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17 May 2015
The oldest toy in Europe?

In Southern Bulgaria there is a region known as the Rhodope Mountains, where is located the town of Yagnevo. For some time now a local businessman, Alexander Mitushov, has been collecting local artefacts and encouraging local residents to bring him anything they find. One of these finds is now the centre of considerable interest. The artefact in question is made of bronze and consists of a tripod of legs with a hollow top, with, what can only be described as  a stork's head with in set carnelian eyes, freely rotating and nodding within the socket of the hollow top.
     The artefact has been examined by local archaeologists and historians, including the renown Associate Professor Krasimir Leshtakov, from Sofia University. It has been dated at approximately 1,500 BCE and of Thracian design. It is believed it is possibly a child's toy but its exact use is not known.
     Archaeologist Nikolay Ovcharov is quoted as saying "It is hard to say what exactly it was used for. It may have been a regular children's toy but it is also quite possible that this item had some kind of a function in the religious practices of the Ancient Thracians, for example, with clairvoyance. However, we have no way of knowing much about that because this period, the second millennium BCE, was a time devoid of the written word".
     The Ancient Thracians were clearly active in that part of Bulgaria, as evidenced by other finds in the area, including a Late Bronze Age Thracian ritual knife. Alexander Mitushov is now funding a series of excavations, this coming summer, in the area around Yagnevo and Maglyane.

Edited from Archaeology in Bulgaria (5 May 2015)

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