Bulgarian Archaeologists Begin 2015 Excavations of Early Neolithic Site Ohoden

Bulgarian Archaeologists Begin 2015 Excavations of Early Neolithic Site Ohoden

Bulgarian archaeologist Georgi Ganetsovski at work at the Ohoden Early Neolithic settlement in 2010. Photo: Georgi Ganetsovski's Facebook Page

Bulgarian archaeologist Georgi Ganetsovski at work at the Ohoden Early Neolithic settlement in 2010. Photo: Georgi Ganetsovski’s Facebook Page

Archaeologists from the Regional Museum of History in the northwestern Bulgarian city of Vratsa have started their 14th annual excavations of one of Europe’s first human settlements – the Early Neolithic site near the town of Ohoden, lead archaeologist Georgi Ganetsovski has announced.

“Our goal is two study two structures in the eastern parts of the site. These are two pit-houses (sunken featured buildings) rich in archaeological material, with lots of interesting ceramic vessels from the so called monochromic phase of the Neolithic. This is actually the earliest form of ceramics," Ganetsovski, who has excavated the Ohoden site since discovering it 14 years ago, has told Radio Focus Vidin.

He adds that his team is also going to study an interesting Neolithic workshop for the making of flint tools, with the archaeologists hoping to be able to explore the entire process of production.

“The sacred place, i.e. the area for sacred rituals has already been excavated. We will try to start excavating an area of 50 square meters in order to trace a pole platform supported by large massive poles which extends to the south. It is interesting because there are two ditches on both sides of the platform whose function has not been established yet. The pole platform itself has an area of 130 meters, and is plastered with a thick layer of clay," the archaeologist explains.

According to Ganetsovski, the Early Neolithic site near Ohoden is yet to yield lots of intriguing finds even though it already has revealed major evidence about one of the earliest (if not the earliest) human civilization in Europe such as what might be the earliest known (8,000-years-old) sun temple.

In April 2015, the site of the Early Neolithic settlement near Ohoden was acquired by Vratsa Municipality in order to turn it into an open-air museum.

Background Infonotes:

The Early Neolithic settlement near the town of Ohoden, Vratsa Municipality, in Northwest Bulgaria is one of the earliest human settlements in Europe dating back to the 6th millennium BC. It consists of prehistoric homes, a necropolis, and a fertility and sun temple. It features what might be the earliest known sun temple which is about 8,000 years old, as are the prehistoric human skeletons found there. The analysis of the artifacts found at the Ohoden Early Neolithic settlement shows that it belongs to the so called Gradeshnitsa-Karcha Early Neolithic Culture which developed in today’s Northwestern Bulgaria and Southwestern Romania. The finds from the Ohoden excavations indicate that the Balkan Peninsula was the center of a prehistoric civilization that spread to the rest of Europe.

Back in 2011, the archaeologists excavating Ohoden discovered a sanctuary with a prehistoric altar decorated with huge trophy elk horns placed 2 meters away from the ritual burial of a man discovered in 2010. The scholars have stipulated that the altar was used to glorify the buried man’s hunting achievements. The sanctuary is believed to have been a fertility and son temple as its floor was paved with U-shaped stones directed to the east; it contained dozens of clay and stone disc symbolizing the sun disc, respectively the sun cult, in early agrarian societies. These finds that are unique of their kind in the entire world have led the scholars to hypothesize that it might be the world’s oldest temple dedicated to the sun.

The first grave excavated at Ohoden was found in 2004. It belonged to a woman who was named with the Bulgarian female name “Todorka" by the local archaeologists. Todorkas burial is exhibited in the Vratsa Regional Museum of History. Three more Early Neolithic graves have been discovered at Ohoden.The Early Neolithic homes whose remains were discovered at Ohoden showed traces of beams and columns 45 cm in diameter which is evidence of massive walls and roofs. The 8,000-year-old Early Neolithic settlement in Ohoden in Northwest Bulgaria was first found in 2002. It has been excavated by a team of archaeologists from the Vratsa Regional Museum of History led by archaeologist Georgi Ganetsovski.