Black Sea Resort Shabla to Attract Tourists with Bulgaria’s First Paleolithic Open-Air Museum in Durankulak Lake

An aerial view of the prehistoric settlement on the Big Island (today a peninsula) in the Durankulak Lake, a lagoon located near the town of Durankulak, Shabla Municipality, in the northeastern-most corner of today's Bulgaria. Photo: Dobrich Regional Museum of History

An aerial view of the prehistoric settlement on the Big Island (today a peninsula) in the Durankulak Lake, a lagoon located near the town of Durankulak, Shabla Municipality, in the northeastern-most corner of today’s Bulgaria. Photo: Dobrich Regional Museum of History

Bulgaria’s northeastern Black Sea resort town of Shabla has created the country’s first open-air Paleolithic museum at the site of a prehistoric settlement on the Big Island in the Durankulak Lake, near the town of Durankulak, Shabla Mayor Prof. Rayna Bardareva has announced.

The Big Island in the Durankulak Lake, a 3.4 square km lagoon, is known as the Lake City or the “European Troy”; it features prehistoric remains from what is said to be the first sedentary agricultural culture in Europe, which created Europe’s first stone architecture. The so called Big Island is today a peninsula with an area of 19 decares (app. 4.7 acres, or 0.019 square km).

Some of the finds date back to about 10,000 BC, the Paleolithic Age, and there are also numerous finds from all the later periods in Prehistory, and from the Antiquity and the Middle Ages. The earliest traces of civilized human life on the Durakulak Lake island-turned-peninsula are characterized as belonging to the Late Neolithic Hamangia-Durankulak Culture, and the Chalcolithic (Aeneolithic, Copper Age) Varna Culture which followed suit.

The earliest stone architecture in continental Europe - the stone city located on the Big Island (today a peninsula) in the Durankulak Lake, a Black Sea lagoon in Northeast Bulgaria. Photo: Dobrich Regional Museum of History

The earliest stone architecture in continental Europe – the stone city located on the Big Island (today a peninsula) in the Durankulak Lake, a Black Sea lagoon in Northeast Bulgaria. Photo: Dobrich Regional Museum of History

A map of the Durankulak Lake in Northeast Bulgaria showing also the Big Island where the Durankulak Archaeological Park is located; the island periodically turns into a peninsula. Map: Dobrich Regional Museum of History

A map of the Durankulak Lake in Northeast Bulgaria showing also the Big Island where the Durankulak Archaeological Park is located; today the island is a peninsula. Map: Dobrich Regional Museum of History

The open-air museum inside the Durankulak Lake has been created with EU funding under Operational Program “Fisheries and Aquaculture”; the EU funds have been used to build a tourist information center and a wooden bridge to the island with the Paleolithic settlement.

Shabla Municipality’s new museum has been created in partnership with the Dobrich Regional Museum of History. It is part of the Durankulak Archaeological Preserve, and has been named “Durankulak Black Sea Archaeological Park.

Now Shabla Municipality is preparing another EU funding proposal in order to turn the open-air Paleolithic museum in the Durankulak Lake into a major destination for cultural and archaeological tourism, Bardarova has told Radio Focus – Varna.

The tourist center at the Durankulak Lake presents both the archaeological heritage and the biological diversity of the region.

An aerial view of the Big Island Peninsula in the Durankulak Lake. Photo: Durankulak Black Sea Archaeological Park

An aerial view of the Big Island Peninsula in the Durankulak Lake. Photo: Durankulak Black Sea Archaeological Park

The 4th century BC Ancient Thracian shrine of Mother Goddess Cybele on the Big Island Peninsula in the Durankulak Lake in Northeast Bulgaria. Photo: Dobrich Regional Museum of History

The 4th century BC Ancient Thracian shrine of Mother Goddess Cybele on the Big Island Peninsula in the Durankulak Lake in Northeast Bulgaria. Photo: Dobrich Regional Museum of History

Background Infonotes:

The Paleolithic and Neolithic settlement on the Big Island in the Durankulak Lake, a lagoon with an area of 3.4 square km on Bulgaria’s Black Sea Northern Black Sea coast near the town of Durankulak, Shabla Municipality, is known as the Lake City or the “European Troy”; it features prehistoric remains from what is said to be the first sedentary agricultural culture in Europe. The so called Big Island is today a peninsula with an area of 19 decares (app. 4.7 acres, or 0.019 square km).

The excavations of the Paleolithic and Neolithic settlement on the Big Island in Bulgaria’s Durankulak Lake first started in 1974 by Bulgarian archaeologists Henrieta Todorova and Todor Dimov. They discovered Paleolithic finds dating back to around 10,000 BC; and a Neolithic settlement dating back to between 5500-5400 BC and 5100-5000 BC. The settlement, which created what is said to be Europe’s first stone city, is characterized as belonging to Blatnitsa, the earliest phase of Europe’s Late Neolithic Hamangia-Durankulak Culture (whose remains are found in today’s Black Sea regions of Romania and Bulgaria). The Bulgarian archaeologists found archaeological layers from a total of 8 prehistoric settlements on the Durankulak Lake island, the first two of which belong to the Late Neolithic Hamangia-Durankulak Culture and the next four – to the Chalcolithic (Aeneolithic, Copper Age) Varna Culture. What is said to be the world’s largest Paleolithic-Neolithic necropolis – containing traces of about 1400 and 1204 studied graves – dating back to 5300-3800 BC – has also been found there. The first burial mounds dating to about the 3500-3400 BC are said to have mark the arrival of the proto-Thracians. The archaeological site on the island also features remains from Ancient Thrace – a Thracian settlement dating back to 1300-1200 BC, around the time of the Trojan War; a 4th century BC rock shrine of Thracian (Greek, Anatolian) Mother Goddess Cybele; and a 9th-10th century AD fortress from the period of the First Bulgarian Empire (632/680-1018 AD), and an Ancient Bulgar necropolis.

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