Mouthless Prehistoric ‘Alien’ Mask Mixing Human, Animal Features Found in Salt Pit Settlement Mound in Bulgaria’s Provadiya

Mouthless Prehistoric ‘Alien’ Mask Mixing Human, Animal Features Found in Salt Pit Settlement Mound in Bulgaria’s Provadiya

The mouthless prehistoric clay mask or figurine from the 5th millenium BC found in the Salt Pit prehistoric settlement near Provadiya in Northeast Bulgaria has been compared to “an alien in a space suit” in media reports. Photo: Bulgarian National Radio

A bizarre prehistoric clay mask or a figurine lacking a mouth but featuring both human and animal traits and resembling an “alien" from a sci-fi movie, which dates back to the end of the 5th millennium BC, has been discovered during the latest archaeological excavations of the Provadiya – Solnitsata (“The Salt Pit") Settlement Mound in Northeast Bulgaria, a settlement also known as the oldest town in Europe.

The mouthless prehistoric clay mask or figurine from the Late Chalcolithic, i.e. the period before 4,000 BC, is one out of many impressive artifacts found in the latest digs in the Salt Pit settlement near Bulgaria’s Provadiya.

However, it has made headlines in its own right because of its highly intriguing features, and has been dedicated a special release by the team researching Europe’s first prehistoric town led by Prof. Vasil Nikolov from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia, and deputy head of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

“Many are likening it [the mask or figurine] to… an alien in a space suit," says jokingly a report on the discovery by the Bulgarian National Radio.

The release on the official Facebook page of the Provadiya – Solnitsata archaeological site, a wealthy town whose residents grew rich extracting stone salt and trading with distant human communities during the 5th millennium BC, describes the “alien" artifact as an “untypical, plastic arts anthropomorphic image."

The prehistoric mouthless mask or figurine from the Late Chalcolithic (Aeneolithic, Copper Age) discovered in the Provadiya – Solnitsata Settlement Mound in Northeast Bulgaria has a roughly triangular shape.

Its front side sticks out and has the image of a supposedly human face, whereas the back side is dented, and roughly shaped.

Each of the two angles of the top side of the prehistoric mask or figurine has a short protuberance sticking out, “probably stylized ears", the archaeological team says.

The “ears" of the “alien" figurine have small holes that were probably used for inserting a thread and wearing or hanging up the artifact.

The more than 6,000-year-old mouthless prehistoric “alien” mask from the Salt Pit prehistoric town in Northeast Bulgaria might have been a status symbol. Photo: Provadiya – Solnitsata Prehistoric Settlement Facebook Page

The more than 6,000-year-old mouthless prehistoric “alien” mask from the Salt Pit prehistoric town in Northeast Bulgaria might have been a status symbol. Photo: Provadiya – Solnitsata Prehistoric Settlement Facebook Page

The archaeological team points out that the features of the face depicting on the bizarre mask or figurine from the 5th millennium BC were shaped through cut-in lines setting apart courser and polished sections.

“[The face] has shaped eyebrows, a stylized nose, and elliptical eyes. The artifact was most probably a status symbol hanging on the chest of the person worthy of it. It is interesting that the artifact does have even a hint of a mouth," the archaeological team explains with respect to the mouthless prehistoric mask.

“That is certainly not accidental and bears its own symbolism. The emphasis is on the eyes – their shape, their size as well as the vertical polished bands beneath them are saying a lot more than the missing mouth," the researchers elaborate.

“Staring into them [the eyes of the prehistoric mask], one senses power, superiority, wisdom. It is curious that when this image is viewed from a different angle, one notices traces from different emotions," the team adds.

“It is possible that this might not have been the desired effect but is, rather, [a perception] through the present-day view. Nonetheless, this Late Chalcolithic “mask" is just another jewel in the crown of finds discovered in the oldest urban and salt-mining center on the European continent," concludes the archaeological team led by Prof. Vasil Nikolov.

Nikolov has told the Bulgarian National Radio that there is no way to know for sure what exactly the 6,000-year-old clay mask or figurine might have been used for by the prehistoric people.

Judging by the two holes in the stylized ears of the mouthless mask, it might have hung on a wall, or might have even been the lid of a pottery vessel that could be lifted or lowered using a thread.

In his words, the image on the “alien" mask is a mixture of anthropomorphic and zoomorphic features, and is “categorically connected with the male beginning."

Prehistoric archaeology expert Prof. Vasil Nikolov is seen here showcasing the mouthless clay mask from the 5th millenium BC. Photo: Bulgarian National Radio

The Provadiya – Solnitsata was settled during the Neolithic by some of the world’s first farmers.

They came to discover and use the huge cone-shaped rock salt deposit which is now found about 13 meters under the level of the settlement mound exposed by the archaeological excavations.

Some 1,250 years after the extraction of rock salt began at the Provadiya – Solnitsata prehistoric town, the climate changed, the salt sources dried out, and the once vibrant prehistoric community was ripped apart by internal strife.

The residents of the Solnitsata (“The Salt Pit") prehistoric town in today’s Provadiya in Northeast Bulgaria built what were Europe’s first fortress walls made of stone in order to protect their riches accumulated from the large-scale production of salt some 6,700 years ago.

Those early fortress walls of the Provadiya – Solnitsata prehistoric settlement, which has been dubbed “Europe’s oldest prehistoric town" were very thick – 3 to 4 meters in width.

In 2016, several roughly 6,500-year-old gold artifacts were discovered in the prehistoric Salt Pit town, together with numerous other finds, and back in September 2015, with the discovery of a 6,300-year-old gold jewel also made international headlines.

Also in September 2016, Nikolov announced the discovery of a roughly 6,400-year-old water well where the archaeological team reached water at a depth of 8 meters.

Provadiya – Solnitsata was one of the earliest major settlements from Europe’s civilization, the prehistoric civilization which emerged in the Neolithic on the territory of today’s Bulgaria and parts of the neighboring countries such as Romania and Serbia, in the Balkans and the Lower Danube Valley and near the Black Sea.

This prehistoric civilization from the Neolithic and Chalcolithic, which had the world’s oldest gold, Europe’s oldest town, and seemingly some of the earliest forms of pre-alphabetic writing, is referred to some scholars as “Old Europe". It predates the famous civilizations of Minoan Crete, Mycenaean Greece, Ancient Egypt and Ancient Mesopotamia by thousands of years.

The high Chalcolithic (Aeneolithic, Copper Age) civilization which inhabited today’s Bulgaria at the time is also known, among other things, for world’s oldest gold treasure, the Varna Gold Treasure, which was discovered 40 km to the east of the Salt Pit town, in the Varna Chalcolithic Necropolis near Bulgaria’s Black Sea city of Varna.

Learn more about the Provadiya – Solnitsata (The Salt Pit) prehistoric settlement in Bulgaria’s Provadiya in the Background Infonotes below!

Another prehistoric figurine from ca. 5,000 BC but discovered in Southeast Bulgaria, near Kapitan Andreevo on the border with Turkey, also by Prof. Vasil Nikolov, which has “triangular” facial features is known as “the goddess with hair in a bun.”

Another mysterious prehistoric artifact which has fed “alien” speculations, and for which no rational explanation has been offered, also from the Chalcolithic (5th millenium BC) found in Bulgaria is a “space rocket” or “space ship” artifact discovered near the town of Telish. The same prehistoric settlement near Telish in Northwest Bulgaria has also yielded the world’s largest known collection of Chalcolthic Era clay goddess figures sitting on thrones, which also have triangular heads with stylized features.

Also check out:

‘Salt Pit’ Prehistoric Town in Bulgaria’s Provadiya Built Oldest Stone Fortress Walls in Europe to Protect Its Riches, Archaeologist Says

Archaeologists Discover 6,500-Year-Old Gold Jewels in Solnitsata (‘The Salt Pit’) Prehistoric Town in Bulgaria’s Provadiya

Which Is the World’s Oldest Gold? The Five Oldest Gold Treasures: All from the 5th Millenium BC, All Found in Bulgaria, All Made by ‘Old Europe’

5,000 BC ‘Great Goddess with Hair in a Bun’ Found in Huge Shrine in South Bulgaria Unveiled for the First Time

Weird Prehistoric ‘Space Rocket’ Artifact from Bulgaria’s Telish Remains Mystery as Renewed Research Finds No Matches

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Ivan Dikov, the founder of ArchaeologyinBulgaria.com, is the author of the book Ugly Bargain: How the European Union and Bulgaria’s Post-Communist Oligarchy Fit Together, among other books.

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Background Infonotes:

The prehistoric settlement of Provadiya – Solnitsata (i.e. “The Salt Pit"), also known as the Provadiya Settlement Mound is located 6 km southeast of the modern-day town of Provadiya, Varna District, in Northeast Bulgaria.

It is a prehistoric settlement mound which in a later historical period was turned into a large Ancient Thracian burial mound. It has been dubbed “Europe’s oldest prehistoric town.

The prehistoric settlement mound has an archaeological layer of about 6 meters, and a diameter of 105 meters at the only rock salt deposit in the eastern part of the Balkan Peninsula. It is has a territory of 7 decares (app. 1.75 acres).

The extraction of rock salt began during the Late Neolithic, about 5,400-5,000 BC, with the prehistoric residents of the town boiling water from a local salt water spring in ceramic vessels placed inside large domed kilns, and producing salt bricks which they traded and used for the preservation of meat.

The Salt Pit settlement near Provadiya is Europe’s earliest known case of the use of this salt-making technology making Provadiya the oldest salt producing center on the continent.

The life of the Providiya – Solnitsata settlement continued during the Mid Chalcolithic, i.e. between 4,600 and 4,500 BC, and the Late Chalcolithic, between 4,500 and 4,200 BC, when it developed further into a major salt making complex, with the initial kilns being replaced by open-air salt pits up to 10 meters in diameter.

The prehistoric people would light an open fire at the bottom of the pit to boil the salt water in large clay bowls. It is estimated that in this period the town was inhabited by about 350 people.

The Salt Pit settlement near Bulgaria’s Provadiya has yielded a number of other intriguing discoveries such as Europe’s earliest two-storey homes from the Late Neolithic which were used for both dwelling, and salt making, as well as a granary where the archaeologists have found four sickles made of deer horns.

The lucrative extraction and trade of rock salt are believed to have led to the accumulation of wealth by the prehistoric inhabitants of the Provadiya – Solnitsata settlement, and have been linked to the gold treasure of the Varna Chalcolithic Necropolis (4,500-4,200 BC), the oldest hoard of gold objects found in the world, which is located 37 km to the east.

The riches of the settlement had to be protected which is why during the Mid Chalcolithic its inhabitants built a fortification consisting of a moat and a rampart wall of oak poles covered with clay as well as two large-scale stone bastions.

The bastions were destroyed by an earthquake around 4,550 BC leading the prehistoric people to build new walls made of stone, which also were destroyed by an earthquake. The moat in front of the fortress walls had a diameter of about 100 meters, and was over 2 meters wide, and 3.3 meters deep.

The archaeological artifacts from the fortified prehistoric settlement Provadiya – Solnitsata are part of the collections of the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia and Provadiya Museum of History.

Europe’s oldest prehistoric town was first excavated in 2005, and has been studied ever since, by lead archaeologist Prof. Vasil Nikolov from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

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