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A tiny bead found in Bulgaria is the world’s oldest Artifact made of gold

Ancient history of Bulgaria unfolded

Photo: Dimitar Kyosemarliev / Reuters

Bulgaria – The tiny gold bead which almost changed the history of the world was found in August 2016 by Yavor Boyadzhiev, (associated professor at the Bulgarian Academy of Science) in the remains of a small house at a prehistoric settlement known as Tell Yunatsite, just outside the modern town of Pazardzhik. The gold ornament is small, measuring just four millimeters in diameter and weighing 15 centigrams. It is believed that the site where the bead was unearthed was the first ‘urban’ settlement in Europe, peopled by ‘a highly cultured society’ which moved there from Anatolia, in today’s Turkey, around 6,000 BC. The settlement unearthed so far is between 100,000-120,000 square meters (25-30 acres) and would have had a 2.8 meter high (9 foot) fortress wall.

According to Mr. Boyadzhiev, anything over 700,000 square meters is regarded as a town by researchers working in Mesopotamia. He also states that here for the first time in Europe, we can see a village with all the elements which make a populated place a town – neighborhoods, public areas,craft areas and a marketplace. 200 years after the establishment of the prehistoric village of Yunatsite, its population probably felt endangered. So, in 4750 BC they built a 2.8-meter high fortress wall.

According to Mr.Boyadzhiev in this way, the first Citadel in the European history was built. In the Citadel we can find a place for product storage as well as craft areas with furnaces. This area was not highly populated which means that people used the Citadel not for living but for hiding there.It seems that the residents of Yunatsite felt endangered at some point.There were battles but the most severe one was this with tribes, coming from north-east, people very different from them. The battle was not only for territory but also for resources. The fight was so big that the life in Yunatsite was gone for more than 1000 years. An evidence for this are the 16 fragments of human skulls unearthed next to the fortress wall.

golden-objects
Golden objects found in the necropolis at Varna. Source: Wikipedia

More than 150 ceramic figures of flying birds have also been found at the site, indicating the animal was probably worshiped by the town’s people. Some of them even have a human face. There are a couple of hypothesis for the number of birds figures found in Yunatsite. The first one is that the birds were probably the main part of the food of the prehistoric people. The second one is that the residents of the prehistoric village were used to see birds flying high in the sky and therefore made them a symbol of the village.

“It’s a really important discovery,” Dr. Boyadzhiev told Reuters. “It is a tiny piece of gold but big enough to find its place in history.”

But let us get back to the tiny bead which changed the history of Europe. In 1976, archaeologists unearthed gold jewelry in the Necropolis of Varna (the Bulgarian Black sea city), which they claimed was the world’s oldest gold artifact ever found. However,the gold found there is dating back to the middle of the late Copper age, around 4,200–4,400 B.C., and is without doubt younger than the bead from Yunatsite. The tiny bead is believed to dates back to 4,500-4,600 BC which is the middle of the Copper age . But a further research of the earth layers may show even earlier period, around 4,900-4,800 BC. This means that people processed this precious metal earlier than we thought. Mr.Boyadzhiev who found this precious piece of gold is sure that people in the past valued gold not because of the metal itself but because of the yellowish beautiful shiny color. It was an interesting material for making jewelry, just like the colorful minerals, bones, and glass used back then.

The bead will be exhibited in the historical museum in Pazardzhik once it has been thoroughly analyzed and its age confirmed.

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