This 8,000-year-old frog-like swastika made of nephrite has been discovered during the latest archaeological excavations of the Slatina Neolithic Settlement in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia. Photo: Trud daily
A “frog-like" swastika made of nephrite has been discovered during archaeological excavations of the 8,000-year-old Slatina Neolithic Settlement in the Bulgarian capital Sofia.
The swastika is 3 cm wide and 3.5 cm long, and dates back to the beginning of the Slatina Neolithic Settlement, i.e. 6000-5500 BC, reports the BulgariandailyTrud.
Nikolov, who has been excavating the site in Sofia’s Slatina Quarter since 1985, has made headlines in 2014 and 2015, after he and his colleague, Assoc. Prof. Krum Bachvarov, discovered a similar Early Neolithic settlement near the town of Mursalevo in Kyustendil District in Southwest Bulgaria.
“We found exactly the same swastika this summer on the last day of our excavations of the prehistoric settlement near Mursalevo. The [archaeological] science also is aware of several more swastikas of this kind which were discovered near Kardzhali (in Southern Bulgaria – see a photo below) and in Thessaly (in NorthwesternGreece)," explains the lead archaeologists.
The swastikadiscovered in the Slatina Neolithic Settlment bears signs of sophisticatedcraftsmanship even though the nephrite it was made of is a very hard stone.
Lead archaeologist Prof. Vasil Nikolov showing the nephrite swastika discovered in the Slatina Neolithic Settlement. Photo: Trud daily
Nikolov says that the frog-like features of the swastika – its shoulders resemble frog legs – are not accidental.
In his words, the prehistoricpeople deemed the amphibians a symbol of fertility because their behavior represented the cycle of life – they come out of their dwellings in the spring, and disappear in the fall in order to show up again next year.
The frog-like nephrite swastika from the Slatina Neolithic Settlement was discovered between two prehistorichouses.
“It probably was placed in a ritualpit, in the foundations of a new house. This could be construed as a gesture of great importance – giving up a sign of prestige in order to invest into something new,"Nikolov hypothesizes.
Compare: this photo shows another froglike prehistoric swastika found in near the city of Kardzhali in Southern Bulgaria, in the Rhodope Mountains. It is part of the collection of the Kardzhali Regional Museum of History. Photo: Kardzhali Regional Museum of History Facebook Page
In addition to the discovery of the nephriteswastika, the latest excavations of the Slatina Neolithic Settlement, which took part in November 2015, have revealed new information about the development of the archaeologicallayers.
Based on their research of the Slatina settlement so far, the archaeologists have distinguished two phases in the settlement’s development during the Early Neolithic (6000-5500 BC) called “Slatina" and “Kremikovtsi" (after another quarter of Sofia).
The ceramicvessels from the Slatina phase are decorated with whiteornaments, while the ceramics from the Kremikovtsi phase feature decorations in dark colors such as red, brown, and wine-red.
In one of the newly excavatedEarly Neolithic homes in Sofia’s Slatina Quarter, the archaeologists have found traces from both phases.
The home’s floor was plastered up a total of six times; its inhabitants would cover it with crushedceramicsvessels and would cover them with a thick layer of clay.
It has been found that the floor of the home in question features remains of ceramicvessels from both local phases of the EarlyNeolithic.
The archaeologists believe that the introduction of ceramics with different features signifying another EarlyNeolithicphase most likely resulted not from a violent event but from the peaceful arrival of a small group of people. These were representatives of a differentculture who came from the west.
In one of the Early Neolithic homes, Nikolov’s team has found several dozen bone “billets" apparently prepared for the production oftools; this is taken to mean that the home was probably also a workshop making bone tools.
Two of the prehistorichomes explored by the archaeologists during the 2015 digs are interesting because of their size – one has an area of more than 100 square meters while the other is only 10 square meters.
The researchers have exposed the holes in the ground left by the wooden poles that supported the dwelling’s walls made by wattleandclay.
Other new finds include prehistorickilns which were built with river stones, and covered with clay domes, as well as bone and flinttools, ceramic vessels, and traces of millstones.
A kiln discovered in the Slatina Neolithic Settlement. Photo: Trud daily
The November 2015 excavations of the Slatina Neolithic Settlement. Photo: Trud daily
The excavations have exposed six different layers of floor plaster made with crushed ceramic vessels and clay in one of the prehistoric homes in Sofia’s Slatina Quarter. Photo: Trud daily
Back in October 2015, on behalf of the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology, archaeologist Vasil Nikolov presented together with Sofia Municipality aproject for the restorationof prehistoric homes from the Slatina Neolithic Settlement.
The 8,000-year-old Slatina Neolithic Settlement is located in the Slatina Quarter in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia.
It was discoveredby accident in 1950 by constructionworkers near the Shipchenski Prohod Blvd. During the first archaeologicalexcavations of the site in 1958, the archaeologists found remains from prehistoric homes, including clay-plastered poles, hearths, and ceramic vessels.
The prehistoricsettlementmound was found to be located on the left bank of the Slatinska River. At first, the settlement was dated back to the 3rd millennium BC.
However, new rescue excavations starting in 1985 revealed additional information, and based on the new data and more modern dating methods, in 1987, the settlement was dated to about 6000 BC, i.e. the Early Neolithic. Back then, the archaeologistsexcavated nine homes and discovered dozens of axes and clawhammers, flint knives, sickles, handmills, loom weights, as well as funerals of Neolithic people.
Thus, the SlatinaNeolithicSettlement is the earliest human settlement on the territory of the Bulgarian capital city ofSofia. It was settled in the Early Neolithic by people who came from AsiaMinor.
The Slatina Neolithic Settlement had a total territory of 80 decares (app. 20 acres). Unfortunately, during urban construction in the 1970s, most of it was destroyed, and today only 8 decares (app. 2 acres), have been preserved.
The Neolithic homes in Slatina were built of wattleplastered with clay. The ceilings were made of wood, and covered with straw or reed. The prehistoric people’s main food was wheat grown nearby; the archaeologists also found there 8,000-year-old lentils. The livestock was kept outside of the settlement.
The Slatina Neolithic homes had granaries inside them as well as kilns, cult (religious) hearths, and wooden beds. The materials used by the prehistoric people there include wood, clay, stone, flint, bone, and horns. Some of the clayvessels feature geometric motifs. One of the most interesting finds has been a part of a marblefigure of the MotherGoddess used for fertilityrituals.
The Slatina Neolithic Settlement in Bulgaria’s Sofia belongs to the first phase of the Neolithicperiod when the first agriculturalists and livestock breeders settled down in today’s Bulgaria. They came from Asia Minor to the Balkan Peninsula, gradually advancing from the south and southeast to the north, deeper into Europe.
Thus, similarNeolithicsettlements found in the Struma Valley in Southwest Bulgaria such as the Mursalevo Neolithic Settlement are about 50-100 years older than the Slatina settlement in Sofia.
The Slatina Neolithic Settlement was a large one and had contacts with all neighboring regions – it is believed that some ceramicvessels and other items were brought from today’s regions of Southern Bulgaria (Thrace), Southwest Bulgaria (the Struma Valley), Serbia, and Northwest Bulgaria.