Bulgaria’s Vratsa Acquires Early Neolithic Archaeological Site near Ohoden to Build Open-Air Museum

This 2010 photo shows Vratsa archaeologist Georgi Ganetsovski at work in the Early Neolithic settlement at Valoga near Ohoden in Northwest Bulgaria. Photo: Georgi Ganetsovski Facebook Page

This 2010 photo shows Vratsa archaeologist Georgi Ganetsovski at work in the Early Neolithic settlement at Valoga near Ohoden in Northwest Bulgaria. Photo: Georgi Ganetsovski Facebook Page

Vratsa Municipality in Northwest Bulgaria has gained ownership over the archaeological site Valoga near the town of Ohoden, which harbors the remains of a unique Early Neolithic settlement said to represent Europe’s earliest agricultural civilization.

The plot of the Valoga site near Ohoden has been acquired by Vratsa Municipality free of charge; it has an area of 57 decares (app. 14 acres), reports local news site Kmeta.

Thus, the municipal authorities have fulfilled one of the requirements for receiving funding from the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture in order to turn the Early Neolithic archaeological site near Ohoden into an open-air museum.

The project submitted by Vratsa Municipality to the Culture Ministry is seeking funding of BGN 800,000 (app. EUR 410,000) in order to restore the prehistoric settlement at Ohoden in its authentic appearance, and to fashion an open-air museum with a total area of 1276 square meters, with designated sites for experimental archaeology.

“Our goal is to breathe new life into the local cultural heritage. We will achieve it by creating an open-air museum on the excavated part of the Valoga archaeological site, which is an Early Neolithic settlement and cult center,” Vratsa Mayor Nikolay Ivanov is quoted as saying.

The Early Neolithic site at Ohoden has been excavated for almost 15 years now by archaeologist Georgi Ganetsovski from the Vratsa Regional Museum of History.

The artifacts and graves that he has found there indicate that the 8,000-year-old settlement might represent the earliest agricultural civilization in Europe. It had a fertility temple with what was likely the world’s oldest sun shrine, and an altar decorated with huge elk trophy horns.

The archaeologists excavating the Valoga site near Ohoden have found the skeleton of a prehistoric woman named “Todorka”, and of a man named “Hristo” named so he died at about 33, the age of Jesus Christ, and the remains of other people thought to have been their relatives.

The archaeological site Valoga near Ohoden was recently threatened by flooding because of the rising waters of the Skut River.

Background Infonotes:

The Early Neolithic settlement near the town of Ohoden, Vratsa Municipality, in Northwest Bulgaria is one of the earliest human settlements in Europe dating back to the 6th millennium BC. It consists of prehistoric homes, a necropolis, and a fertility and sun temple. It features what might be the earliest known sun temple which is about 8,000 years old, as are the prehistoric human skeletons found there. The analysis of the artifacts found at the Ohoden Early Neolithic settlement shows that it belongs to the so called Gradeshnitsa-Karcha Early Neolithic Culture which developed in today’s Northwestern Bulgaria and Southwestern Romania. The finds from the Ohoden excavations indicate that the Balkan Peninsula was the center of a prehistoric civilization that spread to the rest of Europe.

Back in 2011, the archaeologists excavating Ohoden discovered a sanctuary with a prehistoric altar decorated with huge trophy elk horns placed 2 meters away from the ritual burial of a man discovered in 2010. The scholars have stipulated that the altar was used to glorify the buried man’s hunting achievements. The sanctuary is believed to have been a fertility and son temple as its floor was paved with U-shaped stones directed to the east; it contained dozens of clay and stone disc symbolizing the sun disc, respectively the sun cult, in early agrarian societies. These finds that are unique of their kind in the entire world have led the scholars to hypothesize that it might be the world’s oldest temple dedicated to the sun.

The first grave excavated at Ohoden was found in 2004. It belonged to a woman who was named with the Bulgarian female name “Todorka” by the local archaeologists. Todorkas burial is exhibited in the Vratsa Regional Museum of History. Three more Early Neolithic graves have been discovered at Ohoden.The Early Neolithic homes whose remains were discovered at Ohoden showed traces of beams and columns 45 cm in diameter which is evidence of massive walls and roofs. The 8,000-year-old Early Neolithic settlement in Ohoden in Northwest Bulgaria was first found in 2002. It has been excavated by a team of archaeologists from the Vratsa Regional Museum of History led by archaeologist Georgi Ganetsovski.

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