site.bta2,500-Year-Old Scythian Sceptre Found near Provadia
Archaeologists found a 2,500 years old Scythian sceptre in the last days of this season's excavations in the prehistoric salt mining and urban center "Provadia - Solnitsata" in Northeast Bulgaria, said Saturday Vasil Nikolov, who is leading the excavations at the site. The scepter was found in a grave examined by Violeta Stoitsova and Kalina Samichkova.
The excavated pit is different from those found so far, Nikolov explained. He stressed that Scythian graves are something very rare in today's Northeastern Bulgaria. “Just four or five have been discovered so far,” he added.
The shape of the Scythian warrior's grave resembles a boot, with a hollowed-out part. It was apparently excavated in later times, but people saw the skull and upper part of the man's skeleton, which are missing today, and stopped immediately, explained Nikolov. Archaeologists have now found the bone scepter, which the researcher described as "an incredible achievement of the art of that time". Alongside the human bones, they also found those of a horse, a small dog and a turtle. The warrior was buried with an iron knife, but over the centuries the weapon has corroded and is in very poor condition.
The Scythians were a steppe and semi-steppe population that reached the Danube in the 7th century BC, Nikolov said. They entered the territory of today's Bulgaria, but there is no evidence that they fought with the locals. There’s information that they had confrontations with the Thracians after the 5th century BC. According to scientists, in the Early Bronze Age the Scythians buried their people in already existing mounds. This is the first time a grave has been found in a settlement mound, Nikolov pointed out.
The Scythians had exceptional traditions in the art of bone carving. The sceptre is proof of the skills of their masters, Nikolov noted and added that it probably belonged to a military commander of a small military unit. The bones of the horse in his grave suggest that the man was a cavalryman.
The sceptre is 39 centimetres long. The handle is made of two pieces of bone glued together. The connection between the head and the handle of the sceptre is very precisely crafted. Seen from one side it looks like the beak of an eagle, but on the other the ancient craftsman has carved an anthropomorphic image on which the beak looks like a hat.
“I consulted one of the best experts on Scythian culture, the director of the Varna History Museum, Igor Lazarenko, but he, too, does not know of such a bone sceptre having been found before,” Nikolov said. “Those found so far are usually cruciform, with an ornithomorphic upper part. Most often the craftsmen carved an eagle, because this bird is part of the Scythian religious-mythological system,” he added.