It’s controversially being called Europe’s oldest known town. But whatever Solnitsata’s place in history, it’s becoming clear that the 6,500-year-old Bulgarian siteâ€”not far from the continent’s earliest known gold hordeâ€”had something very much worth protecting.
Researchers announced last week they’d discovered 10-foot-tall (3-meter-tall), 6-foot-thick (1.8-meter-thick) stone walls around the settlement. The find is among the evidence for Solnitsata’s oldest-town statusâ€”and further proof of an advanced Copper Age Balkan trade network, according to dig leader Vasil Nikolov, a Bulgarian archaeologist.
Long before the first wheel rolled through Europe, precious goods were likely crisscrossing the Balkans on pack animals and possibly in carts with sledlike bottoms. Salt, essential for preserving meats, joined gold and copper among the most prized cargo. And with its rare and coveted brine springs, Solnitsata, near present-day Provadiya, was a key producer, boiling off the salt and baking it into ready-to-trade blocks to supply its region with the essential mineral.
Salt wealth might explain those heavy-duty walls, which archaeologist David Anthony called “quite unusual.”