Varna Man

Varna Man and the Wealthiest Grave of the 5th Millennium BC

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In the 1970s, archaeologists in Bulgaria stumbled upon a vast Copper Age necropolis from the 5 th millennium BC containing the oldest golden artifacts ever discovered near the modern-day city of Varna.  But it was not until they reached grave 43 that they realized the real significance of the finding. Inside burial 43 were the remains of a high status male and unfathomable riches – more gold was found within this burial than in the entire rest of the world in that period.

Most people have heard of the great civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Indus Valley, which are all noted for being the earliest known civilizations to feature urbanization, organized administration, and cultural innovation. But few have heard of the mysterious civilization that emerged on the shores of lakes of the Black Sea some 7,000 years ago in Bulgaria.

The Varna culture, as it has come to be known, was not a small and inconsequential society that emerged in a little corner of Bulgaria and disappeared quickly into the pages of history. Rather, it was an amazingly advanced civilization, more ancient than the empires of Mesopotamia and Egypt, and the first known culture to craft golden artifacts. Varna is also now home to the largest known prehistoric necropolis in south-eastern Europe, which reflects a richness in cultural practices, complex funerary rites, an ancient belief system, and the capacity to produce exquisite and expertly-crafted goods. It has come to be known as the cradle of civilization in Europe.

The Rise of the Varna Culture

Evidence suggests that it was between 4600 and 4200 BC, when gold smithing first started in Varna. As advances were made, and craftsmen mastered metallurgy of copper and gold, the inhabitants now had something extremely valuable to trade. Increased contacts with neighbours both north and south eventually opened up trade relations within the Black Sea and Mediterranean region, which was of great importance for the development of the society. The deep bay, along which the settlements of Varna, provided a comfortable harbor for ships sailing across the Black Sea and Varna became a prosperous trading center.

Increased trading activity allowed the metallurgists to accumulate wealth and very quickly, a societal gap developed with metallurgists at the top, followed by merchants in the middle, and farmers making up the lower class. Incredible discoveries made at a nearby cemetery also suggest that Varna had powerful rulers or kings – but we will come back to that.

And so, the foundations had been laid for the emergence of a powerful and flourishing culture, whose influence permeated the whole of Europe for thousands of years to come.

Discovering ancient Varna

The first evidence of Varna’s ancient civilization came in the form of tools, vessels, utensils, and figurines made from stone, flint, bone, and clay. Then an incredible chance discovery came to light, that made headlines around the world.  In October, 1972, excavator operator Raycho Marinov stumbled upon a vast Copper Age necropolis containing the oldest gold artifacts ever discovered. It was to become one of the most important archaeological discoveries ever made in Bulgaria. Extensive excavations were launched under the direction of Mihail Lazarov (1972–1976) and Ivan Ivanov (1972–1991), revealing for the first time the magnificent civilization of Varna.

More than 300 graves were uncovered in the necropolis, and between them over 22,000 exquisite artifacts were recovered, including 3,000+ items made from gold with a total weight of 6 kilograms. Other precious relics found within the graves included copper, high-quality flint, stone tools, jewellery, shells of Mediterranean mollusks, pottery, obsidian blades, and beads.

Golden objects found in the necropolis.

Golden objects found in the necropolis. Source: Wikipedia

Analysis of the graves revealed that the Varna culture had a highly structured society – elite members of society were buried in shrouds with gold ornaments sewn into the cloth wrappings and their graves were laden with treasures, including gold ornaments, heavy copper axes, elegant finery, and richly decorated ceramics, while others had simple burials with few grave goods. 

Grave 43

While there were many elite burials uncovered, there was one in particular that stood out amongst the rest – grave 43.  Inside grave 43, archaeologists uncovered the remains of a high status male who appears to have been a ruler/leader of some kind – more gold was found within this burial than in the entire rest of the world in that period.  The male was buried with a scepter – a symbol of high rank or spiritual power – and wore a sheath of solid gold over his penis.


"Six kilograms of gold, was more than all the rest of the world combined"? That isn't that much gold, and makes the story little hard to believe.

They were implying that the amount of gold they found was more than they have found for that period of time....

Sternberg - I suppose you never quite mastered the art of reading in elementary? Or, more importantly, your mother never told you to keep your gob shut unless you have all the facts. The article says, more than once, that the amount of gold was considerable for that TIME PERIOD. Not in comparison to nowadays, "genius".

Peter Harrap's picture

WOW! Thankyou- I had no idea such a site or so amazing a treasure existed: That photograph alone makes me wish I had been the one who found him- impressive, and a part of European history too. Thankyou.


The name of Varna is an Ancient Bulgarian name meaning the furnace in the earth whereas our ancestors Ancient Bulgarians used to melt metals - gold, copper, etc. The first and oldest metal melting furnaces are found in Bulgaria in the region of Stara Zagora town. Later on the name varna was used by religious people to indicate a caste, the furnace whereas human soul is melted and developped towards God reaching. Ancient Bulgarians used gold and silver for medical purposes first - they knew that gold and silver purify and strenghten human body and therefore they used to eat and drink in golden and silver vessels, to wear golden jewellry. All Bulgaria is full of such golden artefacts, produced by prehistoric master craftsmen. Ancient Bulgarians knew even how to stear and cook the metal into harmless powder, used in the healing practices of Bulgarian zhretsi, Godly men. It is from this land that came into being the Ayurveda. The very word Ayurveda means into Bulgarian language AyRa (Life in God Ra AllFather of Ancient Bulgarians) Veda (Knowing). Ayrveda is the knowing to live according to God. Very indicatif is the fact that in Ayurveda gold is named SuVarn - a Bulgarian word meaning Out of Varna.
- Aliya Osho

Aliya didn't the ancient Bulgarians come from Asia and the artifacts discovered by the archaeologists are Thracian?

of course are thracian tribes and all the knowledge about metallurgy was taken from the prehistoric civilization "Vinca". Vinca culture exhisted in the central balkans and part of them moved to the place we call Varna with the knowledge of Vinca culture.They were thracians and the "ancient" bulgarians are Tourko-moggolian tribes who moved from Asia about 6-8 century AD.

I am sorry but if byzantine and ancient authors call the thracians bulgarians, HOW on earth can they come from asia. This is pure BS created some 150years ago. Bulgaria was under turkish joch for half a milenium and was deprived from history, books and dignity in this period.

John Mallalas calls the mirmidons and achiles bulgarians (byzantine historian from the 5th century!). There is NO proof whatsoever that Bulgarians are of turko-mongolic decent. None.

My friend Peter Angel...don't believe if you want and don't try to convice other people speaking about one topic or discussion where somebody is trying to connect with wrong way the ancient thracians with our days bulgarians...Don't connect Achillea and his army Myrmidones where they lived in greek thessaly and more concrete to area of Fthiotida in the ancient Fthia with the today bulgarians and this geographical area because then really we are in different conversation..Great balkanologists they are supporting that the present bulgarians appeared from asia and more specific from moggolia. The only different possible scenario is that they are slavs who they came to the area 5th - 7th century AD with the other slav tribes who came in europe. Possible they mixed together too.. All the other scenarios just they don't exist and for sure not connections with the ancient thracians who they were greek tribes and thats why they were taking part to the ancient olympic games where only greeks could take part.

Dimitris, you're desperately trying to sound as authority, but it is a pity effort on your side. The only "scenario" that you accept is that everyone is from a "greek" tribe. Please, take a break. The history is not that certain about all possible "scenarios", but certainly a progress is made in the past 100 years to raise the ancient fog. And the signs that a lot has happened around Black Sea circa 10,000 - 12,000 BC are clearly showing.
You mention "great balkanologists" - who are they? And do we need a "balkanologist", but rather archaelogists? And not only "balkan" ones.
I don't even start a discussion anymore that those "old bulgarians" that came to Balkans 6-7 century AD, are turko-mongolians. This pseudo proposal was made by ill-informed and politically motivated "historians", not based on rather plenty of facts suggesting completely different "scenario", by your terms.

Now the place of the oldest civilization on Earth is known - around current Black Sea, with the center lying deep beneath the sea. The ancient cataclysm (the flood) that happened 7000-8000 years ago, destroyed that civilization, and survivors all spread in different directions, seeking "high ground" to be safe. Millenias later their return and "reunion" is what happened. Thracians, bulgarians, even you "greek tribes" share the same roots, descendants of that civilization. More and more details will be uncovered in the coming decades. But the picture of the single "scenario", the real history is already taking shape. Keep calm.


Did you find out why no crown found with him ? Perhaps too early for a crown; for being created to represent high position. So is grave older than egypt itself ?

Yes. If i were you. Perhaps go to where a lady, self taught archeologist is looking for Cleopatra at her ancient palace. I forget her name.

I'd love to see more on the DNA profile of the Varna people and how it connects with other ancient tribes. Nice job sneaking in the last line: " – and wore a sheath of solid gold over his penis." I had a good laugh at this. Suffice it to say that he could be the original Goldmember. Austin Powers eat your heart out.

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