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4 June 2014
Archaeologists dig out 7800-year-old settlement in Bulgaria

Near the village of Mursalevo in southwestern Bulgaria, archaeologists are investigating the remains of a settlement estimated to date to the late Neolithic, about 5800 BCE, making it one of the oldest farming communities in Europe. Archaeologist Vassil Nikolov, of the National Archaeology Institute and Museum, says the settlement shows signs of urban planning, and had about 35 houses made of clay over a wooden skeleton and covered with trestle and straw.
     The digs have unearthed many pottery shards, as well as numerous bones of domesticated animals - evidence that the inhabitants kept livestock including cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs. The settlement existed for at least 150 years, but was abandoned and burned down. Parts were excavated in the 1920s, during the construction of the railway line between Dupnitsa and Blagoevgrad, but the settlement had not been studied in depth in recent decades.
     The site is one of several locations of archaeological interest that will be crossed by the Struma motorway, linking the Bulgarian capital city of Sofia to Thessaloniki in northern Greece.
     Major infrastructure projects like motorways have proven a boon to archaeological research in Bulgaria over the past decade, offering the opportunity to excavate sites for which funding is otherwise not available because of the dwindling state subsidies for such research.
     "The results are very important, the urban planning is something that I have not seen anywhere in the Balkans, not to such extent and in a settlement of this size," Nikolov said. "This will allow us to draw some conclusions about the social organisation of this community and it speaks a lot to the human ability to organise and plan a settlement to take into account environmental factors."

Edited from The Sofia Globe (29 May 2014)

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