Rousse Regional Museum of History
"All that I experienced afterwards had already been in Roustchouk". Elias Canetti
The Prehistoric Settlements in the Region of Rousse

Dimitar Chernakov, Curator at the “Archaeology” Department

Located on the border between the Danube plain and the Deliorman, the canyon of the Rousse Lom river is one of the natural landmarks of the Rousse region. The water course of the Rousse Lom includes the united catchment of the rivers Baniski Lom, Cherni Lom, Beli Lom and Mali Lom, which after flowing into one another bare the name Rousse Lom. The terrain has an overall plain character with an average altitude of 272 m. The entire size of the area is 2947 sq. m.  The first data for human presence in the region is from the middle of the Paleolithic Age (around 200 000 BC), when the solid settled way of life is unknown and is early to be talked about settlement. Later on, during the Neolithic Age (the end of the 7th – the 6th millennium BC) and the Chalcolithic Age (the 5th millennium BC) here emerged the first early agricultural settlements. In the 6th millennium BC a global warming took place and the increase of the average temperatures reached its maximum. This was accompanied with a significant increase in humidity and had as a result the spread of warm-loving plants and the contemporary fauna. In the region of the Middle East, around a millennium earlier, the local prehistoric cultures flourished, which were the result of the introduction of a new and main occupation in the life of man – agriculture. The data for huge settlements from there is an indicator for growing demographic problems in the 7th millennium BC. The archaeological finds are a proof for the direct relocation of the Neolithic population from Northwestern Anatolia to the Balkan Peninsula in the middle of the 7th millennium BC. This penetration happened along the courses of the rivers Struma, Maritsa, Vardar and Iskar. The newly-arrived population quickly broke apart all connections with its positions in the Middle East. Thus, new prehistoric cultures were formed on the territory of Bulgaria, including such in the region of Rousse.

In the period between the 7th and the 4th millennium BC along the Rousse Lom river a micro-region was formed, which corresponded with the various social-economic and fortification requirements of the prehistoric societies. The three main catchment valleys of Beli Lom, Cherni Lom and Baniski Lom offered suitable terrains for the emergence of settlements, and in some places the riverbanks were rising high and were forming significant hills. Usually, they were jutting out in the meanders of the rivers, and the steep cliffs created naturally defended places for the population. The prehistoric settlements in the Rousse region, registered up to now, are around 130. Their number is known on the basis of the long years of archaeological field surveys and research. As a result it has been determined that during the Neolithic Age there has been a tendency for creating unfortified settlements or the so-called “opened settlements”, with around 30 in number being known up to now. They were located in areas, where usually wide river valleys were connecting. They are found on terraces, inclined towards the river valleys and over not very high plateaus, in proximity to springs.

The prehistoric architecture consists mainly of ground buildings. The walls were created of wooden beams, fixed into the ground, intertwined with thin sticks and coated with clay on both sides. The two-sloped roof, covered with straw or reed, was supported on the inside by pillars. The dwellings had mainly quadrangular shape, constructed in rows and forming narrow streets. The fortification facilities consisted of a ditch, wall and a wooden fence, made of beams densely sticked one next to another.

The change in time of the build-up areas of the settlements is followed in horizontal plan. The settlements from the Early Neolithic Age, like the ones at the village of Koprivets, Cherven, etc. are located mainly on the middle and lower terraces of the rivers, no further than 60-80 m away from the river level. Their location and the lack of any fortification facilities are the indicator that during the Early Neolithic Age the ancient residents were leading an undisturbed way of life. During the Late Neolithic Age the settlements were located on the upper parts of the terraces and on the top of low plateaus which presumed their natural defense from invasions. This is a proof for the start of some active processes related to migrations of population, coming from other regions, including hostile invasions and the search for the opportunity of their confrontation on behalf of the local inhabitants. Settlements from the Late Neolithic Age in the region of Rousse are known at the villages of Koprivets, Bistrentsi, Borovo, Drinovo, Pet kladentsi, Nikolovo, Bazovets, etc. A rapid change in the type of the settlements is observed during the Chalcolithic Age. The open unfortified settlements were substituted by the fortified ones. The population, which came from Thrace in Northeastern Bulgaria delivered the tradition of the settlement mounds – tells. They were forming according to the following manner. After the destruction of a settlement or a part of it, due to various factors, the same areas were built up again. The multiple repetition of this process in time led to the formation of these tells.

The tells, registered so far along the Rousse Lom river, are around 90. Such are known at the town of Rousse, the villages of Dryanovets, Koprivets, Volovo, Bistrentsi, Borovo, Hotantsa, Bazovets, Shtraklevo, Kosharna, etc. Usually, in terms of size, they are reaching 6-7 m in height and 60-70 m in diameter, with exceptions, of course. They are located in the widest and most comfortable places in the valleys, in proximity to the river, or in the middle or upper part of ravines in proximity to water springs. During the Late Chalcolithic Age there were also cases of forming archaeological complexes of two tells developing in parallel close to one another, like the case in Rousse. The localization of the tells during the Chalcolithic Age along the Rousse Lom river shows that the prehistoric population has always settled in areas with optimal physical-geographic conditions.

There is another type from the prehistoric sites in the region of Rousse, known by now – the ones, discovered inside the caves. It is known that as early as the Paleolithic Age, these rock formations were used by men for habitation. However, they had a temporary character, considering the main occupation, executed by man at that time – hunting. During the Neolithic and the Chalcolithic Ages the caves also served for temporary dwellings for man. Such caves, known in the Rousse region were “Orlova Chuka” near the village of Pepelina, “Saint Petka” in Rousse, “Vodna” at the village of Tabachka, the cave in the “Bakadzhika” area near the town of Vetovo, etc.

The density of the settlement network in the region is an indicator that during the Prehistoric eras the conditions here responded to the needs of the practiced paleo-economy. The prehistoric cultures, which developed here, died in the end of the Chalcolithic Age, when rapid natural-climatic changes took place – sensitive lowering of temperature and the dry up of the climate, which turned out to be fatal for the agricultural cultivation. During the same period, by means of archaeology, is determined the overall firings of the settlements, which are the result of external invasions. They were probably made by steppe people, coming from the northeast, which were bringing new cultural traditions – mainly the knowledge and use for a new kind of resource – bronze.