A 6-inch-long (15-centimeter-long) gold and platinum dagger believed to be 5,000 years old has been unearthed in central Bulgaria, the archaeologist leading the excavation said Monday.
Archaeologist Martin Hristov said his team also discovered more than 500 tiny golden rings that appeared to be pieces of ancient jewelry.
Bozhidar Dimitrov, the head of the National Museum of History, said the finds were perfectly preserved and would soon go on display in the museum.
The artifacts were gradually unearthed in the past few weeks in an ancient Thracian complex near the central village of Dabene, 75 miles (120 kilometers) east of the capital, Sofia.
Other finds include a small golden plaque, silver vessels, bronze and silver ritual knives, and ancient pottery.
Over the past two years Hristov's team has found more than 15,000 miniature ancient golden rings and beads near Dabene — all dating back about 5,000 to 5,200 years. They form exquisite golden jewels said to resemble the adornment found by German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann when he discovered the site of ancient Troy.
"The mounds near Dabene seem part of a complex — some of them resemble tombs, while others appear to be ritual sites where ancient people buried gifts for the gods," Hristov said.
Historians suggest that the people who crafted the dagger and the golden jewels were ancestors of the Thracians, who inhabited the lands of present-day Bulgaria and parts of modern Greece, Turkey, Macedonia and Romania between 4,000 B.C. and the 8th century, when they were assimilated by the invading Slavs.