Europe's oldest prehistoric town site found in Bulgaria

Archaeologists in eastern Bulgaria say they have unearthed the oldest prehistoric town ever found in Europe, along with an ancient salt production site that gives a strong clue about why massive riches were discovered in the region.

Excavations at the site near the modern-day town of Provadia have so far uncovered the remains of a settlement of two-storey houses, a series of pits used for rituals as well as parts of a gate, bastion structures and three later fortification walls -- all carbon dated between the middle and late Chalcolithic age from 4,700 to 4,200 BC.

"We are not talking about a town like the Greek city-states, ancient Rome or medieval settlements, but about what archaeologists agree constituted a town in the fifth millennium BC," said Vasil Nikolov, a researcher with Bulgaria's National Institute of Archeology, after announcing the findings earlier this month.

Nikolov and his team have worked since 2005 to excavate the Provadia-Solnitsata settlement, located near the Black Sea resort of Varna.

A small necropolis, or burial ground, was also found this year, but has yet to be studied more extensively and could keep archaeologists busy for generations.

Archeologist Krum Bachvarov from the National Institute of Archeology qualified this latest find as "extremely interesting" due to the peculiar burial positions and objects found in the graves, which differed from other neolithic graves found in Bulgaria.

"The huge walls around the settlement, which were built very tall and with stone blocks ... are also something unseen in excavations of prehistoric sites in southeast Europe so far," Bachvarov added.

Well fortified, a religious centre and most importantly, a major production centre for a specialised commodity that was traded far and wide, the settlement of about 350 people met all the conditions to be considered the oldest known "prehistoric town" in Europe, the team says.

"At a time when people did not know the wheel and cart these people hauled huge rocks and built massive walls. Why? What did they hide behind them?" Nikolov asked.

The answer: "Salt."

The area is home to huge rock-salt deposits, some of the largest in southeast Europe and the only ones to be exploited as early as the sixth millennium BC, Nikolov said.

This is what made Provadia-Solnitsata what it was.

Nowadays, salt is still mined there but 7,500 years ago it had a completely different significance.

"Salt was an extremely valued commodity in ancient times, as it was both necessary for people's lives and was used as a method of trade and currency starting from the sixth millennium BC up to 600 BC," the researcher explained.

Salt extraction at the site first began in about 5,500 BC when people started boiling brine from the nearby salty springs in dome kilns found inside the settlement, Nikolov said, citing carbon dating results from a British laboratory in Glasgow.

"This is the first time in southeast Europe and western Anatolia that archeologists have come upon traces of salt production at such an early age, the end of the sixth millennium BC, and managed to prove it with both archeologic and scientific data," Bachvarov confirmed.

Salt production was moved outside the settlement towards the end of the sixth millennium and productivity gradually increased. After being boiled, the salt was baked to make small bricks.

Nikolov said production increased steadily from 5,500 BC, when one load from the kilns in Provadia-Solnitsata yielded about 25 kilogrammes (55 pounds) of dry salt. By 4,700-4,500 BC, that amount had increased to 4,000 to 5,000 kilos of salt.

"At a time when salt was as precious as gold you can imagine what this meant," he said.

The salt trade gave the local population huge economic power, which could explain the gold riches found in graves at the Varna Necropolis and dating back to around 4,300 BC, Nikolov suggested.

The 3,000 jewelry pieces and ritual objects have been internationally recognised as the oldest gold treasure in the world, raising questions as to how a culture of farmers and stock-breeders from a region otherwise poor in natural resources could acquire such wealth.

The excavations have however suffered from a chronic lack of state funding, which Nikolov replaced with private donations.

A British anthropologist, a Japanese ceramics expert and a team of radiocarbon specialists from Germany have worked on the site for free this season.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • ‘Next leader must not be newbie’
    ‘Next leader must not be newbie’

    Vice President Jejomar Binay believes the next president of the Philippines must have vast experience and a long track record in governance and in dealing with crises. “I am very much convinced that the local government is the best training ground for those who want to run for national government positions,” he said. Binay said he is determined to run for president in 2016 on the strength of his competence and track record. …

  • Massacre suspect tests negative for poisoning
    Massacre suspect tests negative for poisoning

    A suspect in the Maguindanao massacre case who had been examined at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) tested negative for poisoning, medical records released yesterday showed. However, the Quezon City court handling the multiple murder case resolved to isolate Police Officer 1 Pia Kamidon from the rest of the accused detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig for his safety. In a two-page order, Regional Trial Court Branch 221 assisting Judge Genie Gapas-Agbada ordered jail officials to …

  • ‘Homework first before Facebook’
    ‘Homework first before Facebook’

    President Aquino elicited laughter from students here as he reminded them to open books first before Facebook. “Finish your assignments first before making a raid in the Clash of Clans,” Aquino said, referring to a popular online game. In a speech during the turnover yesterday of two new three-story buildings at the Tarlac National High School, he said the government could only provide opportunities for learning but the rest of the work would be up to the students. The new school buildings …

  • Espina resignation confirmed; Noy looks for replacement
    Espina resignation confirmed; Noy looks for replacement

    President Aquino ended speculations yesterday and confirmed that Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina had indeed resigned as officer-in-charge of the Philippine National Police. As of this time, we are conducting various interviews and checks on the various candidates,” Aquino told reporters at the Tarlac National High School in Tarlac City. Aquino had kind words for Espina, saying that he stood by and defended the 44 slain police Special Action Force (SAF) commandos in the operation in …

  • Palace welcomes G7 concern over sea reclamation
    Palace welcomes G7 concern over sea reclamation

    President Aquino welcomed yesterday the Group of Seven industrialized countries’ expression of concern over rising tension in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea, calling it a clear indication of the global scope of the problem ramped up by China’s massive reclamation activities in disputed waters. In Tarlac City where he led the turnover of new classrooms, Aquino told reporters that goodwill and not tension must prevail in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea, where territorial …

  • DepEd, TESDA tie up for K to 12
    DepEd, TESDA tie up for K to 12

    The Department of Education (DepEd) has partnered with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) in the first two years of implementation of the K to 12 program. “We will use TESDA centers as technical-vocational laboratories for senior high school,” DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro said during the inauguration of 30 new classrooms at the Tarlac National High School yesterday. The classrooms were constructed in partnership with the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. …

  • SE Asia Stocks-Philippine falls on foreign selling; others flat to weaker

    BANGKOK, April 17 (Reuters) - Southeast Asian stock markets ended flat to weaker on Friday as Philippine stocks slid on selling led by foreign funds and Singapore shares extended losses with investors ... …

  • Philippine Airlines parent says back in black
    Philippine Airlines parent says back in black

    Philippine Airlines' parent firm said it had returned to profitability, the first time in three years either entity reported being in the black for an entire year. In a filing with the Philippine Stock Exchange Thursday, PAL Holdings reported an after-tax net profit of 129.74 million pesos ($2.93 million) in its fiscal year to December 31. …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options