TREASURE  of  the  lost  RACES  continued

Evaluating both their strengths and their weaknesses, the Greek historian Herodotus arrived at his own judgment of the Thracians—one which, incidentally—is amply supported by history.

Commented he, "The Thracians are the most numerous nation in the world after the Indians, and if they were ruled by one man, or if they could agree among themselves, they would be invincible and by far the most powerful of all people .... But they are unable to unite, and it is impossible that they ever could, and for that reason they are weak."

Numerous and ununited? Weak and disagreeable? All true, but these are not the characteristics that we are concerned with, for thanks to the romantic science, we now recognize them also as an artistic people and lovers of treasure, and what they possessed is slowly being discovered. In fact, the richest treasure—probably the richest gold hoard ever found in one single place, with the exception of King Tut's tomb—was found in Thracian territory in 1949 near Pangyurishte, approximately ninety miles west of Karanovo. Made of the purest gold, it consisted of eight drinking vessels, and a bowl ten inches in diameter lavishly decorated with seventy-two of what appear to be African heads in relief. The workmanship showed great taste, character and style and was obviously the result of the painstaking attention of master craftsmen. Taken together, the eight vessels weighed slightly more than thirteen pounds. Thirteen pounds of the purest gold! Another large find was made in Vulchitrun, northwest of Karanovo. There, too, exquisite craftsmanship revealed the high artistic standards of the Thracians as well as their untold riches.

But while their arrival on the historical scene had been rather sudden, their disappearance was gradual, and in the interim they provided the Greeks with a foundation for their music, mythology and philosophy. They eventually turned their territorial sovereignty over to a succession of conquerors. Today their country is divided among the Greeks, the Bulgarians, and the Turks. But the Thracians are not forgotten, for their barbaric way of life and their unequaled gold treasures have guaranteed them a memorable place in history. In the final analysis, it is impossible for a people to be absorbed without leaving a trace; no nation ever completely vanishes from the world scene, because the remnants of their culture remain behind as a testimony to the degree of their past greatness.

The Thracians left us their rich heritage of gold and lavishly decorated tombs which graphically depict their barbaric yet opulent way of life. But there are traces of other ancient people whose influence was even greater; their remaining tokens, however, are of a different nature from those of the Thracians. Included in these others are the Celts.

A Mysterious People with Far-Reaching Influence……the  CELTS!


No one really knows from where the Celts originally came. Even their name is somewhat of a mystery, although it is a derivative of the Greek word keltoi, meaning "heroes" or "lofty ones." What we do know is that they first made their appearance in central Europe during the second millennium B.C.

In the beginning they were a group of tribes unified by religion, language and culture, but it was not until the eighth century B.C.—around the time that Romulus and Remus were founding Rome and Homer was composing his Odyssey—that they became a dominant military and cultural force in north-central Europe, lending their language, traditions, religion and customs to the people they subjugated.


As we look back over the heritage they left us, they must have been a fantastic people. Our society owes a great deal to them. They introduced soap to the Greeks and Romans; were the first to develop seamless rims for their wheels; set our standard four foot, eight and one-half-inch railroad gauge with the span of their chariots; and brought iron to northern Europe to be used in the forging of tools and weapons. Eventually more than 150 distinct Celtic-speaking tribes, of whom the Britains and the tribes of Gaul are the most prominent, appeared in Europe to create our racial heritage.

Fascination with what the old Celts were really all about and what they might have left us as tangible evidence of their early sojourn in Europe started back in 1834 when a group of miners, digging in the old Celtic salt-mine shafts of Austria's Salzburg in the Salzkammergut region, came upon the body of an old Celt buried by a layer of salt. Surprised there by a salt avalanche which has been dated as several centuries before Christ, the two-thousand-year-old miner had literally been pickled—preserved like a salted fish. In triumph and in awe, the miners of the nearby village carried him to the church, but inasmuch as the local cemetery was the churchyard, and a heathen naturally could not qualify for a "Christian" burial, the surprise visitor was disposed of in an unknown place. But even though his remains vanished, curiosity about his origin did not. However, it was not until 1846 that the curiosity turned into action. Realizing the importance of the ancient graves in an area outside of Hallstatt, local authorities decided on a systematic excavation of the entire area. What had begun as a probe ended in a full-scale excavation resulting in the uncovering of more than two thousand graves from the Iron Age.

[A variety of silver ornaments found in a Celtic grave near Szarazd-Regoly  in   Hungary.   (Photo   courtesy   Hungarian National Museum)]

A bronze razorback boar: a reminder to us that the Celts were

extremely realistic in their art. Found in a grave near Bata,

Hungary. (Photo courtesy Hungarian National Museum).

Yielding enough artifacts to fill a museum. Caldrons, heavy swords, exquisitely crafted jewelry, daggers, axes and pottery brought a nearly forgotten people back to life.

But as large as the total find was, the discovery was completely overshadowed by the exhumation of a Celtic princess and her treasure near the village of Vix in eastern France in 1953, slightly over one hundred years after the first probe in the Austrian cemetery. It was the archaeologist Rene Joffroy who was first to recognize the remains of an ancient tumulus no less than thirty-three meters (one hundred feet) across and seven meters (twenty-one feet) high, and his astute observation led to one of the most astonishing finds of the nineteenth

[A Celtic silver and bronze scabbard from Kosd, Hungary. (Photo courtesy Hungarian National Museum)]

century, evidence of which can now be found in the Museum of Chatillon-sur-Seine.

The Celtic princess was about thirty years old when she was buried lying atop her funerary wagon in her wood-lined grave, her head still adorned with a gold arc, the insignia of Celtic royalty. She had been laid to rest accompanied by a variety of gifts and personal belongings, including a silver bowl and amber jewelry. But the museum also proudly displays a bronze krater, lavishly decorated with Greek warriors and chariots around the very edge. In this case, it is neither the decoration nor the bronze that calls attention to the krater but rather its unusual size, for it is more than five and one-half feet in height, with a circumference of approximately thirteen feet and an overall weight of 460 pounds! Was it really made to be used? If so, the Celts must indeed have been heavy drinkers: its capacity is well over one thousand one-liter bottles.

In their enthusiasm for living, the old Celts recognized no national or tribal boundaries and could be found practically all over Europe. It may therefore be assumed that their artifacts may be found in many different locations. A casual suggestion made by a teacher from the small German village of Hochdorf to an archaeologist connected with the State Antiquities Service to "come and investigate an unusual elevated area in a nearby field" led to the eventual opening of the Celtic tomb of the Hochdorf prince, a six-foot-tall nobleman who was forty years old at the time of his death. He had rested in the field quietly amidst his most precious possessions, seemingly waiting to be called back to life. Yet here too it was not only the prince but also that which surrounded him in death that made his tomb one of the most exciting Celtic graves of the century.

Jorge Biel, the state archaeologist in charge of the excavation, could barely conceal his pride about the discovery and remain scientifically sober and impartial when he penned his recollections of seeing the Hochdorf prince for the very first time. "The prince's skeleton lay on the three-meter-long sheet of bronze, actually a funeralbed," he wrote later on. "Gold jewelry was strewn over the remains and in fragments of his clothing, which had been made from richly patterned cloth with embroidery in Chinese silk.

"The Hochdorf prince wore an important status symbol of a Celtic chieftain of the Hllstatt period—a necklace in the form of a gold ring," he continued. "His clothing was fastened with intricately twisted gold brooches. A delicate band of gold adorned his wide leather belt. The hilt of the noble's dagger had been plated with gold, and he wore a wide gold armband. Thin strips of gold had embellished the prince's shoes—a novelty in the field of Celtic archaeology."

But that wasn't all, for this tomb too contained much more than just a skeleton adorned with an assortment of gold ornaments. The greatest surprise was the bronze bier

[One of the eight cast-metal statues of women that supported the funeral bed of the Hochdorf prince. "Those figures balance, almost like circus acrobats, on functional wheels of bronze and iron; the whole affair could be rolled like a sofa on casters." (Photo courtesy Dr. J. Biel)]

which had been used as a final resting place for the prince. "In the form of a high-backed bench," Biel reported, "the great bed was supported by eight cast-metal statues of women a foot high. These figures balance, almost like circus acrobats, on functional wheels of bronze and iron; the whole affair could be rolled like a sofa on casters." Nothing like this had ever been found before. The Bronze Age just wasn't supposed to have been that sophisticated!

That the prince's family had taken great care to assure his well-being in the hereafter showed clearly in the many provisions they had made for him. A huge four-hundred-liter bronze caldron still contained the dried remnants of the mead with which they had filled it at the time of the funeral, and bronze platters and plates as well as an assortment of slaughtering and carving tools were stacked on a four-wheeled serving cart across the tomb.

By now, many Northern, Western and even American art collectors are slowly expanding their private hoards of illegally acquired artifacts retrieved from the raided tombs of ancient nations. About those artifacts—many of which are rumored to be gold—specific details are difficult to obtain and the locations of the illegal collections even harder to trace. But with both the Thracians and the Celts, it is as if the pressure of time is now forcing them into the front of history, drawing archaeologists as if by magic to their unmarked graves, calling them to the rescue.

Lifting the Veil of Secrecy

The secrecy which has become the way of life in the Soviet Union has also put its censorship stamp on the inoffensive but imaginative science of archaeology. But, once discovered, treasures are almost impossible to keep hidden, no matter how much "decadence" they represent, for the exchange of scientists and their published reports in scholarly journals often supply sufficient leads about new discoveries to initiate serious probes—often with startling results.

I vividly remember sitting on the terrace of the Nile Hilton in Cairo a number of years ago, comparing notes on a recent news development in the Middle East with a competing journalist from the Russian news bureau Tass. During the course of our conversation the Russian dropped a hint about startling archaeological discoveries being made in the Soviet Union. When I pressed him for details, he ducked. "Just take my word for it," was his irritated answer. "Tombs, artifacts, remnants of old civilizations, and real treasure have been found . . . ."

I pointed into the direction of the pyramids. "Anything comparable to what came from there?" I queried.

He remained noncommittal. "Someday you'll hear about it."

It was not until several years later that, while combing through some partially translated Russian archaeological reports, I began to realize what he had been hinting at. Russia and the various people's republics that together form the USSR have always been somewhat of a mystery to the West. The discoveries that have been made in those countries have only added to the intrigue instead of lifting the veil, but even the little bits of information that have leaked out have inadvertently caused steadily increasing curiosity among collectors of rare art and dealers in archaeological artifacts.

In Issik in Kazakhstan, not far from Alma Ata, a dig which started more or less as a routine excavation turned into a major find for the Russians when it led to the discovery of a body dating back to the fifth century B.C. Jav-ishly surrounded by more than a thousand gold objects. The gold added glamour to the somber gravesite, and even though the origin of the ornate gold objects is uncertain (it has been suggested that they may have been left behind by passing caravans in the form of a tribute or taxes), the real mystery of the grave was a finely handcrafted silver vase. Engraved with twenty-six signs or characters, it appears to tell a story—but of what or about whom no one is certain. One thing is sure: the inscription bears a very close resemblance to early Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon writing, which may indicate that there was a possible trade connection between Kazakhstan and western Europe as far back as 500 B.C. Where are the objects now? The Russians aren't saying.


Slightly more has become known about the treasure retrieved from the small mound of Tillya-Tepe (Golden Hill), located a mere three miles (five kilometers) northwest of the city of Shibergan in northwestern Afghanistan, an area that was formerly part of the empire of the Great Kushans. The results of the work of the expedition did not receive the worldwide acclaim and international press coverage accorded Howard Carter's opening of King Tut's tomb, yet now the find is said to rival that one in overall richness.

Like so many significant discoveries, this one had an innocent beginning, casual probe into a small, seemingly unimportant mound of dirt back in 1969. It was not until two years later that careful digging indicated that the site dated to the end of the second or the beginning of the first millennium before Christ. But even then, expectation was low; no one anticipated a major find. Tillya-Tepe was left unattended and at the mercy of the elements until 1977, when a joint Afghan-Soviet expedition led by the renowned Russian archaeologist Victor I. Sarianidi followed up on the findings of the prehminary probe and turned it into a full-scale excavation. The digging, scraping and brushing that followed soon revealed the remains of a monumental structure that had been erected in antiquity on a block platform about nineteen feet (six meters) in height that had been enclosed by a fortification which stood more than thirty feet (ten meters) high. In the interior, remains of columns and even parts of an ancient altar were discovered, giving credence to the growing impression that Tillya-Tepe was the site of an ancient fire temple—in itself a major discovery. Under the guidance of the professionals, local tribesmen continued digging and soon not only cleared the temple structure but began working on the slope of the hill as well. It was there that several burial vaults were discovered, lead ing the way to human remains and a cache of jewelry that included gold objects weighing up to one kilogram (two pounds) apiece.

"We have every reason to believe that the graves discovered at Tillya-Tepe belonged to the local aristocracy, possibly the royal family of the Great Kushans who resided at Yemshi-Tepe," reported Dr. Sarianidi upon his discovery. "Moreover, the discrepancy between the rich funeral offerings and the modest, almost primitive grave construction could indicate that interment took place secretly, most likely at night." Of the seven graves found, six were excavated. The richness of the find was evident from the start, for while the caskets had been entombed without lids, cloths sewn with silver or gold disks covered them, and in one instance grape leaves were used as ornaments on the cloth.

There is no complete list available showing the exact number of items together with detailed descriptions of the Kushan treasure, but a sketchy inventory compiled from the various reports reveals that it included among others:

Two burial crowns with gold pendants and pearls. Massive gold plates cast in the shape of five-petaled rosettes, with turquoise inlays. Gold figured plates, inlaid with worked stones such as turquoise, carnelian and garnets. Gold multi-petaled roses. Necklaces consisting of hollowed beads. A cast gold hoop with open end weighing 850 grams (almost two pounds), found on the neck of one of the deceased. Gold clasps to hold the richly ornamented garments together. Two gold scabbards. On one, a chain of beasts following one another is presented in high relief. The claws and sharp-toothed jaws of each animal tear into the hindquarters of the preceding creature. A winged griffin grabs the leg of the dragon in front of it; the dragon, in turn, with jaws opened wide, makes an attempt to bite the leg of the next winged beast. It is obvious, however, that the artist who fashioned the scabbard was not without humor. Considering the ongoing struggle between the animals, one would expect a dramatic climax at the top of the handle. But it ends peacefully, with a figure of a bear cub, leaning restfully on its hind legs, good-naturedly nibbling on a bunch of grapes ....

The cloak of secrecy is slowly being lifted from the Kushans. It is not that they tried to hide from us; history has simply covered them up. To the West they are still little more than a name, and most history books don't even mention them. Barely mentioned by the Greco-Roman authors, they fit in "somewhere" within the dark ages of the history of the area, a lost race of forgotten people.

Scythians—Men of Cruelty and Wealth

Say the words "Africa" and "wealth" and one immediately thinks of South African gold mines, the fabulous treasures of the Queen of Sheba, or the riches of Emperor Haile Selassi. When wealth is spoken of in connection