THESSALONIKI, Greece - A Greek hiker found a 6,500-year-old gold pendant in a field and handed it over to authorities, an archaeologist said Thursday.
The flat, roughly ring-shaped prehistoric pendant probably had religious significance and would have been worn on a necklace by a prominent member of society.
Only three such gold artifacts have been discovered during organized digs, archaeologist Georgia Karamitrou-Mendesidi, head of the Greek archaeological service in the northern region where the discovery was made, told The Associated Press.
"It belongs to the Neolithic period, about which we know very little regarding the use of metals, particularly gold," she said. "The fact that it is made of gold indicates that these people were highly advanced, producing significant works of art."
She said the pendant, measuring rough 1 1/2 by 1 1/2 inches, was picked up last year near the town of Ptolemaida, about 90 miles southwest of the northern city of Thessaloniki. Karamitrou-Mendesidi is to present the artifact at a three-day archaeological conference that opened Thursday in Thessaloniki.
Greek police confiscated a hoard of 33 similar pieces of hammered gold jewelry from smugglers in 1997.
The woman who found the pendant did not want a reward and wished to remain anonymous, Karamitrou-Mendesidi said.
Similar finds have been excavated in modern Turkey and the Balkans, particularly in Bulgaria.
Around 4500 B.C., when the pendant was made, Greece's early Neolithic farming settlements were consolidating into structured trading centers with a developed knowledge of metalworking.
In November, archaeologists announced the discovery of two prehistoric farming settlements dating back as early as 6000 B.C. in the Ptolemaida region.
The settlement digs uncovered burial sites, clay and stone figurines of humans and animals, pottery and stone tools.
Another 25 prehistoric settlements have been found in the area.