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Exhibit of October 2020: Horse trappings appliqués from the Mramor mound

10/2020

In the NAIM depository are kept 12 silver appliqués with relief decoration – part of the grave offerings discovered in a tumulus in the Mramor locality near the town of Panagyurishte. The tumulus was looted in 1903. In it, a burial from the Early Hellenistic Age was discovered (Филов 1919, 14). The grave inventory consists of items of gold, silver, bronze, iron and pottery.

The silver appliqués may be grouped according to their shape and decoration. The first group includes four relatively well preserved rectangular lamellae. Each of them is decorated with a relief image of Apollo’s head with a laurel wreath in his hair. On the back side, flat loops were soldered for fastening to a leather strap. The next group includes a pair of round appliqués with a smooth rim and a medallion in the middle with a relief depiction of the combat between Heracles and the Nemean lion. On the back side, flat loops were soldered. Another pair of round appliqués has a rim of two rows of dots and an umbo in the centre. Around it, symmetrically are depicted animals – a wild boar and a lion, an eagle between their tails and a palmette on top of a volute in front of their heads. The decoration of the next three appliqués consists of relief depictions of four-leafed rosettes and lotus flowers. The final silver appliqué has an elongated shape – narrow at the middle and wider at the ends, thus resembling the shape of a double axe (labrys). In the middle, the appliqué is decorated with a relief rosette. On the short ends there are pearls and along the edges – a border of two lines of dots. In the upper register is depicted Heracles with a club in one hand. With the other he is leading the Nemean lion. Below this scene, there is a lion-griffin. In the lower register is presented a siren with a lyre, and above it – another lion-griffin.

With its detailed manufacture and style, the rectangular lamellae with an image of Apollo’s head, as well as the pair presenting the combat between Heracles and the Nemean lion, reveal their Greek origin. The remaining appliqués are the product of a local Thracian workshop (Vasilev 1978, 149-164; Ognenova-Marinova 1974, 185-193).

In Thrace, similar appliqués made of bronze, silver or gold are discovered in burial complexes with rich grave goods or are part of hoards. Today, their function as decorative elements of horse trappings is widely accepted. The available iconographic evidence allows us to reconstruct the horse trappings’ elements and their position (Рабаджиев 2012, 381-385). The headstall is placed in the centre of the strap passing on the nose of the horse. Such was the function of the appliqué in the shape of a double axe. The remaining round appliqués represent cheek pieces (phalerae) and are situated on the two vertical straps of the headstall. Along with other precious metal items, these decorations served as a symbol of power and testify to the high social status of their owner.

Based on the close resemblance to other finds and the studies on stylistic and technological evolution, the appliqués of horse trappings from the Mramor mound should be dated to the middle of the 4th century BC.

 

Bibliography

 

Рабаджиев 2012: К. Рабаджиев. Конят, колесницата и конникът. Към интерпретацията на образа в тракий­ската култура. София, 2012.

Филов 1919: Б. Филов. Паметници на тракийското изкуство. – Известия на Българското археологическо дружество, VI, 1916-1918. 1919, 1-56.

Ognenova-Marinova 1974: L. Ognenova-Marinova. Notes sur la toreutique antique en Thrace. – Thracia III, 1974, 185-193.

Vasilev 1978: V. Vasilev. Einige Charakteristische und Traditionelle Methoden in der Thrakischen Toreutik. – Pulpudeva, 1978, 3, 149-164.