Bulgarian archaeologists have found the world’s oldest gold artifact—a shaped bead which is about 6,500 years old.
The gold ornament was unearthed in the remains of a small house at a prehistoric settlement known as Tell Yunatsite, just outside the modern town of Pazardzhik.
The intricacy of the work lies in the fact that the bead is small, measuring just 0.16 inches (four millimeters) in diameter and weighing 0.005 ounces (15 centigrams).
According to Yavor Boyadzhiev, associated professor at the Bulgarian Academy of Science, the fortified site was the first urban settlement in Europe, founded around 6,000 B.C.
“Its position along with the pottery found within the building are evidence enough to date it to the middle of the Copper age, around 4,500–4,650 B.C.,” he added.
The dating would make the tiny gold artifact some 200 years older than the cache of gold found previously in a Copper Age necropolis in the Bulgarian Black Sea city of Varna.
Excavated between 1972 and 1991, Varna yielded what was assumed to be the oldest gold of mankind.
“The gold found in Varna is dated to the middle of the late Copper age, around 4,200–4,400 B.C. and is without doubt younger than the bead from Yunatsite,” Boyadzhiev said.
“Our finding proves that gold processing began earlier than we believed and in a much larger area,” he added.
Boyadzhiev noted the bead is just one of many artifacts that prove the existence of a well-developed civilization in Bulgaria during the fifth millennium B.C.
His team also unearthed more than 150 ceramic figures of birds, suggesting the animal was worshiped at Tell Yunatsite.
* In a related development which shows once again the antiquity of European civilization in Europe, archaeologists from the Universities of York, Cambridge, and UCL have identified rare human bones from the U.K. dating to the Late Mesolithic era (around 4000 B.C.), using an innovative new bone collagen analysis technique.
The find, on the small island of Cnoc Coig on Oronsay in the Inner Hebrides, saw researchers use bone collagen (protein) sequences to determine the species of 20 previously unidentifiable bone fragments.
Of these, 14 were confirmed as human, a find described as “remarkable” given the scarcity of human remains from this era.
Dr Sophy Charlton, lead author on the paper and now a Research Associate at the Natural History Museum in London, explains: “Analysing previously unidentified bone fragments shows us that both hunter-gatherer-fisher and farming lifestyles potentially co-existed on the West coast of Scotland for several hundred years. Further analysis has the potential to greatly clarify our understanding of the transition to agriculture in Western Scotland and more broadly across Britain.”
“Our findings also illustrate how information can be obtained from previously overlooked material. So much research potential lies dormant within ‘unidentifiable’ prehistoric bone fragments, and there is consequently significant potential for the future application of this method to other prehistoric sites.”