Cultural Corridors of South East Europe

Heritage by Country / Bulgaria

Dolmens and rock sanctuaries

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Dolmens and rock sanctuaries

About the site

Corridor: Via Pontica
Country: Bulgaria, Strandzha Mountain
Type: Ancient Site
World Heritage:
Ancient Site

The dolmens widely spread in Strandzha mountain are the only ones that give the idea of the building technique of the Thracians during the early Iron Age (ХІІ – VІ c. BC). The dolmen, the Briton’s word for stone table, in its simplest most primitive form, consists of four huge vertical stone blocks, forming a rectangular room, covered with one or several blocks. In Strandzha, as well as in other places could be found much more complicated forms: dolmens with a small antechamber or double adjoining dolmens.
In the middle of the first millennium BC, the Strandzha mountain was inhabited by the Thracian tribes tins and asts, subordinated to the kingdom of Edirne. In the early Iron Age the local people perform their rituals in the open, most often among the rocks. In the basis of al those rites was the worship to the God-Sun. They also believed in divinity of the rock, symbol of man in Cosmos, while the cave was the symbol of woman; the fusion of the two was the beginning of the world. This belief is alive in Strandzha until nowadays – in the preserved rock sanctuaries, dolmens and sacrificial altars, in the archaic folklore rites. Later, with the adoption of Christianity, some of these sanctuaries were converted into chapels, others worshipped as places in which one finds healing and strength.
Stone tombs from the Thracian period, known as dolmens, are scattered all over Strandzha. They were entirely built of enormous stone slabs (3-3.5m). Strandzha and the neighbouring Sakar planina are the places with the biggest concentration of such monuments in the region of South Eastern Europe. One of the most typical features of Strandzha and its seaside is the existence of megalithic culture (megalith meaning in Greek “big stone”). The discovered near the villages Zabernovo and Evrenozovo dolmen complexes continued to function as “towns of the dead” during the Hellenistic and Roman periods.
The most famous monument of the ancient Thracian culture in Strandzha is the dome tomb-sanctuary in Mishkova niva, 3km to the south-west of the town Malko Tarnovo. The religious structure developed from a megalithic monument – dolmen with a krepis (supporting wall) and earth mound, into a monumental sanctuary-mausoleum. Later on, during the Roman period (2nd-3rd c. AD) it was reconstructed and huge marble blocks were added to the primary structure. It is assumed that the place was used for worship of mythical ancestor-hero and as sanctuary of God Apollo-Aulariok. Proofs of that are the discovered marble sacrificial altars, some of which dedicated to God Apollo, preserved at present in the museum complex in MalkoTarnovo.

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