Neolithic Dwellings museum in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria – an 8000 year-old story

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How the real-life Flintstones lived?

We love exploring places that are somehow different and tell us curious things about us and our history. We are not big museum lovers but there are museums we wouldn’t miss. And we are happy to return there over and over again. One of these is located in Stara Zagora, central Bulgaria. It is not a huge museum but a very important one – the Neolithic Dwellings museum in Stara Zagora. We are not archaeologists but we are really curious to discover it.

The area around Stara Zagora was inhabited since the Neolithic era (late VII – VI millennium B.C.). Around the city and its vicinity have been found remains of many prehistoric locality mounds. Even these inhabitants did not live in caves but instead were building houses, some of them with two storeys, inhabited by multiple families. Luckily, one of these houses has been preserved until nowadays and tells a whole wonderful story of the life 8000 years ago.

Neolithic Dwellings museum

The museum is located at the site of a prehistoric mound just near Stara Zagora Regional Hospital. Here, during construction works in 1969, were discovered pieces of ceramics and the construction was suspended. The archaeologists were probably expecting to discover something because it was known that the area is rich in ancient mounds and artefacts. Today the hole made by the digger is still visible.

The hole in the wall is not a door but a track from the digger - Neolithic Dwellings, Stara Zagora Neolithic dwellings, Stara Zagora Neolithic museum, Museum in Stara Zagora

The hole in the wall is not a door but a track from the digger

Later the site was studied and conservation works were done to protect the dwellings. Around the site was erected a special protective building where a stable cool temperature is being maintained.

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Неолитни жилища 42.424328, 25.610139

It is very important to visit Neolithic Dwellings museum with a guide. The place is very specific and if you are not a specialist in archaeology, you may not recognise the details. It really looks like a bunch of mud and stones until the guide tells you the whole story.

 

Millennia ago…

This archaeological site is dated to the 6th Millenium BC – the New Stone Age, or Neolithic. The dwelling was built from wooden stakes fixed in the ground, interwoven with rods. The construction was coated with a mixture of clay and straw. It is thought that the two-storey buildings were located in the central part of the prehistoric settlement.

The house was probably used for 30-40 years. Each year its inhabitants coated the floor and the walls with fresh clay. So the construction became stronger but also narrower.

This “organic” construction style was not very long-lasting through history and this is why there are very few constructions from this era that survived so far. It is thought that the neolithic dwellings in Stara Zagora survived because of a fire. When fire burns the clay, it becomes ceramics which is more lasting that clay itself. It is believed that this prehistoric settlement was burned by intruders and all of its inhabitants escaped without taking anything from their homes. This is how the walls of the dwelling in Stara Zagora were burned and turned into ceramics that survived until nowadays.

How 3 families lived in the 2-storey dwelling

Let’s take a walk around the house and see how our Neolithic ancestors lived there. Our guide first showed us the furnaces – the most important objects in the house. There were two furnaces on the first floor which means that two families lived there. However, next to one of the furnaces there is rubble from another furnace that has most probably fallen from the second floor.

The furnace with rubble from the second floor

The furnace with rubble from the second floor

How do they know that the dwelling had two floors?

The space in front of each furnace was traditionally kept free. There people used to work or sleep so it was not normal to keep any solid furniture in front of the furnace. So the solid rubble next to one of the furnaces could only have fallen from above.

Neolithic Grain mills

Neolithic Grain mills

Near the furnaces were kept the hand mills for grinding grain and also the granaries where food were being stored. Ancient people used to grow early varieties of wheat – usually spelt, as well as barley, vetch, legumes. In each of the rooms there are also tens of ceramic vessels with various shapes and decoration.

All the inhabitants of the house used to sleep in front of the furnace. It is amazing how they coped – the space is no more than 2-3 sq.m. and it is thought that 5 people used to sleep there.

Granaries in the Neolithic Dwellings museum, Stara Zagora, Bulgaria

Granaries

It is amazing how our ancestors could live like this without knowing many technologies we use today. They were not familiar with metals and also didn’t know the potter’s wheel. However, the ceramic vessels found around the house are like pieces of art.

The prehistoric art exhibition

In the Neolithic Dwellings museum there is also an exhibition of Prehistoric art with artefacts found in the mounds in the area. Some of them date back to the early Neolithic and other are from later ages. We saw there amazing ceramic vessels, finely decorated and well preserved. You would never guess that they are 8000 year-old. I cannot even imagine how old they are – they were there even before the Thracians, the Romans and are even older than the Egyptian civilisation which started around 3150 BC.

A very interesting point in the Neolithic art is the cult of the mother. Almost all of the cult objects depict a woman, usually pregnant, or even the act of nativity.

Prehistoric art

Prehistoric art female figures

There are Neolithic dwellings remains in Sofia, too. They are located in Slatina district and I hope they will be open for tourism soon.

 

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Another notable prehistoric site in Bulgaria is Magura cave with its wonderful wall cravings from various historic periods. There can be seen paintings from the Epipaleolithic, the Neolithic, the Eneolithic and the early Bronze Age. It’s a wonderful site, very beautiful.


Address:
20 Armeyska Str.; Tel.: +359 42 622 109
Entrance fee:
Adults – 5,00 BGN
Pensioners – 2,00 BGN
Pupils and full-time students – 1,00 BGN
Group visits by 10 and more persons – 4,00 BGN
Disabled visitors – free of charge

Entrance fee for adults with children:
– adults – 3,00 BGN
– children over 7 – 1,00 BGN
– children under 7 – free of charge
Opening times:
Tuesday – Saturday
9:00 am to 12:30 pm – 1:00 pm to 5:30 pm
Closed on: Sunday and Monday


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