Finds in Bulgaria’s Ohoden Show ‘Mediterranean’, ‘Proto-European’ People Formed Joint Prehistoric Civilization in Southeast Europe, Archaeologist Says

The 2016 archaeological excavations of the Neolithic site near Bulgarai’s Ohoden have added three obsidian blades to obsidian lamellas discovered there in the past few archaeological seasons. Photo: Vratsa Regional Museum of History

Recent archaeological discoveries made in the Early Neolithic archaeological site Valoga near Ohoden in Northwest Bulgaria demonstrate that people from two anthropological groups, the Mediterranean and the “Proto-European", came together to peacefully form a joint prehistoric civilization in Southeast Europe, says archaeologist Georgi Ganetsovski.

Ganetsovski, who is presently the Director of the Regional Museum of History in Bulgaria’s Vratsa, has been in charge of the archaeological excavations in Ohoden, making important discoveries about the dawn of human civilization in Europe.

The 2016 summer excavations there led to the discovery of an 8,000-year-old stone structure and an obsidian artifact of the same age which was at first believed to have originated in Armenia (see below).

The archaeological discoveries in Ohoden so far have revealed some of the earliest burial facilities from this first agricultural civilization which was formed in the Balkan Peninsula by people from the Mediterranean and Proto-European anthropological type, Ganetsovski has told Portal12.

“[One thing that] is curious in Ohoden is that analyses show that the adult individuals belong to two anthropological groups. One is that of the “Mediterraneans", which partly confirms the hypothesis about the process of Mediterranean migration from Asia Minor to the Balkan Peninsula. But the other finds demonstrate the presence of the Proto-European anthropological type," the archaeologist states.

“This prehistoric site [in Ohoden] gives an idea about the formation of this civilization out of the very interesting intertwining of these two communities, which occurred, at least in this region, in a totally peaceful way," he elaborates.

Ganetsovski emphasizes that over the 16 years of archaeological research in the Valoga prehistoric site in Northwest Bulgaria (since the digs started in 2000) his team has found no evidence of Neolithic violence despite the interaction of two different anthropological groups.

In his words, this comes to show that the originally native community had reached a sufficiently high level in its cultural and technological development so that it avoided conflict with the newcomers, and instead achieved “synchronization" with them.

“This is our interpretation because usually where two civilizations, or two cultural communities at different stages in their development get to meet, there is a conflict. You know what happened to the Native Americans, for example," adds the archaeologist.

Ganetsovski has called for “getting into the mindset" of the Neolithic people who inhabited Southeast Europe in order to understand better the reality that they lived in.

“We are talking about a larger community which had more serious connections and contacts than [we] previously thought. By dividing these people into different cultures, groups, or even smaller communities based on their material specifics, we miss the fact that this was a single unified civilization," he notes.

The archaeologist is positive the evidence from the Ohoden discoveries points in this direction, including the latest finds of obsidian blades which were used by the prehistoric people to make cutting tools.

“In what is today Bulgaria, there are no obsidian deposits. We have found flint blades in large numbers. The Vratsa region has flint deposits which are not of the highest quality but there still was an entire [prehistoric] industry [based on those] – the mass usage of such [flint] blades. This year, we discovered three blades from obsidian which was apparently imported from somewhere," Ganetsovski says.

He further reveals that the obsidian in question did not come from the region of today’s Armenia, as his team was quick to assume at first.

“Out latest tests indicate – this is very “hot" news – that the raw material originated in the Western Carpathian Mountains. Up until now, we had believed that it was brought by the Mediterranean people from the Asia Minor region where this material is in abundance. The fact that there was such a delivery [from the Western Carpathians] shows that the Danube River was no dividing line at all, to the contrary, it was a transportation artery," explains the archaeologist.

He has also reminded of a conclusion “made decades ago" that the population from the original prehistoric civilization of Balkan Peninsula later spread out to other parts of the European continent.

Thanks to the newly discovered obsidian artifacts from Ohoden, the Museum in Vratsa already possesses the richest collection of prehistoric obsidian artifacts in all of Bulgaria.

Bulgaria’s Vratsa Municipality is presently working on establishing of an EU-funded open-air archaeological museum at the Valoga prehistoric settlement in cooperation with the Romanian commune Dobrosloveni.

Learn more about the Early Neolithic Settlement in Valoga near Ohoden in the Background Infonotes below!

Background Infonotes:

The Early Neolithic settlement in the area called Valoga near the town of Ohoden, Vratsa Municipality, in Northwest Bulgaria is one of the earliest human settlements in Europe dating back to the 6th millennium BC. It consists of prehistoric homes, a necropolis, and a fertility and sun temple. It features what might be the earliest known sun temple which is about 8,000 years old, as are the prehistoric human skeletons found there.

The analysis of the artifacts found at the Ohoden Early Neolithic settlement shows that it belongs to the so called Gradeshnitsa-Karcha Early Neolithic Culture which developed in today’s Northwestern Bulgaria and Southwestern Romania. The finds from the Ohoden excavations indicate that the Balkan Peninsula was the center of a prehistoric civilization that spread to the rest of Europe.

Back in 2011, the archaeologists excavating Ohoden discovered a shrine with a prehistoric altar decorated with huge trophy elk horns placed 2 meters away from the ritual burial of a man discovered in 2010. The scholars have stipulated that the altar was used to glorify the buried man’s hunting achievements.

The shrine is believed to have been a fertility and son temple as its floor was paved with U-shaped stones directed to the east; it contained dozens of clay and stone disc symbolizing the sun disc, respectively the sun cult, in early agrarian societies. These finds that are unique of their kind in the entire world have led the scholars to hypothesize that it might be the world’s oldest temple dedicated to the sun.

The first grave excavated at Ohoden was found in 2004. It belonged to a woman who was named with the Bulgarian female name “Todorka" by the local archaeologists. Todorkas burial is exhibited in the Vratsa Regional Museum of History.

Three more Early Neolithic graves have been discovered at Ohoden.The Early Neolithic homes whose remains were discovered at Ohoden showed traces of beams and columns 45 cm in diameter which is evidence of massive walls and roofs.

The 8,000-year-old Early Neolithic settlement in Ohoden in Northwest Bulgaria was first found in 2002. It has been excavated by a team of archaeologists from the Vratsa Regional Museum of History led by archaeologist Georgi Ganetsovski.

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