Europe’s oldest urban settlement is near Provadia, a town of about 13 000 people about 40km inland from Bulgaria’s Black Sea city of Varna, according to archaeology Professor Vassil Nikolov, citing evidence from work done at the Provadia – Solnitsata archaeological site in summer 2012.
The team of archaeologists headed by Nikolov excavated stone walls estimated to date from 4700 to 4200 BCE. The walls are two metres thick and three metres high, and according to Nikolov are the earliest and most massive fortifications from Europe’s pre-history.
There were about 300 to 350 people living at the site in those times, living in two-storey houses and earning their living by salt mining.
To this day, Provadia is an important salt centre, with a large-scale foreign investor represented in the area. Estimates are that salt has been extracted in the area for about 7500.
Nikolov said that salt was the currency of ancient times, both in terms of value and prestige.
As the only place in the Balkans used to produce salt at the time, Provadia –Solnitsatsa of the fifth century BCE was the “mint” of the region, Nikolov said.
He said that finds of gravesites at a necropolis showed that people in the town were wealthy.
Ritual burial practices also were strange and complex, he said. Copper needles and pottery found in graves at the site showed that people had been wealthy, but in some cases the corpses had been cut in half and buried from the pelvis up.
The study in summer 2012, lasting two months, focused mainly on the necropolis and the village.