7,600-Year-Old Mother's Grave from Early Neolithic Discovered in Slatina Settlement in Bulgaria’s Sofia

7,600-Year-Old Mother’s Grave from Early Neolithic Discovered in Slatina Settlement in Bulgaria’s Sofia

The 7,600-year-old skeleton found in the Slatina Neolithic Settlement in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia is believed to have belonged to a mother whose child was also buried nearby, right next to a prehistoric home. Photo: Bulgarian Academy of Sciences press service

A 7,600-year-old grave, most probably of a mother buried with her child, from the Early Neolithic has been discovered by archaeologists excavating the prehistoric Slatina Settlement in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia.

The discovery in the 8,000 Slatina Neolithic Settlement has been made by a team of archaeologists led by Prof. Vasil Nikolov, Vice President of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and former head of its National Institute and Museum of Archaeology.

“This is an extremely rare find," Nikolov says, as cited by the press service of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

“The newly discovered skeleton most probably belongs to a mother with her child nearby, right next to the remains from a house [located] in the periphery of the settlement," the lead archaeologist explains.

It is noted that during the Neolithic, humans were laid to rest into “Mother Earth" in the fetal position.

Lead archaeologist Prof. Vasil Nikolov is seen looking at the newly unearthed 7,600-year-old skeleton in the Slatina Neolithic Settlement. Photo: Bulgarian Academy of Sciences press service

A billboard at the site of the Slatina Neolithic Settlement in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia. Photo: Wikipedia

A map showing the location of the Slatina Neolithic Settlement, 3-4 km from Sofia’s downtown. Map: Wikipedia

The Slatina Neolithic Settlement in today’s Bulgarian capital Sofia is a testimony to how developed Europe’s first civilization really was.

Many of the prehistoric homes discovered in the Slatina Settlement were really massive, and deemed to have been Europe’s largest prehistoric dwellings from that period: one home has an area of nearly 300 square meters, another – 147 square meters, and still another – 117 square meters.

The partly excavated ruins from the Slatina Neolithic Settlement are located in today’s quarters Slatina and Geo Milev, along the Shipchenski Prohov Boulevard, some 3-4 kilometers from Sofia’s downtown.

The prehistoric settlement itself existed for a period of about 500 years – from the end of the 7th millennium BC, when the first settlers arrived and made the place their home, until the middle of the 6th millennium BC (i.e. ca. 6,000 BC – ca. 5,500 BC).

The Slatina Neolithic Settlement was surrounded with concentric circles which had “precautionary and magical functions", while sacrifices were carried out inside them, says the press service of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

The latest artifact finds from the prehistoric site in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia include various household and ritual items such as a bone spoon, pottery vessels, a pintadera (ancient stamp), and parts from ritual tables used for performing sacrifices.

One of the most intriguing artifacts found in the Slatina Neolithic Settlement over the past few years has been a nephrite frog-like swastika, one of several nearly identical prehistoric artifacts to have been found in Bulgaria.

“The upcoming research [of the 7,600-year-old grave] is going to provide information about the physical features of the people who in today’s Bulgaria gave the start of the first European civilization," the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences says.

A bone spoon and other artifacts discovered during the latest excavations of the Slatina Neolithic Settlement in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia. Photos: Bulgarian Academy of Sciences press service

Nikolov himself notes that while the archaeologists have gathered sufficient data about the way of life of the inhabitants of the Slatina Settlement, the burial rituals there have not been fully established.

The lead archaeologist will continue the excavations of the Slatina Neolithic Settlement with funding from Sofia Municipality. In 2017, he was awarded by Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova precisely for his discoveries and research of the Slatina Settlement, which first began in the 1980s.

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 and Geo Milev Quarters in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia, along the Shipchenski Prohod Boulevard, about 3-4 kilometers from the city’s downtown.

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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