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BULGARIAN TERRITORIES IN PREHISTORIC TIMES

The first traces of man in the territories of today's Bulgaria were discovered during archeological excavations in the Kozarnika cave, Belogradchik region. The findings relate the country to the territories inhabited by the earliest humans in Europe - the Archaean period (1 500 000/1 400 000 - 600 000 B.C.). There are traces of the Paleolithic Age (600 000-10 000 B.C.) in the Iskar defile, in Southeastern Bulgaria, and in caves in the Balkan Mountains. Due to the general warming of the climate during the Mesolithic Age (10000 - 6400/5100 B.C.), cold-loving animals withdrew to the north. Man followed suit and, as a result, Southern Europe, Bulgarian territories included, was depopulated. We can get a rough picture of pre-historic life during the Neolithic (6400 - 4800 B.C.) and Eolithic (4800 -3750 B.C.) periods from settlements by the villages of Karanovo and Ezero (Nova Zagora region) and those of Golyamo Delchevo (Varna region), Kapitan Dimitrievo (Pazardzhik region), Drama (Yambol region) and others. Archeological expeditions have found there various objects used by their inhabitants - ceramics, tools made of flint, etc.

By the end of the Old Stone Age people started building the first dwellings - dug-outs covered with tree branches and leaves and pasted with mud. Much later they erected primitive houses. During the New Stone Age the first settlements appeared - dwellings huddled together, which had housed a number of generations. New dwellings appeared in the place of the old ones. The ruins of the houses and the house furniture formed village mounds. In the period that followed settlements grew in number and expanded. The mounds were inhabited by the chieftains and some were surrounded by solid stone walls. This is how the first fortresses appeared.

During the New Stone and the Stone-Copper Age civilizations characteristic of Southeastern Europe flourished. Today we have only fragments of these civilizations like a few objects made of stone, bone and clay, which reproduce the way of life and the cults of their ancient creators. Most numerous are the ceramic vessels and plastic figures of worship The miniature figures of women were the symbol of fertility and the cult of the elements of nature, the sun and the moon, which formed the basis of all prehistoric beliefs.

The first pieces of art of this kind appeared during the early Neolithic Age (end of 7th - beginning of 6th c. B.C.). In addition, there were massive vessels of simple form - dishes, bowls and cups on high stems, whose surface was decorated with spirals, triangles and checkered ornaments, painted in white against a red background.

During the Eneolithic or the Halcolithic Age, which covered the whole of the 5th millennium B.C., the vessels were covered with white meanders, spirals and circles, painted carefully on black background. Forms were diversified, graphite ornaments and early pictograms appeared. Round the middle of the period ceramics were produced on a mass scale and thus lost part of their colourfulness and richness of ornamentation. The first ornaments of gold appeared with the development of metallurgy in the second half of the Halcolithic Age, at the end of the 5th and the beginning of the 4th millennium B.C.

The most prominent example of the art of jewelry of that period is the treasure of the Varna necropolis, considered to be the oldest gold in Europe. It was discovered in 1972 and consists of about 3010 gold pieces (bracelets, rings, beads, diadems, amulets, applications), weighing over 6,5 kg. They were buried in real or symbolic graves (with no skeletons in them). In addition, there were many objects of copper, bone, stone and clay, some of them with religious function. During the Bronze Age (in Bulgarian territories it covers the period between the end of 4th and the end of 2nd millennium B.C.) anthropomorphic plastic figures of worship and painted ornaments on ceramic vessels disappear. Decorations are considerably scantier - stuck and cut triangles or such worked out in cord, bands and garlands. An interesting phenomenon of the late Bronze Age is the culture that developed in the territory of today's Northwestern Bulgaria. It is characterized with ceramics of various forms, covered with diverse ornamentation, incrusted with white paint or flutings (vertical grooves on the external surface of the vessel). The first monumental stone plastic figures appeared by the end of the Bronze Age - the so-called "stone grannies". With them the forms of the human body are only hinted at and some attributes like weapons and clothing are represented only schematically.

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