WEA on Holiday
This is Mandy Grocott – back from my holiday now, with a good example of how WEA classes can enrich other experiences. I normally attend all my WEA classes in Loughborough, but this summer term I have been travelling down to Leicester for Stephanie Vannn’s archaeology course on the Rise of Complex Societies. I was delighted to find that one of the visits included in my holiday was a trip to Varna, on the Black Sea coast, where the museum was displaying two world famous collections of gold.
One, the beautiful Panagyurishte treasure, was by good fortune on display in Varna museum, not in its permanent home in Sofia. This stunning group of eight solid gold rhytons and one drinking bowl have been displayed all over the world, but I never thought I’d be lucky enough to catch them by chance.
However, the collection of gold items relevant to Stephanie’s course was over 6kg in total of gold finds (about 3000 items) from a burial site not far from Varna. These items, amazingly, are dated to between 4500 and 4000 BC, and are the oldest known finds of worked gold in the world. The inhabitants clearly held complex beliefs relating to the treatment of the dead, and the deposited items showed a surprising degree of sophistication. The excavations began in 1972, and revealed not only the gold items but finely worked flint and obsidian, shell etc, indicating that the area was trading actively.
In the classes we had discussed just such matters, and it was a real treat to find, unexpectedly (you may infer that I hadn’t taken too much time to study our tour itinerary!), that I was able to see this wonderful collection.