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Last Updated: Friday, 22 October, 2004, 12:32 GMT 13:32 UK
Bulgaria dig suggests rich past
Archaeologists in Bulgaria say they have found hundreds of tiny gold jewels dating back 5,000 years, possible proof of Europe's earliest civilisation.

The head of Bulgaria's National Museum of History, Bozhidar Dimitrov, said the team had unearthed gold rings, beads and jewellery inlaid with tiny pearls.

He said the jewels had shown expert craftsmanship and an unexpectedly high level of technology for the time.

He refused to give the exact location until the excavation was complete.

The only clue he gave was that the site was in one of the valleys south of the Stara Planina mountain in central Bulgaria.

"For now, we have 400 gold pieces, and every day another 10 or 15 pop up," he said.

Bronze Age civilisation

Mr Dimitrov compared the gold ornaments to jewels found in ancient Troy ruins dated around 2,000 BC, much later than the Bulgarian treasure.

"The large amount of gold objects and the expert craftsmanship show the unexpectedly high level of technology applied by Bronze Age civilisation in our lands," he said.

"All this makes us believe that Bulgaria's lands were the heart of Europe's earliest civilisation."

The remains of an ancient Thracian temple dating back to the 5th Century BC were discovered in central Bulgaria in 2000.

The Thracian civilisation extended from the Caucasus to south-western Europe from around 4,000 BC to the year 300.

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