The Mystery of Varna Gold, The Oldest Gold in The World

The Varna Necropolis gold is a history of a forgotten civilization that lived in the Varna region during the period around 4,600 BC to 4,200 BC and was brought back to the public knowledge in the early 1970s. 

Varna civilization oldest gold in the world

It was a completely unknown culture, and thanks to a fortuitous event, today we can appreciate how advanced this civilization was.

grave 4, supposed to belong to a, metalsmith

When was it discovered?

The person responsible for this finding is Raycho Marinov, the man who originally discovered the treasure and the Varna Chalcolithic Necropolis while he was operating an excavator back on October 22, 1972, at the age of 22.

Marinov came across several bracelets and a breastplate, and start collecting them in a shoebox, and took them home. 

He had no idea what he had found, and a couple of days later he informed the local archaeologists from the Varna Archaeological Museum.

For his discovery back then, Marinov was awarded BGN 500, a substantial sum for the time equal to several monthly salaries. However, the intelligence services of the Bulgarian communist regime followed him around for a while to make sure he had not kept any artifacts for himself in order to sell them.

Archeological excavations of the graves during the 70s

What was it found?

Bulgaria’s Varna Gold Treasure is considered the oldest processed gold in the world dating back to the time of the Chalcolithic (Eneolithic, Copper Age) the Varna Culture (is usually dated to 4400-4100 BC).

The gold artifacts from the Varna Chalcolithic Necropolis were found in graves with skeletons (mostly male) as well as in symbolic graves without human remains.

Grave from the leader of the community (the one with most gold items)

Why is this finding important?

According to radiocarbon dating, the artifacts from the cemetery are 6,500 years old, meaning they were created only a few centuries after the first migrant farmers moved into Europe.

Copper tools found on a grave

The most important discovery is the development of this civilization, it was found that just a few graves hold most of the wealth, making them the first evidence of social hierarchies in the historical record.

The majority of the burials contained very little of value: a bead, a flint knife, a bone bracelet. One in five contained small gold objects like beads or pendants. 

Amazingly, just four graves contained three-quarters of the cemetery’s gold, 6,500 years ago, people had the same ideas we have today. Then we see the first complex society.

mother goddess figure who represents or is a personification of motherhood

How big was the discovery?

A total of 294 graves have been found in the necropolis, many containing sophisticated examples of metallurgy (gold and copper), pottery (about 600 pieces, including gold-painted ones), high-quality flint and obsidian blades, beads, and shells. 

These symbolic (empty) graves are the richest in gold artifacts. Three thousand gold artifacts were found, with a weight of approximately six kilograms. Grave 43 contained more gold than has been found in the entire rest of the world for that epoch. Three symbolic graves contained masks of unbaked clay.

Varna Gold

What happened with this civilization?

On the Black sea shore between Varna and Danube delta and the eastern Balkan mountain, the region flourished economically during the second half of the Vth millennium BC, based on metallurgical development and intense commercial relationships. 

The lake settlements around Varna lake were the center of the region. The tombs in the Varna necropolis illustrate various social differences in material terms of buried people. Most probably this is due to the rise of social classes among the local population. 

By the end of the Eneolithic Age, the primitive society on the Balkan Peninsula disintegrates. This is a process related mostly to a significant climate change on the entire European territory, disrupting the influence of the Late Eneolithic society functioning in the Varna region. 

After the fall of the Varna civilization follow a period of movement of large human masses, from east to west, under the pressure of steppe tribes. One of the most significant testimonies of the migration is a tomb, found accidentally near Devnia, where have been discovered many tops of arrows and spares, copper tools, necklace and 32 gold rings (most probably forming string and serving as bracelet).

Devnya culture tomb

Where you can see the exhibition?

The artifacts can be seen at the Varna Archaeological Museum and at the National Historical Museum in Sofia.

You may also like:

Get “Moving To Bulgaria” Your Free Exclusive eBook

5 Bulgarian Food That You Must Try (beyond Shopska salad)

Bulgaria A Land of Treasures

7 Tips on Moving To Bulgaria

If you liked it, share it and follow us on Facebook!

Foreigner BG | News