Archaeologists in Bulgaria say they have discovered the oldest prehistoric town found to date in Europe.
The settlement, walled and fortified near the modern town of Provadia, was possibly an important center for salt production, which may explain the huge gold hoard found in the nearby northeast region nearly 40 years ago, reported BBC News. Archaeologists believe the town dates back to between 4700 and 4200 BC, and was home to around 350 people. Its age puts it about 1500 years before the start of ancient Greek civilization.
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Other excavations at the site have also uncovered the remains of a settlement of two-story houses, a series of pits used for rituals, parts of a gate, bastion structures and three fortification walls, according to Agence France-Presse.
"We are not talking about a town like the Greek city-states, ancient Rome or medieval settlements, but about what archaeologists agree constituted a town in the fifth millennium BC," said Vasil Nikolov, a researcher with Bulgaria's National Institute of Archeology, after announcing the findings earlier this month.
The inhabitants of the prehistoric settlement are said to have boiled brine from salt springs in kilns, then baked it into bricks and used it for trading, reported The Telegraph.
"At a time when people did not know the wheel and cart, these people hauled huge rocks and built massive walls. Why? What did they hide behind them? The answer was salt," said Nikolov. "Salt was an extremely valued commodity in ancient times, as it was both necessary for people's lives and was used as a method of trade and currency starting from the sixth millennium BC up to 600 BC."