Sofia Awards Bulgarian Archaeologist Vasil Nikolov for Discoveries in Slatina Neolithic Settlement

Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova (left) has awarded archaeologist Vasil Nikolov (right) for his long-time research of the Slatina Neolithic Settlement on the occasion of his 65th birthday. Photo: Sofia Municipality Press Center

Renowned Bulgarian archaeologist Prof. Vasil Nikolov has been awarded by Sofia Municipality for his long-term research and continuing discoveries of the 8,000-year-old Slatina Neolithic Settlement.

Nikolov, a member of the Prehistory Department of the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia since 1984, has been presented with the award by Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova on the occasion of his 65th birthday which he had celebrated on December 31.

He has been awarded at a special ceremony at the National Museum of Archaeology “for revealing the cultural and historical heritage of the Slatina Neolithic Settlement in Sofia”, the press service of Sofia Municipality has announced.

The award comes several days after Nikolov was elected Vice President of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

“Prof. Nikolov has been researching the most ancient past of the city for several decades now, and, with his noteworthy team, [his research] has pushed back by millennia the [known] time when its first permanent residents selected this wonderful place as their home. Thanks to his research, we know a lot more about the history of Neolithic Sofia than we used to,” Sofia Municipality says in a statement.

“The ancient people never stop to amaze us with their achievements [such as] developed architecture and religion, and notable art. Many of their secrets would not have been revealed had it not been for the success of Prof. Nikolov and the scholars from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences,” Sofia Mayor Fandakova has stated during the award ceremony.

Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova (middle) has awarded archaeologist Vasil Nikolov (right) for his long-time research of the Slatina Neolithic Settlement on the occasion of his 65th birthday. Photo: Sofia Municipality Press Center

Nikolov’s latest discoveries in the Slatina Neolithic Settlement in Sofia have been the largest Neolithic homes in Europe.

In addition to the Slatina Settlement, which is to become an open-air museum, some of Nikolov’s recent and long-term research has also focused on

the Provadiya-Solnitsata (“the Salt Pit”) prehistoric town, Europe’s oldest, near Provadiya in Northeast Bulgaria;

the Mursalevo Neolithic Settlement in Southwest Bulgaria;

the Late Neolithic Shrine near Kapitan Andreevo in Southeast Bulgaria.

Learn more about the Slatina Neolithic Settlement in Sofia in the Background Infonotes below!

Background Infonotes:

The 8,000-year-old Slatina Neolithic Settlement is located in the Slatina Quarter in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia.

It was discovered by accident in 1950 by construction workers near the Shipchenski Prohod Blvd. During the first archaeological excavations of the site in 1958, the archaeologists found remains from prehistoric homes, including clay-plastered poles, hearths, and ceramic vessels.

The prehistoric settlement mound 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 archaeologists excavated nine homes and discovered dozens of axes and claw hammers, flint knives, sickles, handmills, loom weights, as well as funerals of Neolithic people.

Since 1985, the prehistoric settlement in Slatina has been excavated and studied by Prof. Vasil Nikolov, from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia.

Thus, the Slatina Neolithic Settlement is the earliest human settlement on the territory of the Bulgarian capital city of Sofia. It was settled in the Early Neolithic by people who came from Asia Minor.

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 wattle plastered 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 clay vessels feature geometric motifs. One of the most interesting finds has been a part of a marble figure of the Mother Goddess used for fertility rituals.

The Slatina Neolithic Settlement in Bulgaria’s Sofia belongs to the first phase of the Neolithic period 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, similar Neolithic settlements 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 ceramic vessels and other items were brought from today’s regions of Southern Bulgaria (Thrace), Southwest Bulgaria (the Struma Valley), Serbia, and Northwest Bulgaria.

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