A story that is 8,000 years old

Museum complex of Neolithic dwellings demonstrates how our ancient ancestors lived

To people without specialised knowledge the remnants of the Neolithic dwellings may look like a mound of earth, but to an expert they are a real treasure.

Within the city of Stara Zagora's boundaries there is a unique in situ museum which demonstrates how the ancient inhabitants of the Balkan Peninsula lived during the Neolithic Age, some 8,000 years ago. The museum complex is called “Neolithic dwellings” and comprises the remains of two houses preserved in situ, arranged as an exhibit along with artefacts discovered in and around them

According to experts, the dwellings date back to the 6th millennium BC and are Europe's best preserved Neolithic sites, boasting the richest assortment of artefacts. They were discovered by chance in the 1970s during excavation works and were converted into a museum already in 1979. The complex keeps the remains of two houses, which had two storeys, a chimney and three separate rooms, 10-metre long, 5.60-metre wide and over five-metre high. They were built of wooden poles, intertwined with thinner rods covered with a mixture of clay and straw. Each of the rooms had its own fireplace and a sleeping area.

The remnants of the two dwellings have been conserved and displayed together with their entire sets of household items, such as bread ovens, handheld grain mills, ceramic vessels, etc. During the excavation works of the tell, archaeologists found a total of 1,826 artefacts, among them household vessels, tables, spoons, needles, spears, knives, lentils, barley and wheat, handheld mills, adzes, sickles made of goat's horn, and furnaces for baking. They also unearthed ceramic figurines and vessels and marble human statuettes, including the most ancient such artefact discovered in Bulgaria - a female figurine with massive lower part, which supports the existence of a cult of a Mother Goddess and fertility.

Some of the discovered idols are represented with their arms raised, which is a devotional attitude typical of a solar cult. These, as well as other artefacts, form the permanent exposition “Prehistoric art in the region of Stara Zagora”. In and around the dwelling site were found manually painted figurines in the form of tulips, animalistic figurines of cats, hedgehogs and badgers, religious statuettes, a rhyton, jewellery made of seashells and a 33-centimetre tall, manually decorated musical instrument - tarabuka. Among the intricate motifs decorating this most ancient tarabuka found in Europe, stand out depictions of the yin and yang symbol.

One of the most interesting finds is a clay figurine with a human head and body of an animal resembling a sphinx. Although it is much smaller than the big sphynx near the pyramids in Giza, this one is much more ancient. As a whole, the Neolithic dwellings have been preserved in their entirety and with all of their household articles. They look just like how their inhabitants have left them. And why they abandoned them, remains a mystery.

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