Bulgaria is a key region in the story of the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic of Eurasia, sitting as it does at a crossroads of a region in which it is thought that anatomically modern humans may have entered the easternmost part of Europe. In late July the PalaeoChron team sampled material from several Bulgarian sites, the most important of which is Kozarnika Cave, in the northwest corner of the country, around 30 km from the Serbian border. The site is part of Rachel's DPhil project on the Palaeolithic sequences of sites in the Danube corridor.
Our colleagues Dr Nikolay and Dr Jean-Luc Guadelli have led excavations here for many years and uncovered a rich sequence some 6-7 m deep. The late Middle and early Upper Palaeolithic levels are within the top 2 m of the sequence.
The cave is situated in a spectacular bush-clad valley on the Skomlia River, a tributary of the Danube, which it joins some 30 km away. Set within Upper Jurassic calcareous surrounds, the cave is deep and extends some 200 m into the mountain. In the picture to the right, Kozarnika is just near to where the sun is rising.
The cave has a colourful history, having been used as a nuclear fallout shelter, a mushroom cellar and a goat shed. During the course of this history several levels of Holocene archaeology were destroyed, but thankfully, the main Middle to Upper Palaeolithic part of the sequence remains intact.
We stayed in the village of Gara Oreshets during our time at the site, around 5 km from the site itself. The team is based at a local school in the village, not used out of term time. Rachel and Tom were able to sample material from the site's sequence over 3 days. Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck came with us and we were fortunate in being able to sample some of the excavated human material from the site as well.
We are very grateful to our colleagues who work so hard on the excavations of Kozarnika (Nikolay and Jean-Luc (left and right of the picture)) as well as their great team. Hopefully we will get some nice results in the near future.