The Magura Cave
Prehistoric Paintings Dating Back to 10,000 BC
Brought to you by Beogradac.com
The Magura (or Magurata) Cave is situated near the village of Rabisha, 25 km northwest of the town of Belogradchik, and 35 km away from the town of Vidin on the Danube. The formation of the Magura Cave began something like 15 million years ago and it is hollowed out in the Rabisha hill (461 meters above sea level). It is a small monocline, which is part of the Belogradchik anticline. The cave is predominantly built up of Low Cretaceous, thick-layered (up to 140 meters) white, china-like limestone. The Magura cave is one of the largest caves in Bulgaria and the total length of its galleries exceeds 2,500 meters. It consists of one main gallery, pointing southeast – northwest and three side branches. The cave halls are enormous in size, the main gallery is over 700 meters long, more than 50 meters wide and over 20 meters high. The cave has several entrances. The largest one is situated on the south slope of the hill. This is an old cavern that is 2,80 meters high and 6 m wide. Another entrance (at present an exit) – Vratach, that is northeast of the basis of the hill, is a dangerous place for crossing. For convenience of the visitors a direct tunnel is made. The main galleries of the Magura Cave are: The Triumph Hall, The Bat Gallery, The Hall of the Stalactons, The Art Gallery, The Hall of the Fallen Pine, The Hall of the Poplar, The Throne Hall, The Ceremonial Hall, The Corridor of the Fiords.
The cave’s main attractions are its formations – stalactites, stalagmites, stalactones, cave pearls, and “cave-milk”. Some of them are impressive both with their beauty and size – The Big Stalactone is over 20 meters high and has a diameter of 4 meters at its base; The Fallen Pine is the biggest stalagmite in the Bulgarian caves explored till now. It is over 11 meters long and has a diameter of 6 meters at its base. One of the most interesting formations is the so called “cave-milk”. The process of calcium precipitation through different periods of development of the same place is rarely observed. The “cave-milk” is a soften colloidal mass, solidified at later period into different formations.
The first signs of human presence in the cave date back to 12,000 years. The Triumph Hall was dwelled by humans at about the Early Stone Age and Bronze Age. In the cave were found bones of animals (bear, horse, ox), deer horns, stone tools such as knives and spikes, bracelets, and pottery (clay cups, plates, utensils for food). Six layers of settlements were distinguished in the Triumph Hall – from the Early Bronze Age (3,000 BC) till the Early Iron Age (XII-IX ages BC). The dwellings were built on wooden piles. They were made of intertwined rods, plastered up with clay, mixed with straw. The rock shelter served as roof. In each of the dwellings they were a vaulted clay furnace, dumping ground for embers and ash, and small, mobile millstones. The tools were made of stone and antler. The pottery is astonishingly smooth for that time. It is made of quite purified clay. The ceramic is decorated with stamped designs: fluting, ellipses and lines. The cave also hosts a small museum were the artifacts found inside the cave are exposed to the public.
Unique cave paintings can also be seen in the cave. They are few hundred of them. They are painted with bat guano (bat excrement) and come from different epochs: from the Epipaleolithic Period (10,000 B.C.), till the Early Bronze Age. The paintings represent religious and hunting scenes, numerical information: dancing female and male figures, two-headed female images, hunters, animals, stars, tools, plants. Of particular interest is the solar calendar from the Late Eneolithic Age, with additions made, during the Early Bronze Age. It represents a frieze in the rocky surface of the Sanctuary Hall. It has symbols for 366 days – this is a striking similarity to the Gregorian calendar, which has almost the same number of days. The discrepancy of one day between the two calendars is explained with the later introduction of the leap year for practical reasons. The solar calendar marks significant astronomical events: the spring and autumn equinoxes, the summer and winter solstices, etc. It doesn’t show subdivision of into approximately equal units (i.e. the months in the contemporary calendar), but registers important astronomical events. The numerical information is represented by series of parallel and zigzag lines, V-shaped signs and chess patterns. Images of people and animals are used.
The prehistoric paintings of the Magura Cave are in analogy with those of other famous cultural centers in Italy, France, the Iberian peninsula and Middle Asia, and they undoubtedly represent one of the jewels of prehistoric rock art in Eastern Europe.
Related Articles: Cave "Magurata" Renovated with EUR 400 000 from EEA