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Oldest town of the Old World found in Bulgaria

Cut their dead up and buried them with pots - as you do

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The earliest Europeans spent hours making salt bricks behind huge stone walls, archaeologists reckon after excavating the oldest known town in Europe.

These early metropolitan Europeans also tended to cut their dead in half before burying them with pottery and copper artifacts in "ritual pits" found outside the modern-day town of Provadia in Bulgaria.

Archaeologists have been excavating the 6,000-year-old settlement in the north east of the country where up to 350 people lived. The walled community was sited near one of Europe's biggest salt deposits: residents boiled salt out of water and baked it in kilns before selling it off as bricks.

Salt was as precious as gold Professor Vassil Nikolov told AFP:

Salt was an extremely valued commodity in ancient times, as it was both necessary for people's lives and was used as a method of trade and currency starting from the sixth millennium BC up to 600 BC

And the salt needed to be protected: the town was heavily fortified with walls that are two metres thick and three metres high, Bulgarian paper the Sofia Globe reported.

The discovery of the salt-producing town explains why huge deposits of gold and jewellery have been found in area: the valulables would have coursed in from the sale of salt bricks.

However, the strange burial habits of the locals remain a mystery, the Globe notes: "Ritual burial practices also were strange and complex, he said. Copper needles and pottery found in graves at the site showed that people had been wealthy, but in some cases the corpses had been cut in half and buried from the pelvis up." ®

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