World's oldest gold

People have been living in the region of Durankulak for 90 centuries

Ruins of an ancient village on the banks of Durankulak Lake.

Durankulak is Bulgaria's northeasternmost populated place, and the last village before the Romanian border. People have been living here for 90 centuries - from the Neolithic to the present day. In those distant times, several villages lined the banks of Durankulak Lake and the so-called Big Island, the oldest of them dating back to 7000 BC.

This is enough proof to rank the local civilisation among the oldest living in Europe, hence the names The City on the Lake, or The European Troy, given by specialists to the Big Island, which is also one of the few open-air prehistoric museums in Bulgaria.

The archaeological excavations unearthed some 16 to 18 houses from different time periods. Oriented along the four major axes of the world, they formed the oldest streets in Europe. Each of the houses occupied an impressive area of 150 to 170 sq m, but it is not surprising given the fact that a single house was used as a home by the entire clan, which in all likelihood consisted of 18-20 members. The local population was thousands of years ahead of the rest of the existing prehistoric cultures. They wore clothes of animal hide and cloth woven on primitive vertical looms. The clothes were decorated with beads and bone and seashell applications. Archaeologists have discovered impressive richly decorated pottery, gold and copper jewels, and bone and stone tools and weapons, as well.

During the Stone-Copper Age a dwelling mount originated on the Big Island, which resulted from the construction of several villages, one on top of the other. The dwelling mount is the home of the oldest stone architecture unearthed in Europe - the temple to the goddess Cybele, which dates back 2,500 years (the late Bronze Age). Archaeologists found a figurine of the goddess, which the local tribes worshipped as their supreme guardian, before other cults came to dominate the place.

The fortified southern tip of the island contained a Thracian village, which in the 14th-12th century BC was home to a Thracian tribe, a contemporary to the Trojan War. The largest prehistoric necropolis in the world lies in the vicinity of the lake. It contains more than 1,400 graves from the 6th-4th millennium BC, and is a testimony to the existence of an Eneolithic society and the earliest skills of the ancient people. In the early Middle Ages, a Proto-Bulgarian village also existed on the banks of Durankulak Lake.

It was in the Durankulak necropoli that the oldest processed gold in the world was found, estimated to be over 7,000 years old and several centuries older than the one found in the Chalcolithic necropolis in Varna. It was unearthed during 1979 excavations and dates back to the early Eneolithic. The finds are also a confirmation that the western Black Sea region is the birthplace of metallurgy in human history.

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