Etruscan Gold Book

Etruscan Gold Book

In May 2003, the Bulgarian National Museum of History in Sofia, Bulgaria, placed on public display an ancient book comprising six pages of 23.82-karat gold bound together by two gold rings. The plates, measuring 5×4.5 cm (2×1.77 in) in size, contain an Orphic text written in Etruscan characters and also depict a horse, a horseman, a siren, a lyre, and soldiEtruscan_gold_bookers.

The content of the book suggests that it was made for the funeral of an aristocrat who was a member of the Orpheus cult, which originated in ancient Greece. About 30 pages from Etruscan books are known from elsewhere, but only in single sheets. The Bulgarian find is the only complete version and is thought to be the oldest complete book in the world, dating to about 600 BC.

An 87-year-old Bulgarian man from Macedonia, who wishes to remain anonymous, donated the book to the museum. He had discovered the treasure in a tomb unearthed 60 years earlier when he was a soldier working on the construction of a canal along the Strouma River in southwestern Bulgaria. According to Bozhidar Dimitrov, director of the museum, the find has been authenticated by experts in Sofia and London. Bulgarian professor Valdimir Georgiev is working on a translation of the text.

For reports on the gold book, see:

John A. Tvedtnes, “Etruscan Gold Book from 600 B.C. Discovered,” Insights: A Window on the Ancient World 23/5 (October 2003)

“Unique Book Goes on Display,” posted 26 May 2003 on the BBC News web site.