Thursday 1 November 2012

Provadia: The oldest town in Europe?

Type the words "oldest town in Europe" into a search engine and you will be flooded with hundreds of exited posts about how the "oldest town in Europe was recently discovered in Bulgaria, near the town of Provadia...dated between the middle and late Chalcolithic age from 4,700 to 4,200 BC".

Provadia site. A two-room structure.

Very nice! Cool!

But why the sensationalism? "Oldest town in Europe"?

I think not...From memory, and though this is far from my area of expertise, the names "Dimini" and "Sesklo" came uncalled for to my mind.

Both these sites are in Central Greece. Both are towns. And it would appear that both are older than the new Bulgarian site.

Dimini appears to be dated c. 5000 BC. Meaning that it is 300-800 years older than the Provadia site.
Dimini. In the center the "megaron" structure is visble.

Dimini. A reconstruction.

Sesklo is even older, dated tp 6850 BC with a +/- 660 year margin of error...This site was actually abandoned around 4400 BC, i.e. around the time that the Provadia site is dated...

Reconstruction of Sesklo 

Knossos might also be worth a mention in this context, given that the first settlement there dates to about 7000 BC, while I am sure that the Starčevo - (Körös) - Criş Culture, in the Central Balkans, dated from the 7th to 5th millennia possesses a couple of sites that could be qualified as towns...

And those examples are just the first that came to mind! Meaning quite a number of settlements that are older that the Provasia site. Unless the difference is in the term "town" and the Bulgarian team means that according to some unspecified criteria, all the other sites don't qualify as 'towns', while the new site does... [Note: Sesklo may have grown to 800 households, while the Provadia site is said to have been home to about 350 people...]

So once again, why the sensationalism? Would it not have been sufficient just to say "we made an important find: it appears to be an organised settlement, similar to others found in the region (Varna culture)"? That would have been the scientific way to go...

But then again without superlatives, how can you grab the headlines?! Not to mention the national(ist) satisfaction of saying "we have the oldest/biggest/greatest find"!

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