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15 May 2015
Homes burned deliberatley at Neolithic site in Bulgaria

Huge two-storey houses which were deliberately set on fire by their inhabitants have been unearthed at the 8,000-year-old Early Neolithic site excavated by Bulgarian archaeologists near the town of Mursalevo, Kocherinovo Municipality, in Southwest Bulgaria.
     The prehistoric city at Mursalevo was first discovered in April 2014; the archaeologists from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences have now unearthed further prehistoric homes dating to the 6th millenium BCE. These prehistoric houses were 7-8 meters tall, with two-sloped roofs, and a built-up area of between 60 and 100 square meters.
     So far the experts have dug up some 60 prehistoric homes, made of wattle and clay and whose walls are about 20 cm thick. They can be seen in situ by June 28, 2015; ater that the archaeologists will dismantle the prehistoric houses to excavate the deeper layers beneath them before the beginning of the construction of a new highway.
     "So far we have discovered over 4,000 artifacts which are enough to fill up a large museum. The settlement had an area of 20.000 square metres," explains Prof. Vasil Nikolov, lead archaeologist of the excavations.
     The prehistoric city at Mursalevo has perfect urban planning which is said to be the only one of its kind on the entire Balkan Peninsula. It has three parallel main streets and several more narrow streets perpendicular to them. Thus, quarters, or neighborhoods, of 3-4 houses each were formed. According to the Bulgarian archaeologists, this setup requires a strong social organization and very good preliminary settlement planning.
     One of the most interesting discoveries made by the Bulgarian archaeologists at Mursalevo is the evidence for the deliberate burning down of some of the houses in the prehistoric settlement. The archaeologists have discovered that the prehistoric inhabitants did not burn down the entire settlement but instead burned down only individual homes, and at different times.
     The deliberate setting on fire is proven by the fact that the houses had been filled with firewood in advance. This practice was complicated because in that period firewood was scarce in Mursalevo's region, and the prehistoric people probably had to come together and make numerous group trips in order to harvest and bring back enough firewood, a clear indication that the burning down of the respective homes was not only deliberate but also carefully planned.
     However, the arsons of the Early Neolithic homes in the 6th millennium BCE have turned out to be of help for modern-day archaeologists because the clay making up the house walls was 'additionally baked', and has thus been preserved in a very good condition.
     Bulgaria's Ministry of Culture has requested from the lead archaeologists of the rescue excavations, Prof. Vasil Nikolov and Assoc. Prof. Krum Bachvarov, to come up with a project for the future museum. They already have in mind an open-air museum where the remains of the Early Neolithic homes will be exhibited under glass domes.

Edited from Archaeology in Bulgaria (13 may 2015)

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