Archaeologists Unearth ‘Dancing Priestess’ Figurine in Neolithic Settlement in Bulgaria’s Varbitsa

The Neolithic figurine of a "dancing priestess" with intriguingly detailed features (in the middle) has been discovered during the excavations of a prehistoric and Antiquity settlement in Bulgaria's Varbitsa. Photo: Trud daily

The Neolithic figurine of a “dancing priestess” with intriguingly detailed features (in the middle) has been discovered during the excavations of a prehistoric and Antiquity settlement in Bulgaria’s Varbitsa. Photo: Trud daily

A 7,500-year-old clay figurine from the Neolithic of what has been described as a “dancing priestess" has been discovered by archaeologists during the excavations of a settlement located near the town of Varbitsa, Shumen District, in Northeast Bulgaria.

The female figurine is seen as especially intriguing because of detailed features – it has its hands on its waist, and its face shows its widely open eyes, its mouth, and even its nostrils, reports the Bulgarian daily Trud, pointing out that clay figurines from the same time period which have been found in Bulgaria so far “have only a nose, at best".

The figurine of the “dancing priestess" has been made part of the permanent collection of the Regional Museum of History in Bulgaria’s Shumen together with several more artifacts found in 20 days of archaeological excavations of the settlement near Varbitsa, which has a total area of 13 decares (app. 3.25 acres), and features archaeological layers from different time periods.

“The archaeological material has surpassed our expectations. We have found two cultural layers. The earlier one is from the Neolithic, and the later one is from the Roman Age," says Dr. Svetlana Venelinova who was the deputy head of the archaeological team excavating the settlement near Varbitsa.

The intriguing female figurine has been described as depicting a young woman whose facial features show religious exultation while performing a ritual dedicated to the Mother Goddess and the cult of fertility. The detailed features of the figurine lead the archaeologists to believe that the woman in question was the priestess of the settlement.

Another interesting finds from the same place near Varbitsa is fragment of a ceramic vessel for grain with a relief depiction of a young woman in a praying pose. This is said to be the earliest known depiction of this kind, and appears to be connected with the cult for the harvesting and preservation of the crops.

The settlement near Varbitsa existed for about 300 years during the Neolithic period. Its excavation has been funded by the Shumen Regional Museum of History and by local sponsors.

Archaeological artifacts discovered during the excavations of the prehistoric and Antiquity settlement near the town of Varbitsa in Northeast Bulgaria. Photo: Trud daily

Archaeological artifacts discovered during the excavations of the prehistoric and Antiquity settlement near the town of Varbitsa in Northeast Bulgaria. Photo: Trud daily