The world’s oldest gold artifact was possibly made in the shape of a tiny bead – and it was found at a prehistoric settlement in the southern part of Bulgaria. Dated from around 4600-4500 BC, the tiny piece of jewelry weighing just 0.005 ounce, is (probably) older than the previously oldest gold artifact – the ‘Varna gold’, by 200 years. Interestingly enough, the Varna gold is so-named because it was found in the city of Varna (in 1972), by the Black Sea coast, also within the modern territory of Bulgaria. In fact, the eneolithic Varna culture, circa 5th millennium BC, is often credited with inventing gold working and exploitation, which resulted in the earliest specimens of jewelry in our known history.
As for this ‘oldest’ piece of jewelry in question, the artifact was discovered inside the confines of a prehistoric site just outside the modern-day town of Pazardzhik. According to Yavor Boyadzhiev, associate professor at the Bulgarian Academy of Science, the site was possibly the location of the first urbanized settlement in Europe, with its inhabitants originally migrating from Anatolia circa 6000 BC. As Boyadzhiev made it clear, these people organized themselves within the framework of a ‘highly-cultured’ society which could have even predated the origins of Sumerians, the world’s first known urban civilization –
I would say it is a prototype of a modern town, though we can say what we have here is an ancient town, judged by Mesopotamian standards. But we are talking about a place which preceded Sumer by more than 1,000 years.
In that regard, the more-than 7,000 years old settlement roughly encompassed an area of 25-30 acres, with its perimeters being defended by a 9-ft high fortress wall. To put a comparative note, any ancient settlement beyond the area of 2 acres is often designated as a town. And interestingly enough, the inhabitants of the Bulgarian urban settlement were possibly also fervent worshipers of birds – as can be hypothesized by the discovery of over 150 ceramic figures of the creatures at the site. Unfortunately, in spite of the substantial defensive walls, the ‘town’ was ultimately destroyed by roving invaders from the north, circa 4100 BC.
Lastly, it should be noted that while most of the project researchers are confident of their find, the gold bead in question still needs to be thoroughly analyzed to pinpoint its precise date. And after the assessment works are done, humanity’s first gold artifact is all set to be displayed at the historical museum in Pazardzhik.