Magura Cave

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Drawings in the Magura Cave.
View from the cave

The Magura Cave (Bulgarian: Магурата) (from Romanian magura, "hill") is located in north-western Bulgaria close to the village of Rabisha, 18 kilometres from the town of Belogradchik in Vidin Province. The total length of the 15-million-year-old cave is 2.5 km (1.6 mi).[1] The largest inland lake in the country, Rabisha Lake, is located in the vicinity of the cave and the whole region has been declared a natural landmark.

Thanks to its prehistoric paintings, Magura is, with Grotta dei Cervi (Otranto) (south Italy), the most important and extended European post-Palaeolithic painted cave.[2]

Bones from different prehistoric species like cave bear or cave hyena have been discovered in the Magura Cave.

Cave paintings dating from the late Neolithic, Epipaleolithic and early Bronze Age decorate some of the cave's walls. The drawings may represent religious ceremonies, deities and hunting scenes, and are unique for the Balkan peninsula. One grouping from the late Neolithic has been interpreted as a solar calendar, the earliest such representation yet discovered in Europe.[3] The medium used to create the art was bat guano.[4] More than 750 images have been identified.

Painted signs can be organised into four thematic groups: anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, geometric, and symbolic (astronomic?) figures.[5] For the first group, we may cite bitriangular silhouettes with raised rounded arms (females with a sort of a waist bow, males with legs and sex like a trident) – sometimes stylised like a “bottle opener” –, archers, ithyfallic figures, copula, linear schematic anthropomorphic figures with raised arms – sometimes like dancing – and “fungiforms”. Regarding zoomorpic items, it is possible to list caprids, bovids, dogs, “ostrich-like” animals (big birds) and schematic linear quadrupeds. Geometric signs show T-shaped figures (likely axes), vertical parallel lines (counts?), horizontal zigzags, vertical parallel zigzags, branch-like or tree-like figures, chessboard patterns, rhombi, horizontal stair-like patterns, crossed networks, honeycomb networks and crossed circles. Few rayed circle figures, mainly the two unica of the so-called calendar scene, likely represent a sun depiction. Taking count of some associated figures, it is possible to recognise dancing, hunting, and mating scenes. In the so-called Cult Hall a large horizontal dance and hunting scene is depicted, arranged in two main rows: these are the best known and most reproduced Magura Cave images.

Access to the area of the paintings is restricted in an effort to preserve them.[6]

In 1984 the site was placed on the Tentative List for consideration as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.[7]

The cave is very wide – concerts are held inside for Christmas and Easter – and does not cause any feeling of claustrophobia nor, on the contrary, of vertigo. The main gallery is composed of six chambers, variously sized; the largest one, the so-called Arc Hall, is 128 m long, 58 large and 21 m high; along the way, you can admire impressive vaults, stalactites and stalagmites, named as The Poplar, The Pipe Organ, The Oriental City and The Cactus.

The inner temperature is constantly 11-12 °C. During 1974-75 summers the cave was utilised for speleotherapy and asthma treatment, with highly successful results, by doctor Vassil Dimitrov. Thirty patients slept in the cave for twelve consecutive nights, taking advantage of allergens absence, constant humidity and temperature. A part of the cave is now used for ageing sparkling and red wines, labelled Magura, thanks to conditions similar to those of the French Champagne cellars. Guided visits are well conducted by the staff of Belogradchik municipality, to which the management of the cave was transferred in 2012 by the Bulgarian Council of Ministers


  1. ^ Kassabova, Kapka (2008). Bulgaria. New Holland. p. 115. ISBN 978-1-84537-564-5. 
  2. ^ "Bulgarian rock art: the Magura Cave paintings". TRACCE Online Rock Art Bulletin. November 19, 2014. Retrieved 21 Nov 2014. 
  3. ^ Tomova, Iva; Lazarkevich, Irina; Tomova, Anna; Kambourova, Margarita; Vasileva-Tonkova, Evgenia (1 January 2013). "Diversity and biosynthetic potential of culturable aerobic heterotrophic bacteria isolated from Magura Cave, Bulgaria". International Journal of Speleology 42 (1): 65–76. doi:10.5038/1827-806X.42.1.8. 
  4. ^ Bahn, Paul G. (1998). The Cambridge Illustrated History of Prehistoric Art (1. publ. ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press. pp. 108–109. ISBN 0521454735. 
  5. ^ Arcà, Andrea (November 19, 2014). "Bulgarian rock art: the Magura Cave paintings". TRACCE Online Rock Art Bulletin. Retrieved 21 Nov 2014. 
  6. ^ "Bulgaria Magura Cave Paintings Exhibited for First Time". March 18, 2009. Retrieved 17 May 2013. 
  7. ^ "The Magoura Cave with drawings from the bronze age". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 16 May 2013. 

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Coordinates: 43°43′06″N 22°36′01″E / 43.71845°N 22.60025°E / 43.71845; 22.60025