A view of part of the semi-circular rock niche near Bulgaria’s Sliven where mysterious rock carvings of animal heads have been discovered. Facebook users have dubbed the site “The Rock Herd”. Photo: Sliven Agency
A mysterious archaeological site dubbed “The Rock Herd" which consists of rock carvings of animal heads made by an unknown sculptor in an unknown time period has been found near the eastern Bulgarian city of Sliven.
The unexplained site which appears to be an archaeological monument located in the mountains near Sliven has become known to the Bulgarian public from photos posted on Facebook, reports the local news site “Sliven Agency”.
It has been photographed by archaeologists from the Sliven Regional Museum of History but they have issued no conclusion as to when and by whom the animal heads may have been carved into the rock.
As no scientific explanation of the animal heads carved in the rock near Sliven has been offered by the local archaeologists as of yet, intrigued locals and Facebook users have ventured various hypotheses about the origin of the “Rock Herd".
The mysterious archaeological monument consists of a semi-circular rock niche whose edge has been decorated with animal head carvings and reliefs fashioned out of the natural rock material.
These carved animal heads themselves forming a semi-circle appear to be diverse in style and craftsmanship.
Most of them appear to be cattle, goat and capricorn heads but there are also reliefs of wild animals and water animals.
For the time being not just the origin, but also the function of the “Rock Heard" facility remains a mystery pending further examination by archaeologists.
Locals have commented that the erosion of the rock material does make the carvings appear ancient.
Heads of cattle, goats and capricorns, as well as other animals are clearly visible carved into the rock at the “Rock Herd” site near Bulgaria’s Sliven. Photos: Sliven Agency
In the meantime, as the public, and especially those interested in archaeology and history, are awaiting a word from the experts, the “Rock Herd" has been vandalized.
Part of the animal head sculptures has been broken off, and used as a prop-up at a nearby water source.
“Industrious” locals appear to have vandalized the still mysterious “Rock Herd” near Sliven by ripping off part of the sculptures to use the rock as a prop-up at a nearby water source. Photo: Sliven Agency
The locals are concerned that it is only a matter of time before looting treasure hunters decide to rip the monument apart, and sell it off to private collectors in Bulgaria or abroad.
Since the site with the Rock Herd has become known to the public, the Sliven museum and the local authorities have not only failed to examine it properly, but they have also failed to secure it in any way.
The report urges an immediate reaction with respect to the exploration and security of the mysterious rock carvings “while they are still around".
The “Rock Herd” of animal head rock engravings has been found in the mountains in Eastern Bulgaria. Photos: Sliven Agency
The city of Sliven in Eastern Bulgaria does boast rich ancient and medieval history connected with the Tuida Fortress but not only. Learn more about it in the Background Infonotes below.
Also check out our other recent stories about archaeology in Bulgaria’s Sliven:
Тhe Tuida Fortress is a Late Roman, Early Byzantine and medieval Bulgarian fortress located on the Hisarlaka Hill in the eastern Bulgarian city of Sliven. It was first excavated in 1982 by archaeologists from the Sliven Regional Museum of History and the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. The archaeologists have discovered there remains of a Late Iron Age Ancient Thracian settlement (6th-1st century BC) which in the Roman period turned into a market place; a 2nd-4th century Thracian settlement is cited in written sources as Tuida, Suida, or Tsoida. The name is believed to be of Thracian origin, though its precise ethymology is still unclear.
The Tuida Fortress was built after the capital of the Roman Empire was moved from Rome to Constantinople in 325 AD. It is known to have had a secret tunnel leading to the TundzhaRiver located to the west. The Tuida Fortress avoided destruction during the invasion of the Goths in 378 AD but was destroyed in the invasions of the Huns in the 5th century AD. It was rebuilt during the reign of Roman Emperor Anastasius I (r. 491-518 AD), preserving but also enhancing the original architecture of the fortress. The Tuida Fortress was ultimately destroyed around 598-599 AD, most probably during an invasion of Avars and Slavs.
The territory around today’s Bulgarian city of Sliven was made part of Bulgaria, i.e. of the First Bulgarian Empire(632/680-1018 AD), around 705 AD when Bulgarian Khan (or Kanas) Tervel gained the Zagore Region south of the Balkan Mountains after he helped Byzantine Emperor Justinian II the Slit-nosed (Rhinotmetos or Rhinotmetus) (r. 685-695 and 705-711 AD) regain his throne in Constantinople. Thus, a Bulgarian settlement, whose name remains unknown, was built on the place of the Tuida Fortress. A lead seal of Bulgarian Knyaz Boris I Mihail (r. 852-889 AD) has been found there.
The Bulgarians rebuilt the fortress walls and the aquaduct of Tuida, and erected new buildings inside the fortress that were covered with marble slabs produced by stone cutters in the then Bulgarian capital Veliki Preslav (“Great Preslav"). Several bricks with an Ancient Bulgar sign (resembling “|Y|") have been found there. Written sources indicated that Tuida was the seat of a bishop from the 4th century AD onwards.
After the original excavations of the Tuida Fortress first started in 1982, they were resumed in 2004. The archaeological finds there include, in addition to Knyaz Boris I’s lead seal, a number of iron tools, ceramic vessels, ornaments, coins, and bones from 14 species of wild and domesticated birds including Bonelli’s eagle (Aquila fasciata), western capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus), great bustard (Otis tarda), and common pheasant (Phasianus colchicus).
The archaeological excavations have revealed the fortress walls of Tuida, fortress towers and gates, remains of buildings, two marble pedestals dedicated to gods Apollo and Zeus which contain the name of the fortress as Tuida or Suida (known in written sources as Tsoida), a 3rd century AD inscription describing the settlement as a market place, a cult complex used between the 4th and the 13th century consisting of a three-nave one-apse Early Christian basilica and a unique baptistery decorated with murals and mosaics. The remains of a larger basilica have been found outside the fortress walls (which encompassed an area of about 40 decares (app. 10 acres)) which is taken to mean that the settlement was not confined by the fortified area but spanned outside of it.