6,500-Year-Old Full Set of Vessels, Including Zoomorphic One, Gold Bead from World’s Oldest Found in Prehistoric Settlement Mound near Bulgaria’s Pomorie

6,500-Year-Old Full Set of Vessels, Including Zoomorphic One, Gold Bead from World’s Oldest Found in Prehistoric Settlement Mound near Bulgaria’s Pomorie

Prehistoric vessels, tools, and a gold bead from ca. 6,500 BC discovered in the Hidden Settlement Mound near Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast of Pomorie, which have been included in the 2020 Bulgarian Archaeology Exhibition. A total of 13 vessels are shown here, out of a collective find of 21. The intriguing headless four-legged zoomorphic vessel is visible in the middle. Photo: National Institute and Museum of Archaeology

A full set of 21 prehistoric pottery vessels, including a remarkable zoomorphic vessel, and a gold bead which is among the oldest gold items in the world, have been discovered in a Chalcolithic (Aeneolithic, Copper Age) settlement mound from the middle of the 5th millennium BC located close to the Black Sea coast and the towns of Poroy and Pomorie in Southeast Bulgaria.

The 6,500-year-old artifacts from the prehistoric homes at Poroy have been presented for the first time in the 2020 Bulgarian Archaeology Exhibition at the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia. The exhibition, which was opened in February 2021, is an annual event showcasing the top archaeological discoveries in Bulgaria from the preceding year.

In 2020, the “Skritata" (meaning “Hidden") Settlement Mound near the town of Poroy and the Poroy Water Reservoir, Pomorie Municipality, Burgas District, in Southeast Bulgaria was excavated for the third time and third consecutive archaeological season.

The site is also very close to the ancient Black Sea resort town of Nessebar, and the huge Sunny Beach summer Black Sea resort.

Since the first digs there in 2018, the impressive prehistoric site has been researched by a team led by archaeologist Margarita Popova from the National Museum of History in Sofia.

The intriguing headless four-legged zoomorpic vessel found with the other vessels in the Poroy Settlement Mound, as exhibited in the 2020 Bulgarian Archaeology Exhibition. Photo: ArchaeologyinBulgaria.com

The 2020 excavations at the Copper Age settlement mound near the Black Sea town of Pomorie were funded by the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture.

The prehistoric settlement site stands about 12 kilometers away from today’s Black Sea coast. The settlement mound has been targeted by treasure hunting looters, including with massive machines such as bulldozers or tractors. Due to local legends, the treasure hunters may possibly have mistaken the site for a burial mound from the much later period of Ancient Thrace which could contain large amounts of elaborate gold artifacts.

“The life of the settlement mound ended at [archaeological] level No. 1 from the Middle Copper Age, the [prehistoric] Kodzhadermen – Gumelnitsa – Karanovo Culture VI (4,530 – 4,448 BC)," the archaeological team informs in the official catalog and poster for the 2020 Bulgarian Archaeology Exhibition.

The researchers explain that the 6,500-year-old settlement was not destroyed in a fire although some of its dwelling were burned down. In the excavations, they have found its structures in a layer with yellow clay and scattered rocks.

The most impressive discovery from the latest digs in “Hidden" Settlement Mound from the Copper Age near Bulgaria’s Pomorie has been a collective find of 21 rather well preserved ceramic vessels, and some additional vessels, vessel fragments, and other artifacts, including a tiny gold bead. These have been found in “Building No. 1" of the Chalcolithic site.

The most interesting of the pottery vessels in question is a zoomorphic vessel shaped as a headless four-legged animal body with its opening at its neck.

“Besides the various pottery vessels, [we have] also found anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figurines, diverse parts of adornments as well as bone, stone, and flint tools," the archaeological team reveals.

Diverse pottery vessels from the middle of the 5th millenium BC have been found in the Poroy Settlement Mound, as displayed here in the 2020 Bulgarian Archaeology Exhibition. Photo: ArchaeologyinBulgaria.com

Diverse pottery vessels from the middle of the 5th millenium BC have been found in the Poroy Settlement Mound, as displayed here in the 2020 Bulgarian Archaeology Exhibition. Photo: ArchaeologyinBulgaria.com

Diverse pottery vessels from the middle of the 5th millenium BC have been found in the Poroy Settlement Mound, as displayed here in the 2020 Bulgarian Archaeology Exhibition. Photo: ArchaeologyinBulgaria.com

Diverse pottery vessels from the middle of the 5th millenium BC have been found in the Poroy Settlement Mound, as displayed here in the 2020 Bulgarian Archaeology Exhibition. Photo: ArchaeologyinBulgaria.com

Diverse pottery vessels from the middle of the 5th millenium BC have been found in the Poroy Settlement Mound, as displayed here in the 2020 Bulgarian Archaeology Exhibition. Photo: ArchaeologyinBulgaria.com

Diverse pottery vessels from the middle of the 5th millenium BC have been found in the Poroy Settlement Mound, as displayed here in the 2020 Bulgarian Archaeology Exhibition. Photo: ArchaeologyinBulgaria.com

Diverse pottery vessels from the middle of the 5th millenium BC have been found in the Poroy Settlement Mound, as displayed here in the 2020 Bulgarian Archaeology Exhibition. Photo: ArchaeologyinBulgaria.com

Diverse pottery vessels from the middle of the 5th millenium BC have been found in the Poroy Settlement Mound, as displayed here in the 2020 Bulgarian Archaeology Exhibition. Photo: ArchaeologyinBulgaria.com

Diverse pottery vessels from the middle of the 5th millenium BC have been found in the Poroy Settlement Mound, as displayed here in the 2020 Bulgarian Archaeology Exhibition. Photo: ArchaeologyinBulgaria.com

Diverse pottery vessels from the middle of the 5th millenium BC have been found in the Poroy Settlement Mound, as displayed here in the 2020 Bulgarian Archaeology Exhibition. Photo: ArchaeologyinBulgaria.com

Diverse pottery vessels from the middle of the 5th millenium BC have been found in the Poroy Settlement Mound, as displayed here in the 2020 Bulgarian Archaeology Exhibition. Photo: ArchaeologyinBulgaria.com

Diverse pottery vessels from the middle of the 5th millenium BC have been found in the Poroy Settlement Mound, as displayed here in the 2020 Bulgarian Archaeology Exhibition. Photo: ArchaeologyinBulgaria.com

Diverse pottery vessels from the middle of the 5th millenium BC have been found in the Poroy Settlement Mound, as displayed here in the 2020 Bulgarian Archaeology Exhibition. Photo: ArchaeologyinBulgaria.com

The 2020 excavations of the 6,500-year-old Copper Age (Chalcolithic) settlement mound near the Bulgarian Black Sea resort town of Pomorie explored two buildings from what is referred to as “Level 2" of the mound.

The prehistoric homes in question were built of wooden poles and wattle plastered with clay. They were burned down. A prehistoric practice in which the very home owners deliberately burned down their dwellings, perhaps as a sacrificial offering, is known from other prehistoric Neolithic and Chalcolithic settlements found in Bulgaria.

This small gold bead from ca. 6,500 BC, which has been found in the Poroy Settlement Mound near Bulgaria’s Pomorie, as displayed here in the 2020 Bulgarian Archaeology Exhibition, is certainly among the oldest gold artifacts in the world. Photo: ArchaeologyinBulgaria.com

A long flint blade (4) and bone tools, probably awls (3) from the Poroy Settlement Mound, as displayed in the 2020 Bulgarian Archaeology Exhibition. Photo: ArchaeologyinBulgaria.com

The home called “Building No. 1" had on its floor the set of 21 pottery vessels differing in shape, size, and decoration, including the intact zoomorphic headless four-legged vessel mentioned above.

The dwelling in question also yielded a set of 13 broken flint blades, a flint blade that is 18.6 centimeters long; and 3 bone tools, most probably awls, the largest of which is 19.4 centimeters long.

On the floor in Building No. 2 of the 5th millennium BC settlement near Bulgaria’s Pomorie, the researchers found a large amount of charred grain, including einkorn wheat (Triticum monococum L.), emmer wheat (Triticum aestivo/durum L.), and barley (Hordium vulgare ssp. Vulgare L.).

The archaeological site of the 6,500-year-old prehistoric settlement near Bulgaria’s Pomorie and the town of Poroy and the Poroy Water Reservoir stands on a steep hill on the left bank of a small river, a tributary of another small river flowing into the Black Sea.

An aearial shot of the “Hidden” / Poroy Settlement Mound, an ellipse-shaped hill, 12 kilometers away from the Black Sea coast, with the Poroy Water Reservoir barely visible in the background. Photo: Archaeological Team, official poster for the 2020 Bulgarian Archaeology Exhibition

A vertical “incision” showing Building No. 1 in the prehistoric settlement. Photo: Archaeological Team, official poster for the 2020 Bulgarian Archaeology Exhibition

The collective find of the set of pottery vessels as found in situ on the floor of Building No. 1 in the prehistoric settlement. Photo: Archaeological Team, official poster for the 2020 Bulgarian Archaeology Exhibition

Charred beams from the floor of Building No. 2 of the prehistoric settlement. Photo: Archaeological Team, official poster for the 2020 Bulgarian Archaeology Exhibition

Location of the prehistoric Poroy Settlement Mound in the hinterland of some of Bulgaria’s most famous Black Sea resorts such as Pomorie, Nessebar, and Sunny Beach. Map: Google Maps

The mound has an elliptical shape. It is 77 meters wide, 102 meters long, and about 10 meters tall.

The mound was registered for the first time in 2007, and was visited by archaeologists again in 2013. Numerous pits and trenches dug up by treasure hunters trying to loot the site have been found.

The first full-fledged excavations of the Chalcolithic settlement mound in 2018 also revealed a huge ditch dug up by treasure hunters on its top, from the northwest to the south east, which was dug up with machines.

The trench excavated by the looters was 45 meters long, 7 – 15 meters wide, and 2.5 – 4.5 meters deep.

Local residents from Poroy tell the story of how some 50 years ago the site was frequented by hunters due to the large number of fox dwellings there. In a small pile of soil dug up by foxes, several ancient gold coins were found. This led to an avalanche of legends that the mound, which is actually preshitoric, in fact contained the fabulously rich grave of an Ancient Thracian princess with a golden loom and golden horse chariot.

Two men from the town of Kableshkovo were sentenced decades ago to 2-3 years in prison for plowing the top of the mound with a tractor.

Nonetheless, the 5th millennium BC Copper Age settlement mound near Pomorie, which yielded a full set of prehistoric vessels in the latest excavations, remains a target for looters to this day.

The Poroy Settlement Mound appears as one more site from the wider sophisticated prehistoric civilization of the Danube – Black Sea region. Europe’s first civilization ever goes back the 6th – 5th millennium BC (Neolithic (New Stone Age) and Chalcolithic (Aeneolithic, Copper Age)), and is referred to by some Western scholars as “Old Europe".

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Ivan Dikov, the founder of ArchaeologyinBulgaria.com, is the author of the book Plunder Paradise: How Brutal Treasure Hunters Are Obliterating World History and Archaeology in Post-Communist Bulgaria, among other books.

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