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CURRENT ARCHAEOLOGY RESEARCH IN BULGARIA

Authors: Dimitar P. Dimitrov and Georgi Georgiev

 

BLACK SEA COAST AS CRADLE OF FIRST CIVILIZATIONS

The geological proof of the Flood convincingly testifies to an event that was extreme in magnitude with catastrophic consequences. A significant part of the land was submerged by surging waves. The old shorelines that were the center of a flourishing Pre-Flood civilization were drowned by the sea. Our archeological museums are very proud of the remains of this civilization that have been found along the whole Black Sea coast. Indisputably, the Varna necropolis is the most important and sensational discovery of Bulgarian archaeologists.

The necropolis was discovered in 1972 during building operations in the Varna industrial zone. The interesting story of this discovery has been told by the late Ivan Ivanov who led the excavations. As well as carrying out the excavations very professionally, he made a lot of effort to have the unique Eneolithic treasure placed in the Varna Archaeological Museum. We would like to emphasize the exceptional contribution of Ivan Ivanov to the preservation of the cultural and historical heritage of North-Eastern Bulgaria and particularly of Varna. Returning to our story, the excavator operator, Rajcho Marinov, noticed an object hanging on the cogs of the litter-bin and he went to clean it. Then he saw other unearthed items. He understood he had come upon archaeological findings. He delivered the items to the curator of the Dulgopol Museum, Dimitar Zlatarov, who in turn notified the Varna archaeologists. They were on the site on the 3rd of November 1972. The initial euphoria provoked by the discovery of the oldest processed gold coming from a civilization more ancient than the Mesopotamia and Egypt civilizations, was followed by days and days of hard work — excavation operations, classifications, analyses, etc.

The Varna necropolis gave new valuable artifacts for the most ancient civilization. An area of 7,500 m2 was explored and 294 graves with rich and various inventories were found. The great number of golden items, over 3,000 with a total weight of 6 kg, puzzled the scientists. More gold than the total amount of gold found around the world from this period was discovered in only one grave. Copper, flint, stone tools, and jewelry of metal, bones, minerals and shells of the Mediterranean mollusks Dentalium and Spondilus — about 22,000 items were altogether found.

Thirty years ago, the young scientists could hardly imagine the importance of the Varna necropolis. It is irrefutable proof that an ancient civilization, older than the Egyptian and Mesopotamian, existed on the Bulgarian lands. The Varna necropolis is not the only finding of the kind. One of the most devoted advocates of the hypothesis that Bulgarian lands, particularly the Black Sea coast, were the center of the earliest civilization in human history is Prof. Dr. Henrieta Todorova. She studied the ancient history of North Eastern Bulgaria and led the archaeological excavations in the regions of Shabla, Durankulak, and Devnia. The results of her research are presented in a number of publications including “Stone-Copper Age in Bulgaria”, “New Stone Age in Bulgaria”, and “Durankulak”.

Here is what Prof. Todorova said in an interview under the headline “Black Sea is the earliest center of civilization in human history”: “Many people are reluctant to believe that but it is true. It is obvious from the social structure in 5,000 BC which is adequate to the scientific requirements for the creation of a civilization: social differentiation of the population in rich and poor, monumental architecture, royal domination, differentiated production and trade relations. Historians discovered that these elements had first appeared on the Black Sea coast during the last quarter of the 5th millennium, i.e. earlier than in Mesopotamia, earlier than anything that has been known to people as the first civilization. It happened that after 1975-1976, in the opposite of the accepted concepts for early and most early, we Bulgarians, represented something even earlier. Of course, there were reproaches that we were just telling stories. However, the excavations carried out in several very important sites offered an opportunity to trace the creation and development of this ancient civilization”.

This culture, called “Varna civilization”, testifies to the existence of a typical marine habitat that is genetically related to the sea. On the one hand, centers of ore-production and metallurgy of gold and copper were located along the coast (around the present mines of Meden Rid, Rosen, and Surneshko Kladenche). On the other hand crafts flourished around large administrative centers. The constant trade relations within the Black Sea region and with the Mediterranean region were of great importance for the development of the society together with the processing of gold and copper. In the Varna necropolis were found more than 12,000 shells of Dentalium type and hundreds of Spondylus. Most probably it is the oldest pre-coin forms of Eneolithic society. The old shoreline, now underwater, and the shores of the Varna lakes were probably centers of production of copper and stone tools, as well as golden jewelry.

The main trade routes to the northern Black Sea and other Black Sea harbors passed through the region. This is evidenced by the 443 copper tools found in Karbuna, on the Middle Dniester River bank and the finding of metal on the Volga River bank near Saratov. There are similar finds from Velke Rashkovitze in Slovakia. Analogous copper tools and golden anthropomorphous amulets are found in Varna and other places in Bulgaria. These numerous facts and findings give a sound basis for ascertaining that a significant part of the Balkan Peninsula and the Black Sea region was encompassed by identical material and intellectual cultures.

Unfortunately, the exploration of the spiritual culture during the Eneolithic period, as well as during the other prehistoric epochs, is difficult due to lack of writing which would have given most of the information necessary to elucidate the basic cult-religious and everyday life characteristics of the society. Practically, all researchers are unanimous that between the Varna and Durankulak necropolis exist common features that give information about the common intellectual culture in this period and of course, about the level of the material culture, social and economic development.

For more than 30 years the questions concerning the age of the Durankulak and the Varna necropolis have been disturbing our researchers. The data derived by the relative method indicates as age of 4,600-4,200 BC, while the conventional dating refers the finds to 3,500-3,200 BC. The Durankulak necropolis is dated to 5,200 BC by absolute dating. We think that the dating of the Varna necropolis is significantly underestimated. According to our opinion, the age of the findings in Varna should be dated to 5,000-6,000 BC.

The age of the drowned settlements so far discovered in Varna Lake coincides with the age of the Varna necropolis. These settlements indicate a considerable concentration of population along the shores of that time — probably they were crowded around large administrative, cultural and trade centers that are supposed to be located along the old shores. The large numbers of finds of gold, copper, flint, ceramics, rock tools and others, the method of processing, shape and other features suggest the existence of a well-organized community, much more advanced than the primitive society which was on the brink of creating a state formation known as a slavery society.

In the spirit of the theory about the World Flood in the Black Sea, the presence of the Varna and Durankulak necropolis is an important prerequisite for creating an overall concept of the existence of a highly developed civilization until the Flood. Many years of research on the old drowned Black Sea coast and the deepwater sediments, which resulted from a geological catastrophe, allowed us to obtain reliable information about the absolute dating of the event. The contours of the old shorelines and a comparison with the contemporary ones show that they are located 50-70 km east of the Varna and Durankulak necropolis.

It is obvious that the remains of most of the territory of the civilization existing at that time are found in the shelf buried under a thick layer of ooze. The population was concentrated mainly along the coasts of seas and oceans. This location provided the means of living, transport, trade relations and economic prosperity. The main question is about the age of the event that had catastrophic consequences on the coast and the destiny of the existing civilization. The more than 100 absolute date measurements, made on sediments by the radiocarbon method (C-14), indicate that the Flood occurred about 7,600 years ago. Most reliable are the analyses of the lower part of the sapropel sediments. The organogenetic plankton sediments (sapropels) lay over the carbonate sediments that were created under freshwater sea-lake conditions. Dating of the layer of contact between the two types of sediments that actually fixes the beginning of the Flood, gives an age of 8,000-7,600.

To a large extent, it coincides with the dating of the prehistoric civilization that inhabited the coast — 5,200 BC. Close to these values is the C-14 dating of mollusks Mytilus galloprovincialis and Mondacna caspia, which penetrated into the Black Sea after the flood and are aged 8,000-6,800 years. The dating of the shells Dreissena rostriformis, located on the shelf that was the arena of dramatic events resulting from the flood, varies from 11,000 to 9,000 years. Probably, the latest data is overvalued due to erosion of sediments on the shelf. This gives a sound reason to regard the dating on the lower part of the sapropels (8,000 to 7,600 years) as the more probable date of the beginning of the flood.

We have already talked about the scale of the event called the Flood and its consequences on the coast and civilization of that time. The idyllic picture of waves lapping gently against the shore and the undisturbed everyday life was destroyed. Ocean waters intruded through the Bosporus sill. The Black Sea level rose 10-15 cm and the shore advanced 1 km towards the land in 24 hours. The intruding waves swept away everything on their way. The old shores were entirely drowned in a month and the survivors searched for safety inland.

The Flood continued and the Black Sea level and Mediterranean Sea level became equal. Then the Black Sea slowly modified to the land until acquiring its present outline. Unfortunately, archaeological underwater explorations have been carried out mainly in the coastal part of the shelf where usually, Roman and Byzantine antiquities, are discovered.

The contemporary shelf is divided in three areas, which are differentiated according to the character of relief and the rates of contemporary sedimentation: coastal, central and peripheral. The coastal area is located adjacent to the shore to depths of 20-50 m. Underwater archaeological researches on civilizations of Roman and Byzantine times are carried out in this area. It is possible that new methods will allow specialists to decipher more ancient civilizations in the future.

The central area of the shelf is distinguished by extremely high rates of sedimentation — the thickness of the sediments reaches 30-40 m. It makes the underwater work of archaeologists very difficult. The outer or peripheral part of the shelf, where the ancient Black Sea shore-lines were fixed, is very favorable for underwater archaeological activities. Here, the thickness of the sediments is only 10-15 cm but in some locations they are entirely missing and sand stones are exposed. The seismic-acoustic records of the peripheral shelf area fix 2-3 bars which are actually drowned dune formations or coastal bars. After diagnosing the old shore-lines at the end of the 1980s, it was assumed that our predecessors used to live right here. At that time we were also looking for remains of old settlements in the region of the old Black Sea shoreline. Recently, Dr. Robert Ballard has announced a discovery of a possible Neolithic settlement at a depth of 90 m in the region of the Turkish harbor Sinop.

Nearly eight millenniums have passed since the Flood. In other words 200 generations completed their life course at an average life expectancy of 40-50 years. Before the Flood, Neolithic people inhabited not only today’s coast but also that part of the bottom (called the shelf) which was land at that time. It was lowland cut by a number of rivers flowing into the Black Sea, which was Lake at that time. The favorable climatic conditions were not the only factor influencing the cultural boom. The region was rich in mineral resources, especially in copper ores which was a raw material used for making copper tools and golden jewelry. The analysis of the metals indicate that they have a local origin.

Located away from the big climatic changes, the Black Sea (or Lake) was an oasis of prosperity. Favorable climate, fertile valleys, rivers and lakes teeming with fish were an important prerequisite for the development of human civilization, i.e., man was not only searching for food but also domesticating animals and cultivating plants. Looking at the remains of Neolithic settlements and tombs along the present coast, we couldn’t help admiring the skills and talents of ancient builders.

The map of the most important Neolithic and Eneolithic settlements show a significant concentration of population across the Bulgarian lands. The collapse of the doctrines of the place of the Biblical Flood seems to be predetermined by the Bible itself. It is impossible that a misconception, being perpetuated by the Judaic clerics for thousands of years, will dominate forever. The occurrence of the Flood in the Black Sea is a fact.

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Addendum: We want to make some additional commentaries on the Varna necropolis which we call "post-procession". There is no strict meaning in this except for two things — (i) that we try to connect the Varna Chalcolith with its surrounding settlements, mainly in the Dobrudja region and as harbour of the Black Sea coast; and (ii) to conjecture the Varna gold within the context of a larger areal, the main pre-historic sites in South-East Europe. It shouldn't be exaggerated to admit that our thinking was influenced by the work of a single Bulgarian archaeologist Ivan Ivanov, recently diseased (2009).

So far in our occasional research we have encountered various materials on the "oldest gold in the world". We don't blame anyone for one-sided reports and seminars but our particular case of Varna have its precedent. This was the exposition of the Varna necropolis from 15 July - 3 August 1982 at Isetan Museum of Art, Japan (sponsored by, Nipon Television Network and Japan World Exposition Fund). This exhibition gave the only fullest by that time Catalogue of the findings from Varna — cf., some 592 items from 151 graves; though Japanese were the main sponsoring body with a solid presence from Bulgarian Committee for Culture, what's more, the main burden of the job was performed by Ivan Ivanov and Colin Renfrew (as managing director).

We are not aware the above mentioned Catalogue to be cited anywhere in the literature. Most of the scholarly research on the Varna necropolis was done at a later phase (the 1990s and 2000s), when the archaeological site was re-furnished several times by different teams of investigators. Those replicas from Varna I have seen at various publications doesn't correspond at all to the original photographs from Isetan Museum. The most fragrant case is from grave No 43 where the burial is totally emulated from the "original" — a semi-cenotaph. A "cenotaph" was translated from Greek language to the meaning of "empty grave". Practically many burials from the Neolith period were ritualistic cenotaphs, not only in Varna but all around the world, which meant that bodies were missing but some symbolic objects were put in the grave for "usage in the other world". Thus grave No 43 from Varna contains many ritualistic objects from gold but they are arranged round the limbs of the diseased (upper and lower extremities) while the torso and the head are missing. This is at least what I see from the photograph.

Digging in the past has proved quite a difficult task here on the Balkans, at least these are our impressions from research in Prehistory. There was a curse behest the two early scholars on "Neolithic Period in Bulgaria", Prof. R. Popov and american J. H. Gaul, who died during WW II. From late 1940s to the mid-1970s prehistory archaeology in Bulgaria was dogmatized, while Bulgarians were mere geezers on what was happening around — exceptionally active were the Rumanians who dig out several necropolis and many single finds on a wide territorial array (Hamangia, Boian, Gumelnitsa, Cucutteni, Tartaria, etc). Ukraine gave the Tripole culture, Yugoslavia gave the Vinca culture that all pretended primacy on the Stone Age in the Balkans. We have been dwelling some time on the subject but disposed the above mentioned sites from follow-up because they lacked gold. Two most viable candidates remained in the contest (Sesklo in Greece, and, Troy in Turkey). Seemingly gold metallurgy came from the south and propagated upwards along river beds and persisting lake oasis dwellings around the coastal sea line.

Ephemerally, we wish to talk about the Karanovo mound in Bulgaria but this will come later in another digest. We intentionally gave a review on recent diggings in Catalhoyuk, Turkey, because there appear to emerge a new stratigraphy for Stone Age in the Balkans. As for Karanovo itself suffice to mention that approximately three-fourth or 75% of the site hasn't been developed. Look at Catalhoyuk mound that until recently was thought to be a single unit but by 2010 was separated in twos — East Mound (Dogu Hoyuk) and West Mound (Bati Hoyuk), ditto.

 

Pictures 1 & 2: Sample illustrations on the text above.

(i). Three golden ritual hatchets (scepters) from Varna necropolis. These come from different graves or cenotaphs (see above) — gr. No 1 (with stone axe, upper); gr. No 36 (with gold axe, middle); and, gr. No 43 (with copper axe, below). Obviously the scepters come from dissimilar burials but do belong to chieftains with considerable wealth and influence, probably consecutive rulers of a dynasty.

 

(ii). Means of transportation from Neolith Age (photos are taken of Kurdish inhabitants of Anatolia who stick to their ancestor's life, fl. 1960s) — upper, river barge from wooden plates with a ridge; and, below, bullock cart on wooden wheels with no spikes.

 

 

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