The historical development of the Bulgarian lands and the people that inhabited them in the antiquity has been determined by one major factor - their crossroads situation between Europe and Asia. The waves of settlers that swept from both continents into the south or into the north at different times, quite often turned the plains of Thrace, Moesia, Macedonia and the Balkan mountains into an arena of fierce clashes. Prior to the settlement of the Bulgarians about fifteen hundred years ago, this most contended land of the European civilization had seen other people's cultures, with markedly impressive presence in the history of humankind on the planet Earth come, evolve and then, tragically go.

The earliest traces of human life on the Bulgarian lands date back to Palaeolithic and Mesolithic times. The brilliant drawings in some Bulgarian caves and the flint labor tools are the only remnants of the primitive man, the homo sapiens forebearer.

The emergence of homo sapiens in the lands of present-day Bulgaria seems to have taken place only about two thousand years after his initial appearance in the lands between Mesopotamia and Palestine. As to their nature and geographic situation, the Bulgarian lands are close to the so-called 'optimal natural environment' which is a prerequisite for man to come out of the caves and for the formation of the first agricultural and cattle-breeding communities that subsisted no longer on hunting and on wild fruit-collecting, but on a premeditated production of food and goods. Groups of people started settling down all over the lands of present-day Bulgaria, mainly in river valleys and in coastal regions. It was there that the people of the Neolithic were able to benefit from the magnificent natural wealth: rivers, rivulets and streams, fertile and easily cultivated lands, rock and clay deposits, vast forests and pastures. The one-thousand-year-long life of those settlements in the same place has brought about enormous piles of debris and other household waste, known as 'settlement mounds'.

The introduction of metals gave further impetus to the development of human civilization in the lands between the Danube and the Aegian Sea in the 4th-2nd millennia BC. As evident from the archeological excavations, copper production and, subsequently, that of bronze and precious metals were rather impressive for the scale of that remote epoch. These were concentrated in the Bulgarian lands rich in copper-containing ores. The analysis of the metal tools and the unprocessed pieces of metal found in various regions of Central, Eastern and Southern Europe has come to show that these were made of metals produced in the Bulgarian lands, i.e. a considerable part of this production was export-oriented.

Improved living conditions caused an abrupt population increase in this part of the European continent. However, the demographic boom was not only a consequence of growing birth-rate, dropping death-rate or longevity, but also a result of mechanic influx of human groups from the south (Asia Minor) and from the north (the middle Danube tableland, the Carpathians, the northern Black Sea littoral). This process had certainly been accompanied by clashes resulting from the endeavor to lay hands on the more fertile regions, on the ore deposits, etc. It is hard to trace the ethnic changes in that epoch of illiteracy for the whole of humanity. One fact is safe to say though: towards the middle of the 2nd millennium BC the features of the Thracian ethnic community have begun shaping up. This was the people predestined to inhabit the Bulgarian lands until the appearance of the Bulgarians and the subsequent formation of the Bulgarian state.

Introduction | >> The Thracians

Translated from the book "Bulgaria Illustrated History" by Maria Nikolotva
text used here with permission from translator, save modifications for noding