The excavations in Kozarnika cave near the village of Oreshec, Belogradchik municipality, have been going on for 16 years now. They have been executed by a joint Bulgarian-French research team. Each year the archeologists are going deeper and deeper in the historical layers and are pretty close to make an interesting discovery. Until now it was believed that first people came from Africa to Europe through Gibraltar. Proof of such theory was found in Spain, dating as far back as 800 000 years. However the expedition, engaged in this project found ancient traces of human presence, dating from 1.6 million years ago. So it was quite possible that the prehistoric people came to The Balkans through the Bosphorus, rather than the Gibraltar.
The problem is that until now scientists have been exploring prehistoric cultural monuments mainly in the western part of the continent, says archeologist Nikolay Sirakov, head of the Bulgarian team. His French colleague Jean-Luc Guadelli reasonably calls Kozarnika “the phenomenal cave”. One of its exceptional characteristics is the strategic crossroad position of Bulgaria, which is situated in a “corridor of 4 gates facing all four directions”.
Which are those 4 gates?
The first one, as we have already mentioned is the Bosphorus, which during the last ice age was a dry land and a road for people going from Africa to Europe.
“This gate is very important, as it was an outlet to the Middle East. On the other hand the Middle East is a gate to Africa”, says for RB mister Guadelli. The other two gates are the valley of river Danube, which is also known as the “Iron gates” and the delta of river Danube. They were a great link to the huge Eurasian steppe, which was leading all the way to China. On another hand “Iron Gates”” was the shortest way to northwest Europe as it avoided all difficult routes- the Carpathian Mountains and the Alps. The fourth gate is the valley of river Sava, which goes in southwest direction towards Serbia and Italy, again avoiding the ice trap of the high Alps to the north.”
The crossroad positioning of Bulgaria in a “corridor with 4 gates” made the way of the prehistoric people to Europe quite easy. People who are still exploring Kozarnika firmly believe in their theory and for that reason they named their project BINEK or( the Balkans and the Beginning of the European Culture). However the cave is full of surprises. One of them is the proof of human presence. For the moment there are only 2 proofs of human presence- a tooth and a phalanx of a prehistoric individual, who inhabited this area 1.5 million years ago, most possibly of the Homo Erectus type.
Another surprise of “cultural importance” for Jean-Luc Guadelli is the fact that almost no rock drawings were found in all 7 000 caves in Bulgaria, including Kozarnika cave.
“You may say it is sad, but it is not”, the French expert comments on the mystery.” Because prehistoric people from Kozarnika had left many traces on bones and stone, spread at even distance from each other. And these cuts had been repeating over a very long period- from 1.4 million years ago to 11 000 years ago. Ancient people were making parallel cuts organized in series of 2, 4 and so on, or in other words in a definite system, which is quite difficult to be puzzled out. Some experts think those cuts were done at the 0-1 principle, which is nowadays used in modern computer languages. Whether they were used for counting animals or were some kind of an ancient calendar we do not know for sure. It is true that no rock drawings were found in the cave, but we can definitely talk about a tradition in making cuts on stone or bones, which is very surprising. Such cuts were found on the Pyrenees and many other places, but only here they form the whole scene.”
It is even more surprising that an organized system of symbols was found from the Homo Erectus period, for it was considered that this was typical only for supreme human forms as Homo Sapiens. The earliest evidence of processing animal skin was found in Kozarnika cave. Among other surprises are remains of a monkey, which were not expected to be found here. This is a proof of unexpected co-existence between prehistoric people and Hyena. However it will take hours to talk about all surprises found in the cave, says Guadelli in conclusion.
Each one of the mysteries of the cave has been analyzed for many years in order to be turned into a scientific fact. However, the main idea of this research is to prove that the first prehistoric person came to Europe through the Balkans, rather than the Gibraltar as well as to prove that it happened much earlier in time.