Archaeologists Discover 6,500-Year-Old Grave of Man Holding Stone Ax Scepter near Chalcolithic Flint Workshop in Bulgaria’s Kamenovo

The newly discovered grave from 4,500-4,300 BC which has been found in the Chalcolithic necropolis in Bulgaria's Kamenovo. Photo: archaeologist Dilen Dilov

The newly discovered grave from 4,500-4,300 BC which has been found in the Chalcolithic necropolis in Bulgaria’s Kamenovo. Photo: archaeologist Dilen Dilov

A 6,500-year-old grave of a man holding in his hands a stone ax scepter has been discovered by archaeologists excavating a recently found necropolis from from the Chalcolithic (Aeneolithic, Copper Age) in the town of Kamenovo, Kubrat Municipality, Razgrad District, in Northeast Bulgaria.

A total of seven graves were found in the Chalcolithic necropolis in Kamenovo when it was first discovered back in September 2015. However, these were all graves of women and children (of the Mediterranean anthropological type), with the newly discovered grave being the first male grave to be found there to date, reports local news site Darik Razgrad.

Shortly before finding the necropolis, in the spring of 2015, the same archaeological team discovered in Kamenovo a 6,500-year-old Chalcolithic workshop for flint tools (still containing a large number of completed or unfinished flint tools).

Now the team led by Assoc. Prof. Yavor Boyadzhiev from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia and Dimitar Chernakov from the Ruse Regional Museum of History, and Dilen Dilov from the Razgrad Regional Museum of History as the deputy head of the expedition, have continued their excavations of the Chalcolithic necropolis in Kamenovo.

The new digs, which started on June 6, and are to be completed by June 25, are funded by the Razgrad Regional Museum of History. Further excavations are expected to be carried out in September 2016 with funding from Bulgaria’s Ministry of Culture.

The newly found grave of the male who was buried holding a stone ax dates back to 4,500-4,300 BC, reports local news site Top Novini Razgrad.

Inside the grave, the archaeologists also found a bead from the shell of the Spondylus mollusk which was harvested in the Mediterranean in prehistoric times. According to Boyadzhiev, the man might have worn the bead on his neck but the researchers are yet to figure out whether the adornment consisted of a single bead or more beads.

Spondylus mollusk beads were also found in some of the graves discovered in 2015. Their presence has been interpreted as a testimony to the commercial ties that the region of today’s Northeast Bulgaria had with the Mediterranean coast during the Copper Age.

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The stone ax scepter held by the buried Chalcolithic man was never used as a tool or weapon, and was probably a symbol of power. Photo: archaeologist Dilen Dilov

The stone ax scepter held by the buried Chalcolithic man was never used as a tool or weapon, and was probably a symbol of power. Photo: archaeologist Dilen Dilov

Lead archaeologist Yavor Boyadzhiev has explained that the male grave from the Chalcolithic necropolis has been found in a shallow layer, almost right under the modern-day asphalt in the yard of a former elementary school in Kamenovo.

The prehistoric man was buried in a fetal position, lying on his left side, holding the stone ax in his hands, with his body oriented in an east-west direction.

Boyadzhiev says the bodies of women and children discovered in the Kamenovo necropolis so far were buried in a similar way, and some of the graves were organized in rows.

He does point out that anthropological examination is yet to confirm the sex of the person in the newly found grave.

However, it seems certain that he was a male because of the stone ax scepter found in his hands: all similar prehistoric stone ax scepters to have ever been discovered in Bulgaria, which are a total of 15, have been found in male graves.

The archaeologist also points out that there are no traces that the stone ax was ever used as a tool for labor or as a weapon in battle, and it was probably made use of solely as a symbol of power.

“The temptation to announce that he was some kind of a chieftain is huge but we’re not going to do that because we’ve got no categorical evidence," Boyadzhiev has told the Bulgaria Dnes daily, adding that the man could have been a warrior involved in the protection of the workshop for the production of flint tools.

The archaeological team led Boyadzhiev, Chernakov, and Dilov also plans to continue researching the prehistoric flint tool workshop that they discovered in Bulgaria’s Kamenovo last year.

The archaeologists believe that the flint workshop started operation in the early Chalcolithic, ca. 4,800 BC, within a Chalcolithic settlement.

The local people extracted flint stone from deposits near today’s towns of Ravno and Topchii located near Kamenovo, processed it, and distributed the flint tools they produced all over the southern part of the Balkan Peninsula.

Boyadzhiev adds that the Chalcolithic flint tool workshop in Kamenovo has turned out to be much larger than the archaeologists originally suspected.

The Chalcolithic necropolis in Bulgaria's Kamenovo has been found underneath the yard of a former elementary school. Photo: archaeologist Dilen Dilov

The Chalcolithic necropolis in Bulgaria’s Kamenovo has been found underneath the yard of a former elementary school. Photo: archaeologist Dilen Dilov

Also learn more about the Chalcolithic flint workshop and necropolis discoveries in Bulgaria’s Kamenovo from our 2015 articles:

Skeletons Found in Chalcolithic Necropolis in Bulgaria’s Kamenovo Belonged to Women and Children of ‘Mediterranean Anthropological Type’

Archaeologists Discover 6,500-Year-Old Prehistoric Necropolis underneath School Yard in Bulgaria’s Kamenovo

Archaeologists Unearth 6,500-Year-Old Chalcolithic Workshop for Flint Tools in Bulgaria’s Kamenovo

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