The oldest processed gold on Earth has caused a sensation in the scientific community. After all, they found it not in the Middle East, where the ancient Sumerians lived, not in Egypt and not even in the burials of pre-Columbian America. The treasures were found in northeastern Bulgaria near Varna.
This find even allowed many European scientists to suggest that the Varna culture should be considered the first European civilization. The radiocarbon analysis of the burials made by modern researchers confirmed the antiquity of the Bulgarian gold.
The Varna gold treasure from the late Chalcolithic period (V millennium BC) is today the most likely contender for the title “The oldest gold in the world processed by man.” In fairness, it should be noted that several prehistoric Bulgarian finds are considered no less old – the golden treasures of Hotnitsa, Durankulak, artifacts from the Kurgan settlement of Yunatsite near Pazardzhik, the golden treasure Sakar, as well as beads and gold jewelry found in the Kurgan settlement of Provadia – Solnitsata (“salt pit”). However, Varna gold is most often called the oldest since this treasure is the largest and most diverse.
All these treasures are the product of the first human civilization in Europe, which developed during the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods in modern Bulgaria and the rest of the Balkan Peninsula in the Lower Danube region, and on the western coast of the Black Sea.
The Varna gold treasure was accidentally discovered back in the 1970s – during the construction of a cannery. The excavator driver Raycho Marinov, who was then 22 years old, came across several artifacts, collected them in a shoebox, and carried them home.
A couple of days later, he reported this to local archaeologists. Later, for his discovery, the worker was awarded a bonus in the amount of 500 Bulgarian levs – an amount rather large at that time and equal to several monthly salaries. By the way, the secret services of socialist Bulgaria for some time followed the man to make sure that he did not leave any artifacts for himself for sale.
Several years ago, the Varna Treasures were exhibited at the EU Parliament in Brussels. Marinov was invited there as a special guest – four decades after he accidentally discovered the world’s oldest processed gold.
Over the years of study of the necropolis, about three hundred Chalcolithic graves have been discovered there. About 30% of the supposed territory of the graveyard has yet to be excavated. Gold artifacts have been found in graves with skeletons (mostly male) and in symbolic burials without human remains.
Radiocarbon analysis of the remains made in recent years has confirmed scientists’ assumptions – Chalcolithic graves contain the oldest gold treasures – they date back to 4560-450 BC.
What gold talks about
Finds from the cemetery indicate that the Varna culture had trade links with the remote Black Sea and Mediterranean regions. Most likely, it exported rock salt from the Provadia-Solnitsata mine. And the shells of the Mediterranean mollusk Spondylus, found in graves in the Varna cemetery and at other Chalcolithic areas in Northern Bulgaria, may have been used as currency.
Among the finds confirming the greatness of the ancient civilization of Varna are the golden boomerang (and it was traditionally believed that the Australians were the first to use it) and pottery, covered with gold paint and at the same time fired in a kiln.
Also, the attention of scientists was attracted by two golden figures of a bull, which were the standard measure of length. These artifacts have a golden section code (Leonardo da Vinci himself worked on it simultaneously), which exactly correlates with the number Pi. And it, as the Bulgarian researchers explain, multiplied by the known Fibonacci number, gives the angle of the base of the Cheops pyramid.
The sacred measure of ancient Egypt is the so-called holy cubit, and its prototype, equal to 52 cm, comes from ancient Varna. It’s just incredible! – note the researchers.
The gold items buried with him include ten large appliqués, a large number of rings, some of which were on laces, two necklaces, an object considered a golden phallus, beads, gold bows, stone, and copper axes with gold decorations, and bow with gold complements.
The burial inventory also includes a large number of copper artifacts – in addition to the above-described, there are also a nail-hammer, a chisel, and a copper awl. There are also artifacts of stone, silicon, seashell, bone products, Spondylus clam bracelets, and 11 luxuriously decorated ceramic vessels. Such a rich content of the grave allowed scientists to conclude that a person of a very high title was buried here.
In one of the graves containing gold of a later period, a bracelet of gold cylinders with a cord was discovered, and it is considered the oldest gold artifact in the world, created by human hands.
And in burial No. 36 (a symbolic grave), archaeologists discovered more than 850 gold objects – a tiara, earrings, a necklace, a belt, a breastplate, bracelets, a golden hammer-scepter, a sickle model, two gold plates depicting animals, 30 models of horned animal heads. The artifacts were covered with gold-embroidered cloth. Gold pieces outlined the contours of the human body, with a lot of expensive jewelry on the right side. According to the researchers, this means that the funeral of a man who had royal insignia took place. Similar “royal” burials were also found in graves 1, 4, and 5.
Another type of grave in the cemetery contains clay masks of human faces, where eyes, mouths, teeth, and noses are made of gold. In contrast to the burials described above, containing blacksmith’s tools, the tombs with masks include clay vases, cups, and needles. That is why they are interpreted as a female funeral depicting the mother goddess.
The proximity of emblematic female tombs No. 2, 3, and 15 with the symbolic royal tombs No. 1, 4, and 5 are explained as ritual representations of sacred marriages between the king and the mother goddess. These six burials are believed by experts to have been the core of the Chalcolithic necropolis in Bulgarian Varna and preceded the rest of the burials.
Most of the finds from the Varna Chalcolithic necropolis are regarded as an exaltation of the role of a blacksmith, which scientists interpret as a substitute for the part of the Great Mother Goddess. In their opinion, this indicates the transformation of the matriarchal world into a patriarchal one. The position of a blacksmith in the culture of the neolithic era can be compared with the role of a king because, in those days, metal was precisely a symbol of high status and not economic superiority.
There is another surprising coincidence. Along the outer perimeter of the famous Stonehenge in England, there are 56 round holes in the scientific world (in honor of their explorer). So precisely, 56 convex points can be counted along the contour of a large golden amulet bull found among the treasures in Bulgaria.
The wealth of ancient tombs
The golden treasure of Varna includes over 3000 gold artifacts classified in 28 different types with a total weight of 6.5 kilograms, more than 5 kilograms of which were found in a total of three symbolic burials, as well as in grave No. 43, containing a human skeleton, which could be the ruler or the chief priest. The remains belong to a man of 40-45 years old, who had an imposing physique for that time – he was a strong man with a height of 1.75 meters.