A new exhibit at the New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World presents remains of an unknown yet sophisticated civilization in Europe. Evidence of this ancient civilization found in the Danude Valley along the Black Sea, today is Bulgaria, Moldova and Romania. Archaeologists call this civilization Old Europe  because it predated Greece and Rome.

The settlers seem to entered there from Greece around 5000 B.C. Their number is not known nor how they called themselves as they lived before the invention of writing. They were farmers, they grew barley and wheat and they brought along domesticated cattle and sheep.

“The Thinker” and Female Figurine from Cernavodă, Fired Clay, Hamangia, Cernavodă, 5000–4600 BC National History Museum of Romania, Bucharest: 15906, 15907 Photo: Marius Amarie

While their agriculture techniques were very simple, these settlers were the masters of the new technology of their day which was copper smelting. Copper was abundant in the Balkan hills at that time and they developed a technique for high heat smelting to extract pure copper from the ore. Archaeologists believe that they gradually learned to get high heats from ceramics and they succeeded to reach to several thousands degrees.

What is truly remarkable is that that they managed to develop a large scale large copper industry. They were able to hammer knives and make tools and ornaments while it seems they were also involved in long distance trading with links to the rest of Europe.

The existence of this civilization was unknown until the early 20th century. There were some evidence and traces of settlements but due to the political isolation (iron curtain) of these three countries it was difficult for archaeologists in the west to know about it.

Eventually local archaeologists in Bulgaria found in 1972 a huge cemetery and it was then that they discovered that these people were interesting. The jewellery and the gold collection of figurines they found in the graves indicate that these people were skilled and they lived in a hierarchical society.

At about 3500 B.C. the civilization became extinct. It is not known what happened, a hypothesis is that people from the steppes of Ukraine roll over and take over the people of Old Europe.

Further Information “The Lost World of Old Europe: The Danube Valley, 5000-3500 B.C. “, New York Times