Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

TALKING EUROPE

José Bové, Candidate for the EU Commission presidency, Group of the Greens

Read more

WEB NEWS

NYPD's online campaign backfires

Read more

ENCORE!

Celebrating the Bard's birthday in Britain

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Yuki Tatsumi, Senior Associate of the East Asia Program, Stimson Center

Read more

INSIDE THE AMERICAS

USA: Executions halted over drugs secrecy

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

An overly optimistic plan?

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

#NYPD Fail

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Soaring iPhone sales in China boost Apple earnings

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Tutu cautions ANC: South African peace laureate criticises ruling party

Read more

  • Ukraine troops launch assault on rebel stronghold, take checkpoint

    Read more

  • Afghan guard kills US doctors in Kabul hospital attack

    Read more

  • Platini: PSG in danger over Financial Fair Play rules

    Read more

  • Ségolène Royal denies banning cleavage at French ministry

    Read more

  • Palestinian unity deal stirs anger in Israel

    Read more

  • Video: Mayor in east Ukraine ready ‘to turn Slaviansk into battlefield’

    Read more

  • US would defend Japan in islands dispute, Obama says

    Read more

  • New far-right mayor moves to quash Paris region mosque

    Read more

  • US soldiers arrive in Poland as Ukraine crisis continues

    Read more

  • Fatah, Hamas agree to form Palestinian unity government

    Read more

  • Millions of Syrians desperately need aid, says UN

    Read more

  • Muslims in CAR pray for an escape route

    Read more

  • Madrid beat Bayern 1-0 in first leg of Champions League semis

    Read more

  • Britain's ex-PM Blair warns against spread of radical Islam

    Read more

  • Turkish PM offers condolences to descendants of Armenians killed in 1915

    Read more

  • Gay marriage, one year on: ‘French civilisation did not crumble’

    Read more

  • Colombian president reinstates firebrand Bogota mayor

    Read more

  • NYPD public relations campaign on Twitter goes awry

    Read more

  • In pictures: Violent protests erupt in Rio

    Read more

Europe

Europe’s oldest prehistoric town found in Bulgaria

©

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-10-31

Archaeologists in Bulgaria have discovered the oldest prehistoric town ever found in Europe, dating back to the fifth millennium BC. An ancient salt production site was also found at the Provadia-Solnitsata settlement located in the country’s east.

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."

As precious as gold

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.

(AFP)

Date created : 2012-10-31

Comments

COMMENT(S)