Archaeologists Discover Late Neolithic Graves in Prehistoric Settlement in Bulgaria’s Mursalevo

The excavation of the Early Neolithic city and the Ancient Thracian ritual pits found near Mursalevo is to continue until the end of June 2015. Photo: BGNES

The excavation of the Early Neolithic city and the Ancient Thracian ritual pits found near Mursalevo is to continue until the end of June 2015. Photo: BGNES

Several graves from the Late Neolithic period have been discovered by the archaeologists conducting the rescue excavations of the 8,000-year-old Early Neolithic city near Mursalevo in Southwest Bulgaria.

The Late Neolithic graves in question have been dated to the end of the 6th millennium BC, reports the Bulgarian National Radio.

The archaeologists from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences are presently also excavating a new Ancient Thracian burial pit from 1st millennium BC.

The prehistoric city at Mursalevo was first discovered in April-May 2014 during rescue excavations preceding the construction of Lot 2 of the Struma Highway, which is to connect the Bulgarian capital Sofia with Kulata on the border with Greece. Because of the significance of the discovery the time for the excavation deadline has been pushed back twice.

In addition to the 8,000-year-old Early Neolithic structures, on the same spot the Bulgarian archaeologists have found an Ancient Thracian sanctuary consisting of some 20 burial pits, in one of which they have recently discovered three skeletons of children who were victims of a Thracian child sacrifice.

The archaeologists conducting the rescue excavations along the route of Lot 2 of the Struma Highway running between the town of Dupnitsa and the city of Blagoevgrad are constantly coming across new finds not only at Mursalevo, but also at 3-4 other locations, says the Regional Museum of History in the nearby city of Kyustendil.

A team of the Kyustendil Museum has resumed the rescue excavations of another Neolithic settlement which is located near the town of Dzherman.

The deadline for completing the digs at Dzherman is June 7, 2015, says Valentin Debochichki, Director of the Kyustendil Regional Museum of History.

A new development has been reported concerning the fate of the Early Neolithic city at Mursalevo, which has emerged as the most impressive of all archaeological sites excavated in the ongoing rescue digs along the future route of the Struma Highway.

According to the existing plan, the Struma Highway is supposed to pass right through the middle of the unearthed prehistoric city. As the construction is funded with EU money, and any modification would not only cost a lot but would also run into administrative difficulties, the authorities have little wiggle room for changes.

Now, however, a new idea has been discussed which is to raise the future highway onto a bridge going above the prehistoric site so that it could be exhibited in situ as an open-air museum.

It is still unclear whether this idea can be realized because it would require additional funding on top of the more than BGN 4 million (EUR 2 million) slated for rescue archaeological excavations along the route of the Struma Highway by Bulgaria’s Road Infrastructure Agency.

Background Infonotes:

The Early Neolithic settlement near Mursalevo, Blagoevgrad District, in Southwest Bulgaria was discovered in May 2015 (even though the spot has been known as an archaeological site since the 1930s) by a team of Bulgarian archaeologists led by Prof. Vasil Nikolov from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. It is dated to about 5,800 BC. The Bulgarian archaeologists found there at least 20 prehistoric buildings with perfect alignment whose walls are 20 cm wide and made of plant stalks and clay. They believe that the buildings were burned down deliberately in arson after firewood was stocked inside them. On the same spot near Mursalevo, the archaeologists have found a Late Neolithic grave with a skeleton in fetal position, artifacts such as tools, figurines, and ceramic vessels, as well as dozens of Ancient Thracian sanctuary pits for rituals and sacrifices from the 5th-1st century BC; it is thought that the Thracians deemed the spot of the former prehistoric settlement a sacred place.