Ancient Coins, Archaeological Artifacts Seized from Treasure Hunters Make It to History Museum in Bulgaria’s Provadiya
A total of 26 ancient and medieval coins and a number of archaeological artifacts have been donated by Bulgaria’s National Revenue Agency to the Museum of History in the town of Provadiya in Northeast Bulgaria.
The coins and antiques in question have been confiscated from treasure hunters by the Bulgarian courts of law, and had ended up in possession of the National Revenue Agency, the press service of the agency has announced.
It points out that the Provadiya Museum of History already has a rich collection of ancient coins.
These include a bronze coin of Lysimachus (r. 306-281 BC), one of Alexander I the Great’s generals, and one of his diadochi (successors) who became King of Macedon, Thrace, and Asia Minor, and a bronze coin from the Ancient Thracian and Greek (and Roman) city of Odessos (today’s Black Sea city of Varna) from the 3rd-2nd century BC.
Other interesting coins that can be seen in the Museum of History in Bulgaria’s Provadiya include a silver coin and a copper coin of the Ancient Roman city of Marcianopolis (today’s Devnya in Northeast Bulgaria) from the reign of Emperor Septimius Severus (r. 193-211 AD).
In addition to the 26 ancient coins whose dating and origin have not been specified, Bulgaria’s Revenue Agency has also donated to the Provadiya Museum a number of other archaeological artifacts.
These include a prehistoric copper awl, fragments from bronze fibulas used for the buttoning of clothes in the 3rd-4th century AD, and medieval glass bracelets.
The Provadiya Museum of History already has similar antiques such as copper pendants and rings from the Late Middle Ages.
Bulgaria’s Revenue Agency reminds that over the past few years it has donated archaeological artifacts seized from treasure hunters to the National Museum of History in Sofia, and a number of other museums.
It has not explained why specifically it picked the Provadiya Museum of History for its latest donation.
In addition to its medieval Bulgarian fortress, the northeastern town of Provadiya is especially known for the Solnitsata (i.e. “The Salt Pit”) prehistoric settlement, which has been dubbed “Europe’s oldest prehistoric town”.
During its 2015 summer archaeological excavations of the Salt Pit settlement in Provadiya, the team of archaeologist Prof. Vasil Nikolov from National Institute and Museum of Archaeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences has discovered a 6,300-year-old gold jewel.
This find seems to rival the Varna Gold Treasure from the Varna Charlocolithic Necropolis for the title of the world ‘s oldest gold, and appears to have been the product of the same Chalcolithic (Aeneolithic, Copper Age) civilization.
Read more about the recent archaeological discoveries in the Solnitsata (i.e. “The Salt Pit”) prehistoric settlement in Bulgaria’s Provadiya:
Treasure hunting and illegal trafficking of antiques have been rampant in Bulgaria after the collapse of the communism regime in 1989 (and allegedly before that). Estimates vary but some consider this the second most profitable activity for the Bulgarian mafia after drug trafficking. One recent estimate suggests its annual turnover amounts to BGN 500 million (app. EUR 260 million), and estimates of the number of those involved range from about 5 000 to 200 000 – 300 000, the vast majority of whom are impoverished low-level diggers.
The prehistoric settlement of Provadiya – Solnitsata (i.e. “The Salt Pit”) is located 6 km southeast of the modern-day town of Provadiya, Varna District, in Northeast Bulgaria. It is a prehistoric settlement mound which in a later historical period was turned into a large Ancient Thracian burial mound.
The prehistoric settlement mound has an archaeological layer of about 6 meters, and a diameter of 105 meters at the only rock salt deposit in the eastern part of the Balkan Peninsula. It is has a territory of 7 decares (app. 1.75 acres).
The extraction of rock salt began during the Late Neolithic, about 5,400-5,000 BC, with the prehistoric residents of the town boiling water from a local salt water spring in ceramic vessels placed inside large domed kilns, and producing salt bricks which they traded and used for the preservation of meat.
The Salt Pit settlement near Provadiya is Europe’s earliest known case of the use of this salt-making technology making Provadiya the oldest salt producing center on the continent.
The life of the Providiya – Solnitsata settlement continued during the Mid Chalcolithic, i.e. between 4,600 and 4,500 BC, and the Late Chalcolithic, between 4,500 and 4,200 BC, when it developed further into a major salt making complex, with the initial kilns being replaced by open-air salt pits up to 10 meters in diameter.
The prehistoric people would light an open fire at the bottom of the pit to boil the salt water in large clay bowls. It is estimated that in this period the town was inhabited by about 350 people.
The Salt Pit settlement near Bulgaria’s Provadiya has yielded a number of other intriguing discoveries such as Europe’s earliest two-storey homes from the Late Neolithic which were used for both dwelling, and salt making, as well as a granary where the archaeologists have found four sickles made of deer horns.
The lucrative extraction and trade of rock salt are believed to have led to the accumulation of wealth by the prehistoric inhabitants of the Provadiya – Solnitsata settlement, and have been linked to the gold treasure of the Varna Chalcolithic Necropolis (4,500-4,200 BC), the oldest hoard of gold objects found in the world, which is located 37 km to the east.
The riches of the settlement had to be protected which is why during the Mid Chalcolithic its inhabitants built a fortification consisting of a moat and a rampart wall of oak poles covered with clay as well as two large-scale stone bastions.
The bastions were destroyed by an earthquake around 4,550 BC leading the prehistoric people to build new walls made of stone, which also were destroyed by an earthquake. The moat in front of the fortress walls had a diameter of about 100 meters, and was over 2 meters wide, and 3.3 meters deep.
The archaeological artifacts from the fortified prehistoric settlement Provadiya – Solnitsata are part of the collections of the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia and Provadiya Museum of History.
Europe’s oldest prehistoric town was first excavated in 2005, and has been studied ever since, by lead archaeologist Prof. Vasil Nikolov and Assoc. Prof. Krum Bachvarov from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.