varna necropolis

Varna Necropolis – the starting point of Europe

The modern linguistic term Indo-European signifies the ancient peoples whose languages formed a family that was fundamentally different from the Semitic. Indo-Europeans can be identified from Europe to India from the 3rd Millennium BC onwards. One widespread concept (the migration theory) claims that originally they inhabited a region which ethnically and demographically was exclusively their own and the seed of a diaspora. The Indo-European land of origin continues to be sought in Northern Europe, Asia Minor, Anterior and Central Asia where a proto-language was believed to exist from which all languages evolved when the communities that spoke them settled in their historically documented habitations, and some later produced magnificent and powerful writings in Sanskrit, Iranian (Persian), Old Greek and Latin. Early migration became possible owing to the domestication of the horse which was used both for traction and riding.

Archaeological excavations in Southeastern Europe in the past 30 years have enabled another hypothesis to take hold. This hypothesis claims that both nomads and land tillers (a settled population) were involved equally in the Indo-Europeanisation process in the Carpathian, Black Sea, Aegean and Asia Minor regions.

An internationally famous site that supported this more realistic theory is the necropolis that was excavated in 1972 on the northern bank of Lake Varna. The 300 or so graves that have been brought to light so far provide evidence of a stratified and well organised society governed by aristocrats. A probable ruler stands out and can be identified by the magnificent funeral offerings and some regalia (a scepter). Dated to the latter half of the 4th Millennium BC (Chalcolithic/Eneolithic Age), the Varna Necropolis provides sufficient data about the two still anonymous components of the coastal population. On the one hand, these data allow a reliable recrearion of the steppe nomadic military and political hierarchy of the community; on the other hand, they illustrate the centuries-long experience in pottery, copper ore extraction, farming, marine trade, and first and foremost, the inimitable production of gold articles for religious and ceremonial practices.

The combination of the prehistoric skills and knowledge of the mounted people, sailors and local population produced the first European civilisation, i.e. the first well-knit and organised social entity near Varna and elsewhere along the Western Black Sea coast. This surprising awareness is illustrated best by the differing funeral rites for poor and rich but also by sepulchral monuments to persons whose bodies lie elsewhere (cenotaphs) and by symbolic graves. The clay faces in the graves decorated with gold plates and ornaments, the so-called masks, suggest a very advanced stage of abstract thinking about the divinity of the interacting cosmic elements in the Beyond:Earth, Water and Fire (= Gold) are particularly challenging. It is only this type of thinking and the early phase of (Indo-European) speech corresponding to it that could transform an area with geographic features and economy into a cultural and historical area which was socially and professionally organised to such a high extent that resolutely precludes the obsolete theory of matriarchy.

The theory that Southeastern Europe with its Black Sea and Asia Minor lands was the most developed centre when Indo-European tongues and cultures took shape after the end of the 4th Millennium BC is corroborated by the unbroken continuity in the life of a number of settlements in that region from the Neolithic to the Eneolithic and the Bronze to the Iron Age. Their settlers were gradually consolidated into individual peoples which in the 1st Millennium BC were finally designated with collective ethnic names in Old Greek records. The best known of these are the Hellenes, the Thracians and the Illyrians. These covered the southern parts of the Balkan Peninsula with the Aegean Basin and its eastern and western half to the south of the Carpathian Mountains.

 

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