In the seventh millenium BC
the Balkan Peninsula was a gate through which farming, animal husbandry and
generally Neolithisation spread to Europe from Anatolia and the Near East. App.
1000 years later in the very beginning of the fifth millennium BC prehistoric
population in Central and Eastern Balkans turned known metal-processing technologies
into an industry for the first time in human history (The World oldest copper
mines are found near Rudna glava, Serbia and Mechi kladenets/Ai bunar near
Stara Zagora, Bulgaria). Archaeological evidence shows that in the fifth millennium
BC these prehistoric cultures enjoyed a constant raise of population and wealth
meanwhile experiencing social stratification due the intensive trade with metal
products, salt and other goods with the rest of prehistoric Europe and Asia. These
Balkan Copper age cultures had all characteristics of the first civilizations including:
the very first urban settlements in Europe (Tell Yunatsite, Durankulak and Provadia
in Bulgaria), dense network of settlements, “industrial” proportions of
production of goods, esp. metal products and salt, developed trade, distinguished
social and professional stratification, pictograms and characters interpreted by
some scholars as the World’oldest script (Gradeshnitsa tablet for instance dates
back to the sixth or early fifth millennium BC) as well as precious artifacts made of gold,
pottery, bone and stone (the World oldest gold treasure found in the Varna
Copper age necropolis). This very first civilization in Europe was Pre-Indo-European
and emerged for not more a millennium covering large parts of the Balkans, NW
Anatolia and Eastern Europe. It collapsed around the end of the fifth millennium
under the pressure of both drastic climatic changes and invasion of Early Indo-Europeans.
The period of study of this very first civilization in Europe has been quite
short – about 40 years have passed, since the excavation of the Varna Copper age
necropolis brought to light the first certain evidences about its existence. Nowadays scholars
from all over the World are still discovering new facts and adding new data
about the “lost” first civilization in Europe.
Wanted: volunteer archaeologists to dig Europe’s oldest civilization
Tell Yunatsite in Southern Bulgaria was an important settlement of the Chalcolithic, in the context of an advanced culture that was older than Egypt or Troy. The place was settled in the seventh millennium (Neolithic) and destroyed by invaders at the end of the fifth millennium (Chalcolithic, Indoeuropean invasions), briefly resettled only to be evicted once again and left empty for a whole millennium. Later it was reoccupied in the late Bronze Age (Thracians) and continuously inhabited until the Middle Ages (when it may have been evacuated in the context of Slavic invasions).
In brief: a whole slice of European late prehistory (and a bit of history also). In the words of the researchers:
They are looking for volunteers with an interest in archaeology and decent health for the campaign of summer 2013. Participation provides credits for university students.
More information on the relevant Prehistory and the volunteer program at Balcan Heritage.