Europe's Oldest Altar Found
The Globe and Mail
SOFIA (AP) -- A recently unearthed sacrificial altar where ancient villagers left offerings to their gods may be up to 8,000-years-old, making it the oldest of its kind found in Europe, a Bulgarian archeologist said Thursday.
The altar was discovered earlier this week in a mound that contained many traces of Stone and Copper Age settlements near the village of Kapitan Dimitrievo, some 100 kilometres southeast of the capital, Sofia.
"The archeological layer where the sacrificial altar was found dates back to 6,000 BC," said Vasil Nikolov, the head of the excavation team.
"In the fifth and sixth millennium BC, these lands used to be Europe's civilization core," Mr. Nikolov said. "The people who lived there were among the first farmers in Europe."
The altar is 1.85 metres deep. Three steps lead to the bottom of the cylindrical hole where religious rituals were performed.
"The cylindrical bottom of the altar is meant to symbolize the womb of the Mother Goddess of Earth," he said. "The religious rituals ñ mainly food sacrifices ñ were supposed to secure a rich harvest."
In the mound's earliest Neolithic layer, the archeologists discovered an ancient wood and clay lodging with three rooms, a grain depot and a domed fireplace. The sacrificial altar, where people left offerings of grain and cereals, was found near the fireplace.
"An altar well of such dimensions dating back to the sixth millennium BC is a first-time discovery in Europe," Mr. Nikolov said.
The mound where the altar was found is 13 metres high, with a diameter of 140 metres.
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