Internationally regarded as one of the most important prehistoric archaeological sites in the world, the Varna Necropolis (also known as the Varna Cemetery) is a large cemetery in Varna’s western industrial zone. It dates back to roughly 6,000 to 6,500 years ago, when the Chalcolithic (Copper Age) Varna Culture existed.
Archaeology in Bulgaria reports that a total of 294 graves containing about 3,000 gold artefacts have been discovered at the Varna Necropolis. Grave 43 stood out from the rest, despite the fact that numerous elite burial sites were discovered. Here, archaeologists discovered the remains of a male of high status who was likely a ruler or leader of some kind.
During the construction of a canning factory in 1972, an excavator operator named Raycho Marinov, then 22 years old, uneart hed several artifacts, placed them in a shoebox, and took them home. A few days later, he decided to inform local archaeologists of the discovery by contacting them.
The necropolis was then excavated for a total of 294 Chalcolithic graves. The Copper Age graves where the Varna Gold Treasure was discovered were dated to between 4,560 and 4,450 B.C. using radiocarbon dating.
All of these astounding artefacts are the result of an ancient European civilisation that flourished during the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods in modern-day Bulgaria, the rest of the Balkan Peninsula, the Lower Danube region, and the west coast of the Black Sea. Some scholars refer to this ancient culture as “Old Europe.”
The findings from the necropolis indicate that the Varna Culture maintained trade relations with distant Black Sea and Mediterranean regions and exported rock salt from the Provadiya – Solditsata (“The Salt Pit”) rock salt mine.
In addition, archaeologists believe that the shells of the Mediterranean mollusc Spondylus discovered in graves at the Varna Necropolis and other Chalcolithic sites in Northern Bulgaria may have been used as a form of currency by this ancient culture.
Archaeologists believe that the Balkan Peninsula (Southeast Europe) had some form of statehood and a royal institution as early as the Copper Age due to the abundance of gold artefacts found in several of the discovered graves.
The Varna Gold Treasure consists of over 3,000 gold artefacts classified into 28 distinct categories and weighing a total of 6.5 kilogrammes.
As mentioned previously, one of the most intriguing inventories was discovered in Grave No. 43, which was unearthed in 1974 in the centre of the Varna Necropolis. It belonged to a man between the ages of 40 and 45 who, at the time, was relatively large (he was approx. 1,70-1,75 metres or 5 feet 6 – 8 inches tall).
Over 1.5 kilogrammes of gold artefacts were discovered in his grave, which is one reason archaeologists believe he was a prominent member of his community, possibly a ruler or king-priest.
The gold items include ten large appliques, a large number of rings, some of which were strung on strings, two necklaces, beads, what appears to be a gold phallus, golden decorations for a bow, a stone axe and a copper axe with golden decorations, and a bow with gold applications.
In Grave No. 36, a symbolic grave, archaeologists discovered over 850 gold objects, including a tiara, earrings, a necklace, a belt, bracelets, a breastplate, a gold hammer-sceptre, a gold sickle model, two gold lamellas representing animals, and 30 models of horned animal heads.
The objects were discovered wrapped in a gold-embroidered cloth, lining the contours of a human body, with additional artefacts on the right side, indicating that the grave contained a male burial. Archaeologists once more interpreted the golden artefacts as royal emblems.
Similar “royal” burials have been discovered in Varna Chalcolithic Necropolis Graves No. 1, 4, and 5.
Numerous artefacts from the Varna Chalcolithic Necropolis are interpreted as honouring the role of the blacksmith, who, as a creator, supplants the Great Mother Goddess and transforms the matriarchal world into a patriarchal one.
In the Chalcolithic culture, the smith’s position was comparable to that of the king, as metal was more of a symbol of status than an economic resource.