians weren't what you'd call intellectuals and produced no written records or language of their own, so most of what's known about them comes from the Greeks, Romans etc. That's why the archaeologists are so thrilled with the tomb finds, which should offer some first-hand clues as to what the Thracians were like at home, as opposed to out in the world giving people a kicking. ®

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