The Treasure Room of the Archeological Museum - “Veliki Preslav” was designed as far back as the construction work of the new building for the museum was started in 1980. However, the issue of equipping the Treasure Room with contemporary security system and technical means was put forward no sooner than the museum was set up as an independent establishment to Veliki Preslav municipality. This crucial step was the major precondition for returning to Preslav all our exhibits that had been placed at the disposal of national museums for decades. In 1998, the Treasure Room was modernized. The exhibits are kept under a constantly controlled humidity of the air. This is the way we preserve precious items like: the Preslavian Golden Treasure, finds from The Palace and a collection of lead seals which are extremely susceptible to atmospheric conditions.
The precious finds are exhibited in beautifully decorated wood-carved glass cases, which were given as a present by Boris III for the unified exhibition of the museum in 30s during the last century. Experts are particularly satisfied today because now they are able to show in their natural environment the most significant monuments of The Golden Age of Bulgarian history, to provide dependable preservation, as well as to organize participation in international exhibitions.
PRESLAVIAN GOLDEN TREASURE
The golden treasure is a brilliant illustration of life in Preslavian castles. It was discovered in 1978 in Castana, an area nearby the ancient town, during agricultural work. More than 170 golden, silver and bronze objects, decorated with cellular enamel, precious stones and pearls were found in the rescue researches that followed. A thorough analysis of the finding showed its collective nature. It consists of 10th - century ladies’ jewels made in Konstantinopolus and Preslav, but it also includes artifacts dating far back to the period between 3rd and 7th centuries. The latter suggests their owners’ taste to old and luxurious articles. The excavations helped explain some curious and important facts. First, there was an old-Bulgarian settlement in Castana, which was a suburb of the capital, Preslav. Second, there are signs of the town being destroyed by fire for which we find proof in the records of Byzantine authors who were contemporaries of the town’ s conquering in 972. Third, the valuable articles from the treasure were hidden in a mason furnace of a humble poor man’s hut in the village. Judging from the rich nature of the finding and the 15 Byzantine coins belonging to Constantine VII and Roman II (945 and 959) which were found in the treasure, we have the right to assume that the luxurious jewelry somehow got there in the turbulent events between 969 and 972. This was the time when Preslav was besieged and conquered first by Kiev royal prince, Svetoslav and two years later by the Byzantine Emperor, John Tzimisshi. We could only make conjectures on whether the treasure was hidden by a faithful servant of the ruler or was plundered during the attack of the Palace.
DIADEM PLATES (?) - gold, cloisonné enamel - 10th c.
EARRING - gold, cloisonné enamel, pearls - 10th c.
MEDALLIONS - gold, amethysts, emeralds, pearls - 10th c.
EARRINGS - gold, emeralds, amethysts, pearls - 10th c.
EARRING - gold, pearls - 10th c.
NECKLACE - gold, pearls (provisional restoration) - 10th c.
GEM - STAMP with the scene of Annunciation - gold, rock crystal (from 5th c. to the beginning of 7th c.)
FINDINGS FROM THE PALACE
The findings in the museum were discovered during regular archeological excavations in the Palace center in Preslav. They are set together in a group, which is incorporated according to location, precise workmanship as well as expensive materials and techniques used.
A CROWN PLATE (?) – gold, cellular enamel – 10th c.
AN APPLICATION of a water bird image – gold, cellular enamel - 10th c.
MEDALLIONS with lion and peacock images – gold, pearl – 10th c.
The jewelry from the Palace center, all decorated with cellular enamel, pearls and animal figures, seem to be one more strong proof that Preslavian golden treasure is not an accidental finding and that it cannot be studied separately from life of Preslav as a capital city.
TYPES OF SEALS
From Antiquity to the present, seals have been used to certify correspondences and validate important documents. In the Middle Ages they were made of different kinds of material which gave them special names: “Hrisovuls” – seals made of gold; “Argirovuls” – seals made of silver, “Molivdovuls” – seals made of lead; and “Kerovuls” – seals made of wax.
Тhe metal cores for preparing the seals were first cast in ceramic or stone moulds. These moulds were fitted with circle shapes to make “prеliminary” seal cores. During casting, a cordhole was made through its core, so that a cord could be thread through and circle around the rolled document or scroll. The final stage of making the seal was to mould it with a special pair of pliers called a “Bulotirion”. Special matrixes or “relief moulds” were fastened on the sides of the pliers with signs and images engraved in negative. The Bulotirion would then be hammered thereby creating a positive relief on the seal.
THE PRESLAVIAN MEDIEVAL SEAL COLLECTION is one of the largest collections ever discovered “in situ “ during an excavation. They were found in their original position at the Administrative Building site in the Palace Center. There were more than 500 Molivdovuls (lead seals) found, as well as more than 200 lead cores and moulds. Since the seals are mostly Byzantine in origin dating from 971 to 1088, it is likely that the representatives of the Byzantine government used this building as the administrative center after conquering the town in 971.
Added to this large collection are seals from other excavations. There is a vast collection of seals from Bulgarian and Byzantine rulers along with many other important dignitaries. They were found in the inner and outer towns of Preslav as well as the local surroundings. This shows that there was regular correspondence between the Bulgarian and Byzantine courts, not only during the period when Preslav was a capital, but also before 893. During the pre-capital period, Preslav was a vital hub for the developing administrative structure as well as a large military station.
Moulds for casting seals from the Strategy in Preslav
Тhe metal cores for preparing the seals were preliminary cast in ceramic or stone moulds with circles carved in them. When casting the seal, a cordhole was made through its core, so that the cord could circle round the rolled document or scroll. The final stage of making the seal was to form mould it with a special pair of pliers called "bulotirion " Special matrices were fastened on the sides of the pliers with signs and images engraved in negative relief.
The seal of George Charnets and Bulgarian Sinkel - a wax seal from the last quarter of the 9th century
It was found in the vicinity of Selishte (The Settlement).
Sinkel was a high-ranking clergyman - the archbishop’s first assistant. It is highly probable that the owner of the seal and Archbishop George, who became the head of the Bulgarian church at the end of 9th century, were the same personality. The two copies of the molivdovul (the other is in the collection of the National Archeological Museum in Sofia) are the first and earliest memorials written in the Cyrillic alphabet.
The seal of Tsar Simeon (913-927) - lead
The seal was found near a village called Cherencha in the region of Shumen. Other examples from the same set of seals belonging to Simeon have not been found thus far. The circular sign saying “Simeon the Basileus” suggests that the molivdovul dates to some time after the coronation of Simeon as Tsar of Bulgaria in Constantinople in 913.
The seal of Teofan - patrician and protovestiaurius (927-934) - lead
Location - the Strategy in Preslav
Protovestiarius was a dignitary in the palace of the Byzantine Emperor. He managed the emperor's personal wardrobe and assisted him everywhere even in his military campaigns. Тhe protovestiarius was also responsible for the personal tasks and work of separate individuals of the emperor’s family. According to historical resources, Teofan had the leading role in settling the marriage between the Bulgarian tsar - Petar and the Byzantine princess - Maria-Irina (the granddaughter of Emperor Romanus I Lakapenos). This fact explains why seals of his own set were found in Preslav.
The seal of Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII (945) - lead
Location - in the vicinity of “Pod Zabuite” ("Under the Teeth" The 'teeth' are the hill that protects and forms the Southwestern boundaries of Preslav)- near the Emperor’s palace.
Judging from the fact that Constantine VII was presented alone, we might assume that the molivdovul dates to 945, the year when the Lakapene dynasty was removed from the throne. All the mail from the Emperor, received in Preslav, probably detailed these changes in the Byzantine government.
Bronze matrix of Tsar Petar - duplicate (? - 969)
Location - it was discovered during excavations of the Big Palace in Pliska
The matrix was meant for printing on soft materials (wax, clay). The inscription was written in Cyrillic on both sides of the image. This is the earliest notation in which we see the Bulgarian equivalent of the Byzantine title - basileus that is tsar or caesar.
The seal of Alexius Komnin - sebast and great domestic (1079 - 1081) - lead
Location - the Strategy in Preslav
The title “domestic” means a higher-ranking officer in the Emperor’s army. The seal belonged to the future Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos (1081-1118). In 1079 he was honored with the title “sebast”, which was reserved for the emperor’s family only, as well as for their close associates.
Basil the Head - “spataroipat” (1060s - 1070s of 11th c.) - lead
Location - the Strategy in Preslav
Some of the seals make it easier to track down the carrier of their owners. The same is the case with the 5 molivdovuls of Basil the Head. Judging from them, we might assume that he first was a spataroipat (a rank lower than patrician) and a few years later he reached the rank of vestarh, which was second in rank for eunuchs. The duties of the vestarh mainly consisted of managing the personal wardrobe of the emperor - he took care of the official garments, crown, and jewelry.
The seal of vestarh Theodore Dobromir (third quarter of 11th c.) - lead
Location - the Strategy in Preslav
Theodore Dobromir’s carrier could also be tracked according several of his molivdovuls.
The curious thing about this Byzantine dignitary, however, is his Slavic origin, which is obvious from his surname. This proves to be one of the numerous illustrations for the political nature of the Byzantine administration.