Varna Man

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

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The burial is incredibly significant as it is the first known elite male burial in Europe.  Prior to this, it was the women and children who received the most elaborate burials. Marija Gimbutas, a Lithuanian-American archaeologist, who was well-known for her claims that Neolithic sites across Europe provided evidence for matriarchal pre-Indo-European societies, suggested that it was the end of the 5 th millennium BC when the transition to male dominance began in Europe. Indeed, in the Varna culture, it was observed that around this time, men started to get the better posthumous treatment.  

A burial at Varna, with some of the world's oldest gold jewellery.

A burial at Varna, with some of the world's oldest gold jewellery. Source: Wikipedia

Complex Funerary Rites

The burials in the Varna necropolis have also offered a lot more than the precious artifacts found within them and discoveries relating to social hierarchies; the features of the graves have also provided key insights into the religious beliefs and complex funerary practices of this ancient civilization.

It became apparent to researchers that the males and females were laid out in different positions within the graves – males were laid out on their backs, while females were placed in a foetal position. But most surprising of all, was the discovery that some graves contained no skeleton at all, and these ‘symbolic graves’ were the richest of them all in terms of the amount of gold and other treasures found within them. Some of these symbolic graves, or cenotaphs, also contained human-sized masks made of unbaked clay placed in the position where the head would have been.

Human-sized clay head found at Varna necropolis.

Human-sized clay head found at Varna necropolis. Photo source .

The graves contained the clay masks were also found to contain gold amulets in the shape of women placed in the position where the neck would have been. These amulets, associated with pregnancy and childbirth, indicate that the 'burials' were those of females. Further evidence of this is the fact that there were no battle-axes found in these cenotaphs, but each of them had a copper pin, a flint knife and a spindle whorl.

Replica of a symbolical burial of an antropomorphous face made from clay. The original was found at the Varna Chalkolithic Necropolis (grave 2) and dates to the fourth millennium BC.

Replica of a symbolical burial of an antropomorphous face made from clay. The original was found at the Varna Chalkolithic Necropolis (grave 2) and dates to the fourth millennium BC. Photo source: Wikipedia

The Downfall and Legacy of the Varna Culture

By the end of the fifth millennium BC, the once strong and powerful Varna culture began to disintegrate. It has been hypothesized that the downfall of the Varna was the result of a combination of factors including climate change, which turned large areas of arable land into marshes and swamps, as well as the incursion of horse-riding warriors from the steppes.

Although the Varna civilization did not leave any direct descendants, the members of this ancient culture did leave behind many lasting legacies and set the stage for the emergence of subsequent civilizations throughout Europe. Their skills in metallurgy were unprecedented in Europe and indeed throughout the world, and their society demonstrated many features of a highly advanced and developed civilization. They also developed the societal structure of a centralized authority – a person or institution to monitor and ensure the proper functioning of the society.  All the fundamental principles of modern society had been found – a model of civilization that we still follow to this day.

Featured image: Grave 43 – an elite male burial. Photo source .


Avramova, M. 2000. Myth, ritual and gold of a “civilization that did not take place”. – In: Varna Necropolis. Varna, Agató, 15-24.

Chapman, J., T. Higham, B. Gaydarska, V. Slavchev, N. Honch. 2006. The social context of the emergence, development and abandonment of the Varna Cemetery, Bulgaria. European Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 9, No. 2-3 , 159-183.

Dimitrov, D. & Georgiev, G. (2011). Black Sea coast as cradle of first civilizations. Current Archaeology Research in Bulgaria. Available from:

Linehan, C. (2012). The victorious Varna culture. The History of Europe Podcast . Available from:

Norman A. (2003). The Oldest Gold in the World in a Varna Cemetery. ANISTORITON: ArtHistory Volume 7, September 2003 : Available from:

Varna Museum of Archaeogy. Available from:

By April Holloway



"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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