The oldest known gold objects were discovered in the Varna Necropolis, a burial site on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast dating from 4,560-4,450 BC.
Varna Necropolis (also known as the Varna Cemetery) is a massive burial site in Varna’s western industrial zone that is internationally recognized as one of the world’s most important ancient archaeological sites. It dates from the Chalcolithic (Copper Age) Varna Culture, which flourished between 6,000 and 6,500 years ago.
According to Archaeology in Bulgaria, a total of 294 burials have been unearthed at the Varna Necropolis, containing around 3,000 gold objects. While several noble burial sites were discovered, one, in particular, stood out — grave 43. Archaeologists discovered the skeletal remains of a high-status person who appeared to have served as a monarch or leader of some sort.
During the building of a canning plant at the site in 1972, an excavator operator named Raycho Marinov, then 22 years old, uncovered many antiquities, put them in a shoebox, and transported them to his house. He decided to call some local archaeologists a few days later to alert them of the discovery.
Following that, the necropolis yielded a total of 294 Chalcolithic burials. The Copper Age burials where the Varna Gold Treasure was discovered were dated to 4,560-4,450 BC using radiocarbon dating.
All of these incredible artifacts are the result of a Neolithic and Chalcolithic human civilization that flourished in today’s Bulgaria, as well as the remainder of the Balkan Peninsula, the Lower Danube area, and the West Black Sea coast, during the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods. This prehistoric civilization is sometimes referred to as “Old Europe” by researchers.
The necropolis’ finds suggest that the Varna Culture had trading links with the Black Sea and Mediterranean areas, and that rock salt from the Provadiya – Solnitsata (“The Salt Pit”) rock salt mine was likely exported. Furthermore, scientists believe that the Mediterranean mollusc Spondylus shells discovered in burials at the Varna Necropolis and other Chalcolithic sites in Northern Bulgaria may have been employed as a type of payment by this ancient civilization.
Because some of the burials excavated included a wealth of gold objects, researchers assume that the Balkan Peninsula (Southeast Europe) had some type of statehood and a royal institution as early as the Copper Age.
The Varna Gold Treasure consists of approximately 3,000 gold items divided into 28 categories and weighing a total of 6.5 kg.
One of the most intriguing inventories was discovered in Grave No. 43, which was discovered in 1974 in the center area of the Varna Necropolis. It belonged to a 40-45-year-old man who was of average height for the period (about 1,70-1,75 meters or 5 feet 6 – 8 inches tall). His tomb included about 1,5 kg of gold objects, which leads researchers to conclude that the buried guy was a significant member of his community, probably a monarch or king-priest.
Ten huge appliques, a significant number of rings, some of which were strung on strings, two necklaces, beads, a gold phallus, golden decorations for a bow, a stone ax, and a copper ax with golden decorations, as well as a bow with gold applications, are among the gold objects.
Archaeologists discovered approximately 850 gold objects in Burial No. 36, a symbolic grave, including a tiara, earrings, a necklace, a belt, bracelets, a breastplate, a gold hammer-scepter, a gold model of a sickle, two gold lamellas symbolizing animals, and 30 models of horned animal heads.
The items were discovered draped in a gold-laced fabric that outlined the outlines of a human body, with more relics on the right side, indicating that the burial housed a male funeral. Archaeologists viewed the golden items as royal symbols once more.
Similar “royal” burials have been discovered at the Varna Chalcolithic Necropolis’ graves No. 1, 4, and 5.
Many of the artifacts discovered in the Varna Chalcolithic Necropolis are thought to honor the function of the smith, who, as a creator, takes the place of the Great Mother Goddess and turns the matriarchal world into one of patriarchy.
The smith’s role in Chalcolithic civilization is analogous to that of the monarch, as metal was more of a status symbol than an economic means at the time.
About a third of the necropolis’ estimated acreage has yet to be explored.