8000 YEARS OF SOFIA

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The mayor of Sofia Jordanka Fandukova, Dr. Todor Chobanov, deputy mayor of Sofia and Prof. Vasil Nikolov look through the discovered artifacts during the archeological excavations of the early Neolithic settlement Slatina in 2014.
Photo: Anelia Nikolova, Dnevnik

The earliest Neolithic settlement in the Sofia field appears on the shore of the Slatinska River 8000 ago and gradually extends to 80 acres. This happens at the beginning of the Early Neolithic (The Stone Age) when here the first farmers and cattlemen in Europe settle here.

According to the famous pre-historian Prof. Vasil Nikolov the settlement in Slatina, together with the other Early Neolithic settlements in the Balkans, is being inhabited by the oldest farmers and cattlemen of the continent ant it is a part of the first European civilization. The sixth and the fifth millennium B.C. are the gold millenniums of the Bulgarian lands. From 1985 to nowadays Prof. Nikolov does archeological researches of the settlement of Slatina and the interesting discoveries which are in confirmation of the thesis for the earliest civilization in Europe are thanks to him.

After the so – called Neolithic revolution in Front Asia the formed there agricultural and pastoral occupation is being spread to the Southeast Europe, probably by the movement of small human groups through Aegean to the Central Balkan zone. At the end of the seventh and the beginning of the sixth millennium B.C. the so – called Strouma road starts to act and it plays a basic role in the spread of the new occupation to Middle Europe. The road reaches the Sofia field and probably here it divides – to the valleys of Nishava and Great Moravia to the northwest, and along the valley of Iskur to the north. At this time in the east part of the Sofia filed arises a huge for its time early agricultural settlement, which we designate as Slatina today. With the gradual settlement in Thrace from west to east in the first centuries of the sixth millennium B.C. and after the establishment later enhanced contacts with Northwest Anatolia, the road to Maritza emerges. From Thrace it passes again through the Sofia filed to the valley of Great Moravia and thence to the Middle Europe. The distribution of the new early agricultural economic system of the European continent turns the Sofia field into an intersection point of the two basic civilizational streams from Front Asia to Europe in the sixth millennium B.C. That is why the results of the archeological researches of the settlement of Slatina (today in the east parts of Sofia) are being followed with a huge interest by the specialist in Pre – History of Southeast Europe.
The remains of the settlement of Slatina are with thickness of the cultural stratification up to 4m. The settlement, which is located on the left coast of the Slatina River, exist during the whole first and the beginning of the second half of the sixth millennium B.C. about 500 years. It is one of the biggest in the central part of the Balkan Peninsula.

Today about 8 acres have remained from the settlement. The other part of it is destroyed in the 70th years of the past century during the construction of the sport complex “Red flag”, of the tramway №20 and other structures. The researches, which had begun in 1985 in the area of about 1400 sq. m., had been interrupted and continued in 1995-97, so that is funded by the Program for Culture in Sofia in 2013-2014. The history of the ancient agricultural and pastoral community in Slatina includes three stages of the development of the material culture. The first one is being designated in the scientific researches as Slatina. The cultural Slatina group envelops the Sofia field and belongs to the spread in Thrace culture Karnovo I. It is characterized with pottery, which are painted only with a white dye. The second stage is defined with the name “ Kremikovci ”. It is more prolonged and its feature is dark – painted orientation of one group of pottery. The last stage is comparatively short but it is researched a little. It is a time of decline and dying of the tradition of decoration with painting of pottery.

The ancient people of Slatina inhabit smaller or bigger rectangular or slightly trapezoidal houses, which are situated close together. The dwellings usually contain one room, but two – room constructions also exist. Each house has a household – heating oven with a dome, sometimes with a fireplace, a manual stone mill, elevators from half – baked clay, a landing for making the food and a vertical loom. Their main food is the corn, which they use for making bread and cereal, and it is stored inside the rooms. The flour of spelt with impurities from legumes as if yeast has been added, claims Prof. Nikolov. For a long time it has been considered that during the Iron Age, somewhere about 1100 year B.C., the so – called sour bread appeared in Europe. But it has turned out that during the sixth millennium B.C. it was kneaded in Slatina. In fact the first sour bread of the old continent has being registered here.

The houses are built according to the weather conditions. Some of them have dissymmetrical roof and Prof. Nikolov defines them as “brilliant works of the Neolithic architecture”. The constructions are solid. They stand 50 years and inside their inhabitants have everything, except the animals, which are kept outside the settlement. Fires often emerged, mainly by distraction, and there is a mass of baked clay left.

To the lowest – sixth constructional horizon of the settlement, which is related to the group of Slatina, belongs the remains of one huge for its time and very well kept duple construction with an area of 177 sq. m. Prof. Vasil Nikolov defines it as the biggest house in Europe for the sixth millennium. He researches and describes its content and importance.

One of the most precious remains of the excavations of Slatina in 2013 is a very well made marble figure. It dates back from the beginning of the sixth millennium and represents a fragment of a marble statuette of the Goddess – Mother. The legs and the upper part of the body are missing, but the kept one suggests that it is the biggest similar figure of the Neolithic in the Bulgarian lands. The middle part of the body is kept and it was been used up after the breaking of the legs. The broken part is smoothed so as to figure can stand. These figures with the image of the Goddess-Mother are related with rituals for fertility, for maintenance of the reproduction cycle in the nature and in the society.

According to Prof. Nikolov there is not another European capital, which contains such an ancient settlement as Slatina. Sofia has the deepest roots and they begin from the oldest European civilization 80 centuries ago.

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The excavations of the early Neolithic settlement of Slatina in 2013 from the team of Prof. Vasil Nikolov
Photo: Focus Information agency

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A fragment of a marble statuette of the Goddess-Mother, which is found during the excavations in 2013.