Neolithic Dwellings  in  Stara Zagora

The favorable Geographic and climatic conditions of the territory round Stara Zagora contributed to coming into being of lots of different settlements in the remote past. It was connected with the deep changes of all the means of living used by the people that had settled over our lands at the end of the 7th and the beginning of the 6th millennium B.C. People's occupation changed from "appropriating" to "producing" economy, e.g. hunting and collecting as basic means of living turned to animal breeding and agriculture This major qualitative leap is known as a "Neolithic revolution" or "Neolithisation" This new economic system stimulated the society development and brought to many changes in the style of living and culture of the ancient inhabitants in our lands: they had to live a more settled life compared to the life of people living before.

One of the earliest settlements in the vicinity of Stara Zagora dating back to this period is in the area of the District Hospital. Its first inhabitants came to live he beginning of the New Stone Age (6th millennium B.C.) and the last ones left it in the time of the late Iron Age (the end of the 2nd millennium B.C.).

During some archaeological excavations in 1968, in the layer dating back to the early Neolithic culture Karanovo II in Thrace (the middle of the 6th millennium B.C.) the specialists found remains of two dwellings: The settlement they belonged to had suddenly been burned down (destroyed by fire). Almost everything belonging to these dwellings had been burned under the burned walls: This is the reason they are not best preserved among all the European dwellings dating back to this age.

These dwellings had been built at one and the same time. They consist of only one room having an irregular rectangular shape with a common partition wall between each of the rooms. The dimensions of the bigger one (the southern) are 6 x 5.2 m and those of the smaller one 5.2 x 3 m. The walls had been built of wooden stakes fixed into the ground and thin poles entwined into them. Then a mixture of clay and straw had been spread over tins construction. They had a two-deck roof made of straw, rush and others. The bigger dwelling had a southern entrance. The floor is rammed and covered with a thick layer of clay:

The oven that served to heat the dwelling and to cook the meals is at the northern wall. It has an arch opening. Some crooked earthen fittings were found in front of the oven. They comprised parts of some equipment serving to lead the smoke out of the dwelling. There is a rectangular earthen platform to the south of the oven: It had been a kind of couch. Two stone grinders were found at the west side of the oven. They had served for grinding corn. They consist of upper and lower millstones: The lower millstone has got an earthen edge that had prevented the corn from falling. You can see some large earthenware used for grain stores. Charred wheat, barley, vetch and others were found in some of the vessels. In the southeastern corner of the dwelling you can see three earthen supports bifurcated in their upper ends. There are almost the same supports in the other premises. It is most probable that the family living in the dwelling had used them for some cult rites.

Very impressive is the quantity and variety of earthenware scattered round the dwelling. Most of the vessels had not been on the places where we see them now. They had been arranged on some shelves put up round the walls but they had fallen down during the fire.

The entrance of the smaller dwelling was to the east. We see here the same fittings and equipment that we saw in the larger one. There is no special place for a couch here. All the equipment and fittings speak of the rational usage of the space.

Perhaps modern people coming to visit the remains of these early Neolithic Dwellings preserved up to now will find them somewhat simple and imperfect. But if the people living nowadays having all the knowledge and culture piled up throughout the ages would try to build these dwellings using the unknown ancient instruments of production they would hardly manage to do it.

The prehistoric inhabitants of our lands had made all this not knowing how to work out the metal. All their instruments were made of stone and flint axes, adzes, chisels, scraper, angers and so on.

As the excavated dwellings showed great archaeological and scientific importance it was decided to preserve these remains. A special preservation building with an exhibition hall was raised round the remains. One can see here the best pieces of prehistoric art found during the archaeological excavations in the vicinity of Stara Zagora earthenware, religious pieces of plastic art, ornaments and others.

Among the early Neolithic earthenware (6th millennium B.C.) prevail those of cylindrical and hemispheric shape. They are handmade, not using a potter’s wheel. They have thin walls and are well baked. Some of them have white geometrical ornaments drawn on the red bottom of the vessel in several zones. Others have grey, black or brown polished surface most often decorated by carved “fish-bone” ornaments.

Characteristic for the Late Neolithic (5th millennium B.C.) are the two-conic vessels with well-expressed central fringe. Very impressive is the variety of ornaments - carved and incrusted with some white stuff fluting, paintings in white and so on. At the end of the 5th millennium B.C. the prehistoric man who was living in our lands found the first metal: copper. Seven kilometers northwest of Stara Zagora specialists were made their research work through one of the largest and most ancient Neolithic copper mines in South-Eastern Europe. Ore output, production of copper articles and their trade stimulated the development of the society in those days. During that period the prehistoric art reached some particular peak that had nothing to he compared with in the previous ages.

The ceramics of the early Neolithic (the end of the 5th and the beginning of the 4th millennium B.C.) were characterized by its fine round forms. The tulip-formed vessels have a most aesthetic effect. They are decorated with polished zones and geometrical ornament incrusted in white paint. Together with this technique the prehistoric artist began to use the graphite ornament. The decoration is very florid - triangular, concentric circles, spirals, meanders and other geometrical forms. This decoration covers the whole surface of the vessel. This silver glitter of the graphite on the black polished surface of the vessels gives an unforgettable artistic impression.

Impressive are also the variety and the complexity of the pottery forms, at the end of the Neolithic. The graphite ornaments were used very frugally and they are found only in the upper part of the vessel. All the ornaments of the Neolithic pottery are geometrical and styled. There are no scenes of the real life of the people.

The Bronze Age (3rd millennium B.C.) brought changes in the pottery style: The graphite ornaments disappeared. The earthen necropolis was found near to the settlement hill of Bereketska Street.

The ancient animal breeding and agricultural tribes showed their concept of the world, the idea of giving birth and fertility, the cult of the earth through modeling of human and animal earthen, bone and marble figures. In tile period of early Neolithic the sculpture images are very schematic. In the late Neolithic the ancient artist together with the reality of the basic idea strives to give more details of the human face, body, clothes and ornaments.

Some masterpieces dating back to this period are the marble human figure found in Stara Zagora Spa, the head of an earthen human figure found in the village of Dinya, an anthropic zoo-morph earthen figure found in the dwellings round the District Hospital in Stara Zagora and some others.

A lot of ornaments made of marble, copper, bone, clay, shells and others, show great taste of their masters. Very famous were the ornaments made of the Mediterranean mussel "Spondulus". A golden children's bracelet was found in the settlement hill of Bereketska near Stara Zagora. It dates back to the 5th millennium B.C. It is one of the most ancient golden ornaments found in the world.

Leaving the display called "Prehistoric Art In The Vicinity Of Stara Zagora", we feel the intransient value of all that people living in our lands created ages ago. This art shows the level of development reached by this ancient civilization.

For being information and photos about Neolithic Dwellings I would like to thank to Mrs. Stoika Kairakova - keeper of the museum in Stara Zagora. If you would like to visit and see this incredible ancient place  you could phone her for visit: ++359 42 22 109. Spoken languages: French, English, Russian, Czech and Slovakian.