Salt and gold: Provadia-Solnitsata and the Varna Chalcolithic cemetery

Vassil Nikolov, Verlag Des Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums Mainz
The short considerations on several grave good types from the Late Chalcolithic Varna cemetery on the shore of lake Varna, Northeast Bulgaria, on the western Black Sea coast testify to a non-local origin of their raw material. Some artefact types were probably produced elsewhere. Most of the copper tools and »personal ornaments« as well as most of the gold items were made locally, but of imported raw material. There is no doubt that the »wealth« of the population buried in the Varna cemetery
more » ... e Varna cemetery was achieved through regular trade. The only raw material of vital importance for man and animals and available in the area near lake Varna – and not in Thrace and the neighbouring regions – was salt. Therefore, salt was not only a prerequisite for an active and successful trade but definitely played the role of a general equivalent during later prehistory. The only rock salt deposit in the Eastern Balkans which was suitable for exploitation during later prehistory was the one at Provadia. Brine of almost the highest possible salt concentration streamed out of the overlying salt mirror. The Chalcolithic salt producers discovered a perfect brine-boiling technique for a much faster and (for that time) high salt extraction. The change in the salt production technology resulting in a highly increased production capacity of the »plant« near present-day Provadia during the Middle and Late Chalcolithic suggests a relationship between salt production and trade on the one hand and the plentitude of prestigious goods exceptional for that period at the Late Chalcolithic »gold« Varna cemetery nearby on the other hand.
doi:10.11588/ak.2010.4.28095 fatcat:edv7ujmr4zf7xbvqbqoozvf75q