Strange rituals: Some of the corpses found in the necropolis attached to what is thought to be Europe's oldest town were sliced in half and buried from the pelvis up
Residents of what is thought to be Europe's oldest town cut their dead in half and buried them from the pelvis up, according to archaeologists.
The newly discovered ancient settlement, thought to date back to 4700BC, is near the Bulgarian town of Provadia, about 25 miles from the country's Black Sea coast.
Archaeology professor Vassil Nikolov led the dig which focused on the town itself and its necropolis, where the strange and complex burial rituals were discovered.
Ancient: Researchers believe the town, located 25 miles from Bulgaria's Black Sea coast, is Europe's oldest urban settlement and was home to between 300 to 350 people
© CNN. A whole corpse: Researchers have as yet advanced no theories as to why some corpses were mutilated before burial and others were interred in their entirety
'Now we can say that the Provadia salt pans location is the oldest town in Europe, [dating from] roughly 4700 to 4200BC,' he told CNN.
There is as yet no clue as to why some corpses have been sliced in half and buried from the pelvis up, but researchers found evidence to show some residents of the salt-producing area were wealthy people.
Professor Nikolov told the Sofia Globe the town's 300 to 350 residents lived in two-storey homes and earned their living mining the surrounding area for salt, which was as important to the ancient world as oil is today.
'The salt water was evaporated by different techniques in ceramic bowls,' Professor Nikolov told CNN. 'Salt produced was used as money because salt was essential for both humans and animals.'
© CNN. Wealthy: The town's residents lived in two-storey homes and mined the surrounding area for salt, an important resource in ancient times
© CNN. Security: To protect their wealth, their town was surrounded by stone walls three metres high and a phenomenal two metres thick
The nearby town of Provadia remains an important salt centre to this day, with much foreign investment in the area devoted to extracting the stuff.
But in ancient times Provadia-Solnitsata would have needed little in the way of outside money since, as the only place in the Balkans where salt was produced at the time, it was the 'mint' of the region.
To protect their wealth, their town was surrounded by stone walls three metres high and a phenomenal two metres thick, which researchers believe are the earliest and most massive fortifications of Europe's pre-history.
© CNN.'Bun-shaped hairstyles': Discoveries of spiral-shaped copper needles have even given archaeologists clues as to the hairstyles of the town's ancient residents
© CNN. Skeletons: British, Japanese and German scientists have so far confirmed the Bulgarian team's findings, which were made during a two-month dig over the summer
© Unknown. This map shows the town's location near Provadia, just 25 miles inland from the major coastal city of Provadia
Other findings suggested that even 7,000 years ago the residents of the town had already developed a class system.
Archaeologist Margarita Lyuncheva, a member of Professor Nikolov's team, told CNN that finds of spiral copper needles for hairdressing in some graves showed 'there are two grades of people, [one] probably with higher social status'.
She added: 'We think that women had a sort of bun-shaped hairstyle.'
British, Japanese and German scientists have so far confirmed the Bulgarian team's findings, which were made during a two-month dig over the summer.