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2 May 2016
5,000-year-old rock shrine discovered in Bulgaria

Orlovi Skali - Eagles' Rocks - a beautiful rock formation located near the town of Sarnitsa, in Southern Bulgaria, has been identified as a prehistoric rock shrine from the 4th millennium BCE, after the accidental discovery by a young photographer of huge human faces hewn into the rocks on the northern slopes of the Rhodope Mountains.
     His discovery has been examined and verified by Professor Ana Raduncheva, and Associate Professor Stefanka Ivanova - two archaeologists from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences specialising in the study of the numerous prehistoric rock shrines in Bulgaria's mountains. They are certain that the natural rock formation was fashioned into a major rock shrine by humans during the Copper Age, between 3500 BCE and 3000 BCE.
     Raduncheva and Ivanova have found prehistoric ceramics at the site dating to the second half of the 4th millennium BCE. During their three-day exploration, the archaeologists and the photographer made further discoveries: two more half face human profiles - one which appears to be female, another one which appears to be male but is not as well preserved. Each measures about 7 to 10 metres in height, and stands 30 to 40 metres above the ground.
     It is possible that the shrine had an entire gallery of faces, not all of which have been preserved.
     Opposite the female profile, the photographer and the archaeologists found what appears to have been an altar or astronomical observatory hewn into the rocks, which resembles nearby altars at well-known ancient shrines.
     Raduncheva, who has been studying the prehistoric rock shrines in Bulgaria for several decades - including as part of international teams - says the culture's pantheon was based on the constellations, and that all shrines were used as astronomical observatories.
     Raduncheva and Ivanova emphasise the Eagles' Rocks formation was part of an entire system of a holy prehistoric territory far along the northern ridges of the Rhodope Mountains.
     "The [holy territory] starts somewhere near Mount Kupena, and goes along the entire ridge of the mountain. There are similar rock structures that were hewn there, and which appear connected to the shrine at Eagles' Rocks. Similar shrines can also be found in [other mountains in Bulgaria] such as the Sredna Gora Mountain and the Balkan Mountains," Raduncheva says.

Edited from Archaeology in Bulgaria (27 March 2016)

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