Late Bronze Age Settlement Discovered in Northwest Bulgaria in Turkish Stream Gas Pipeline Rescue Digs

Late Bronze Age Settlement Discovered in Northwest Bulgaria in Turkish Stream Gas Pipeline Rescue Digs

A wattle and clay wall collapsed on top of a 1,200 BC Late Bronze Age dwelling preserving its inventory to be discovered more than 3,000 years later during the Turkish Stream rescue digs in Northwest Bulgaria. Photo: TV grab from bTV

A settlement originally dating back to the Late Bronze Age, which was also subsequently inhabited in the Thracian and Roman Antiquity, and the Middle Age, has been discovered by archaeologists near Rasovo in Northwest Bulgaria during rescue excavation on the projected route of the Turkish Stream natural gas transit pipeline.

A total of three archaeological sites have been found along the route of the proposed extension of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline (dubbed Turkish Stream – Northwest) that would potentially be transporting natural gas from Russian via the Black Sea, Turkey, and Bulgaria into Central Europe.

One of the three newly discovered sites is the settlement from the very end of the Bronze Age dating back to ca. 1,200 BC near today’s town of Rasovo, Medkovets Municipality, Montana District, in Northwest Bulgaria.

Because of the fact it was also inhabited during later historical periods, however, the archaeologists have described it as a “multilayer settlement".

One of the most intriguing finds in the Late Bronze Age settlement are the fully preserved ruins of a prehistoric home that is more than 3,000 years old.

“What’s interesting is that [one of] the clay wall(s) collapsed right on top of the [household] inventory that was inside the dwelling, and we are finding [the artifacts] right where they stood over 3,000 years ago," says lead archaeologist Dr. Andrey Aladzhov from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia, as cited by bTV.

The most numerous artifacts in the Late Bronze Age homes are pottery vessels dating back to 1,200 BC, which is approximately the time of the Trojan War described by Homer in the Iliad.

The newly discovered Bronze Age settlement near Bulgaria’s Rasovo belonged to the Orsoya – Baley Culture, a prehistoric culture near the Lower Danube. Photos: TV grabs from bTV

“These are vessels from the so called Orsoya – Baley Culture," Aladzhov says, referring to a Bronze Age prehistoric population that inhabited the region between the Danube River and the Balkan Mountain (Stara Planina) in much of today’s Northwest Bulgaria.

“Unfortunately, this is the only fully preserved dwelling that we’ve found since for a long time the land here was subjected to agricultural cultivation down to a substantial depth, and most of the structures from the [Bronze Age] dwellings have been destroyed," the archaeologist elaborates.

“[The prehistoric homes] were built with wattle and clay walls – wooden poles are erected, and are then intertwined with sticks, and are then plastered with clay baked in the sun or on fire,” he adds.

“The pottery we have found underneath the collapsed wall is very interesting. Orsoya and Baley are towns near the Danube towns of Lom and Vidin where similar dwellings and necropolises have been found. The vessels and their decoration are typical of the classic Mediterranean culture, and show that back then were close cultural ties between these settlements near the Danube and the population of the Mediterranean coast,” Aladzov elaborates.

Not far from the wattle and clay home, the archaeologists have stumbled across a burial urn containing bone particles whose carbon dating analysis would help them date the prehistoric dwellings more precisely.

The Late Bronze Age settlement near Bulgaria’s Rasovo is a multi-layer site, i.e. one which was inhabited througout consecutive historical periods – from the Bronze Age to the Late Middle Ages. Photos: TV grabs from bTV

One of the surviving archaeological structures, however, is especially notable as it demonstrates clearly traces from consecutive historical periods.

“Here in this spot we can see how life started back ca. 1,200 BC, then it was [inhabited again] in the 5th – 4th century BC (Ancient Thrace – editor’s note), then there was a hiatus, and then it was inhabited again in the 3rd century AD at the time when the region was a Roman province which had a very well developed settlement system," Aladzhov elaborates.

A small medieval home from the 10th century AD, the time of the First Bulgarian Empire (632/680 – 1018) has also been discovered there. The archaeological remains go all the way to the Ottoman period beginning in the late 14th – early 15th century.

“It is very nice how we can see prehistoric vessels in the lowest layer, and Roman Era vessels in a layer above them, i.e. this is what we call a multi-layer settlement," the researcher notes.

The artifacts discovered at the archaeological structure in question clearly displaying different historical layers, one on top of the other, include a prehistoric male ring from the Late Bronze Age, fragments from luxury pottery likely imported from Ancient Greece during the Hellenistic period, a coin from the Roman Republic which first conquered today’s Northwest Bulgaria for Ancient Rome, two Roman Era fibulas (Antiquity “safety pins”, as Aladzhov has refered to them), and an earring from the Middle Ages.

Lead archaeologist Andrey Aladzhov shows some of the artifacts discovered in the newly found multi-layer settlement. Photos: TV grabs from bTV

“The most valuable finds for us are the ceramic vessels because they are stratified in the best way, situated in time in the best way, so here based upon the pottery, we know which layer is from the Bronze Age culture, the so called Proto-Thracians, which layer is from the Hellenistic period, and which is from the Roman period,” the archaeoogist explains.

Coins from the Early Byzantine period, and the traces of a dugout from the 15th century, which probably sheltered shepherds, have also been discovered.

The rescue excavations at the 3,200-year-old Late Bronze Age settlement near Rasovo in Bulgaria’s Montana District along the proposed route of the northwestern extension of the Turkish Stream natural gas pipeline were concluded on May 5, 2019.

The three archaeological sites on the Turkish Stream – Northwest gas transit pipeline route in the plain between Montana and the Danube town of Lom in Northwest Bulgaria were detected through thorough geological surveying. The site where the Late Bronze Age settlement has been found is presently a sunflower field.

The projected route of the Turkish Stream gas transit pipeline through Bulgaria is 474 kilometers – if the project gets realized.

“The [archaeological] site has an area of 10 decares (appr. 2.5 acres) but we are excavating about 1 decare of that. Based on the results, the Ministry of Culture is going to decide what steps would be taken next,” Aladzhov has told the Trud daily.

The Bronze Age pottery of the newly excavated shows a belonging to the Mediterranean civilization. Photos: TV grabs from bTV

A total of 6 archaeologists and some 30 local workers have worked on the excavations of the Late Bronze Age settlement near Rasovo.

While much of the archaeological site has been destroyed by agricultural cultivation with tractors, extensive damage has also been cause by treasure hunters who also use heavy machinery such as bulldozers, and have been plaguing Bulgaria’s archaeological and historical heritage for decades.

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