Exhibition: the oldest gold in the world

On my way to the border, I got off the train in Dordrecht. It has been an important merchant town for ages, as it is surrounded by rivers. There is a nice discovery route through its old town centre. It has plenty interesting old buildings: Dordrecht’s worth a visit.

Like many towns the world over, Dordrecht maintains friendly ties with several other towns in other countries. One of Dordrecht‘s friends is Varna in Bulgaria. The friendly ties have resulted in a small, temporary archeological exhibition with important finds from Varna.

dordrecht-varna-1This exhibition recently opened and as I had visited the museum before, I was asked to have a look. I had been told the exhibition was interesting. It was worth a visit. Though not that into archeology, I was definitely not disappointed!

It is a small exhibition, but staggering enough. For the archeological finds on show are only a tiny portion of what has so far been uncovered. And what has been uncovered and discovered is only a tiny part of what is now called Varna’s Necropolis.

This exhibition contains recent finds, as well as finds dating from the first excavations of the 1970s. Its title is “Varna, the oldest gold in the world”. For the people who lived in the area and buried their dead with copper and gold gifts, lived around 4500 before Christ. As an exhibition-text explained: they were able to extract and work gold thousands of years before the rest of us even thought of trying to do the same.

It is not just the gold jewelry which impresses. This is very fine and actually pretty modern. The rich and important people not only wore gold images on clothes, adorned weapons with gold, wore gold bracelets, ear rings, necklaces. Like many a modern youngster, they sported piercings. Unlike the piercings people sport these days, the Varna piercings were of gold.

varna-2What also impresses is the pottery on show. The forms are captivating and intriguing; its decoration interesting. Very practical: pottery gifts which went into the female and male graves were second choice. First choice stuff was for the living.

The exhibition gives a short overview of the various people who called Varna their home. The items shown at the start of this exhibition contain faultless examples from Greek, Roman, and later eras. The exhibits of the mysterious people living over 4500 years ago, are also extremely well-preserved. Also on show is a video of the “Goddess of the Lake” and what she must have once looked like.

One wishes there were more rooms filled with what has been excavated. At the end of the three to four rooms, one is told this mysterious civilization – only known through its graves – completely vanished.

The reason for their total disappearance was climate change. Centuries later, farmers and nomads reclaimed the altered landscape again. The exhibition has a few items which reminds one of Celtic art. The nomads and farmers were followed by Greeks, Romans, and ultimately us. This exhibition gives one plenty to think about.

Apart from the “Varna’s Gold” exhibition, the museum has several exhibitions of modern art. Its permanent collection contains interesting paintings and other works by local artists like Ary Scheffer, as well as international artists. The museum has a shop, as well as a sprawling museum café. The Varna exhibition can be visited till the end of April 2016.

Dordrecht is a stop along an intercity service between Brussels and Amsterdam. The museum is a short walk from Dordrecht’s Central Station.

Dordrechts Museum


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