Trebeništa – Trebenishte

At the end of the First Worl War, in 1918 the Bulgarians discovered the rich archaic necropolis in the Trebenista village on the Ohrid Lake shores in then occupied South Serbia – the present North Macedonia. The Bulgarian soldiers collected, registered and transferred all excavated artifacts and items from the Trebeniste necropolis to the National Museum in Sofia. The discovery of the rich treasures in Trebenista village which is located on the road from Ohrid to Kicevo was like something out of a movie: 56 ancient aristocratic graves from the 7th till the 4th century BC – the Iron, Archaic and Hellenistic ages, loaded with gold and silver items, beautifully adorned burial – funeral masks and gifts fit for a king.

The site of Trebenista with necropolis dating from the 7th – 4th centuries BC was discovered accidentally by Bulgarian soldiers in the field called Grobac, beneath the Gornic hamlet. As a result of the further excavations which continued in 1930-1934, 1953-1954 and 1972, four golden funerary masks and numerous other objects were found – a bronze krater, a Corinthian helmet, Illyrian-type helmets and gold funerary masks are now kept in museums in Sofia, Belgrade and Skopje. Trebeniste Necropolis is considered one of the most interesting archaeological sites from the Iron age in the Balkan Peninsula. It is believed that the necropolis was used by the people from the ancient town of Lychnidos. In the past, the Trebeniste region was renowned for its rich silver bed – the Damastius silver mines mentioned by Strabo were nearby. The most important Balkan roads used to intersect there as well, as the important Via Egnatia road stretching in all four directions of the world. Three and a half kilometers west of the Ohrid Lake there is a plain intersected by the Drim river. The mountains of present day Albania separate this area from the Adriatic Sea, while two rivers, Shkumbin (Genesis) and Semeni (Aspus), connect this land to the shore.

Fifty six graves were discovered iin Trebeniste of which most significant and the oldest are the 12 princely tombs, possibly a whole dynasty buried with all the marks of their power, or tombs of warriors of high social status. Four wonderfully crafted golden burial masks, approximately in the size of a human face, golden hand with a ring, sandals, golden gloves, gold, silver, and bronze vessels and jewelry and rosettes have been discovered on three male and one female skeleton in Trebenista village. Trebeniste site finds are kept in the Archaeological Museums in Ohrid, Sofia and Belgrade. A very similar funeral mask was discovered in 2002, by Pasko Kuzman, in the Samoil Fortress in Ohrid. Trebeniste necropolis remains today one of the most important archaeological finds in Macedonia, and a vivid reminder of the style and sophistication of past cultures. Nikola Vulic