Archaeologists Find 7,500-Year-Old Cult Complex, ‘Europe’s Largest Stone Building’ in Island Prehistoric Settlement in Bulgaria’s Durankulak Lake

A prehistoric cult artifact discovered in the newly found 7,500-year-old cult complex on the Big Island in the Durankulak Lake in Northeast Bulgaria. Photo: TV grab from BNT

A prehistoric cult artifact discovered in the newly found 7,500-year-old cult complex on the Big Island in the Durankulak Lake in Northeast Bulgaria. Photo: TV grab from BNT

A prehistoric cult* complex which is about 7,500 years old, i.e. dating to the Chalcolithic, as well as what has been described as “possibly Prehistoric Europe’s largest stone building”, have been discovered by the archaeologists who have resumed the excavations of the Paleolithic and Neolithic settlement on the Big Island in the Durankulak Lake in Bulgaria’s northeastern-most corner.

The excavations of the Paleolithic and Neolithic settlement on the Big Island in Bulgaria’s Durankulak Lake first started in 1970s, with the discovered Paleolithic finds dating back to around 10,000 BC; and a Neolithic settlement dating back to between 5500-5400 BC and 5100-5000 BC.

The settlement, which created what is said to be Europe’s first stone city, belongs to Blatnitsa, the earliest phase of Europe’s Late Neolithic Hamangia-Durankulak Culture (whose remains are found in today’s Black Sea regions of Bulgaria and Romania).

Some of the finds date back to about 10,000 BC, the Paleolithic Age, and there are also numerous finds from all the later periods in Prehistory, and from the Antiquity and the Middle Ages.

The Big Island in the Durankulak Lake, a 3.4 square km lagoon, is known as the Lake City or the “European Troy”.

It features prehistoric remains from what is said to be the first sedentary agricultural culture in Europe, which created Europe’s first stone architecture.

The so called Big Island is today a peninsula with an area of 19 decares (app. 4.7 acres, or 0.019 square km).

Cult artifacts discovered in the newly found cult complex in the prehistoric settlement in the Durankulak Lake in Northeast Bulgaria. Photo: TV grab from BNT

Cult artifacts discovered in the newly found cult complex in the prehistoric settlement in the Durankulak Lake in Northeast Bulgaria. Photo: TV grab from BNT

The 2015 summer excavations of the prehistoric settlement in Durankulak are the first in 11 years, and have revealed more of the secrets of the stone city on the lake island located right next to the Black Sea coast, reports the Bulgarian National Television.

In the past few days, the archaeologists working in Durankulak have unearthed “possibly the largest stone building known to date in Europe” which contains a kiln that was in use for about 80 years. Another structure nearby contains various cult artifacts.

The newly discovered stone building, which dates back to the Chalcolithic (Aeneolithic, or Copper Age), has been found to have collapsed because of an earthquake.

“The challenge we are now facing is to reveal the sequence of the layers, or the stages of life, in one of the most monumental buildings ever in prehistoric Europe,” says Petar Zidarov, an archaeologist from New Bulgarian University in Sofia.

He makes it clear that the stone building in question had an area of over 200 square meters, and if it gets proven that it had two floors, it would have a combined built-up area of over 400 square meters.

“The people who lived in this place were not just excellent builders but they were also among the first people in the world who started to smelt metals such as native copper and native gold, to forge jewels out of them, and to trade with them as far as the Mediterranean coast,” Zidarov adds.

A newly found prehistoric kiln inside the large stone building in the prehistoric settlement in Bulgaria's Durankulak was in use for about 80 years. Photo: TV grab from BNT

A newly found prehistoric kiln inside the large stone building in the prehistoric settlement in Bulgaria’s Durankulak was in use for about 80 years. Photo: TV grab from BNT

The 2015 excavations of the prehistoric settlement on the Big Island in the Durankulak Lake are a joint project of the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, New Bulgarian University, and the Varna Museum of Archaeology.

Unfortunately, renowned Bulgarian archaeologist Henrieta Todorova who studied the prehistoric culture in Durankulak for about 40 years has recently passed away.

The archaeological excavations are funded jointly by the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture and Shabla Municipality.

Shabla Municipality has recently implemented a project for creating Bulgaria’s first open-air Paleolithic museum at the site of the prehistoric settlement on the Big Island in the Durankulak Lake, near the town of Durankulak.

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The excavations of the prehistoric settlement on the Big Island in the Durankulak Lake in Northeast Bulgaria have been resumed after an 11-year pause. Photo: TV grab from BNT

The excavations of the prehistoric settlement on the Big Island in the Durankulak Lake in Northeast Bulgaria have been resumed after an 11-year pause. Photo: TV grab from BNT

Durankulak 3

Background Infonotes:

The Durankulak Archaeological Preserve is located near the Black Sea coast and Bulgaria’s land border with Romania; it features several archaeological sites from different ages, the most ancient one dating back to the Paleolithic and Neolithic Era, and the most recent one – to the First Bulgarian Empire in the 10th century.

The Paleolithic and Neolithic settlement on the Big Island in the Durankulak Lake, a lagoon with an area of 3.4 square km on Bulgaria’s Black Sea Northern Black Sea coast near the town of Durankulak, Shabla Municipality, is known as the Lake City or the “European Troy”.

It features prehistoric remains from what is said to be the first sedentary agricultural culture in Europe. The so called Big Island is today a peninsula with an area of 19 decares (app. 4.7 acres, or 0.019 square km).

The excavations of the Paleolithic and Neolithic settlement on the Big Island in Bulgaria’s Durankulak Lake first started in 1974 by Bulgarian archaeologists Henrieta Todorova and Todor Dimov.

They discovered Paleolithic finds dating back to around 10,000 BC; and a Neolithic settlement dating back to between 5500-5400 BC and 5100-5000 BC.

The settlement, which created what is said to be Europe’s first stone city, is characterized as belonging to Blatnitsa, the earliest phase of Europe’s Late Neolithic Hamangia-Durankulak Culture (whose remains are found in today’s Black Sea regions of Romania and Bulgaria).

The Bulgarian archaeologists found archaeological layers from a total of 8 prehistoric settlements on the Durankulak Lake island, the first two of which belong to the Late Neolithic Hamangia-Durankulak Culture and the next four – to the Chalcolithic (Aeneolithic, Copper Age) Varna Culture.

What is said to be the world’s largest Paleolithic-Neolithic necropolis – containing traces of about 1400 and 1204 studied graves – dating back to 5300-3800 BC – has also been found there.

The first burial mounds dating to about the 3500-3400 BC are said to have mark the arrival of the proto-Thracians.

The archaeological site on the island also features remains from Ancient Thrace – a Thracian settlement dating back to 1300-1200 BC, around the time of the Trojan War; a 4th century BC rock shrine of Thracian (Greek, Anatolian) Mother Goddess Cybele; and a 9th-10th century AD fortress from the period of the First Bulgarian Empire (632/680-1018 AD), and an Ancient Bulgar necropolis.

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*In this article, as in all other articles of ArchaeologyinBulgaria.com, the term “cult” is used in its original and basic meaning which is similar to the meaning of “religion”, usually referring to religious cults in prehistoric and ancient times, as exemplified by the below definition derived from “Oxford Dictionaries”. This meaning should not be confused with other meanings of the word “cult”, and should not be confused for an abbreviation of the term “culture”. 

cult (noun)

1. A system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object: “the cult of St. Olaf”

Source: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/cult