Three boys or young men appear to have scribbled their names inside the Magura Cave in Northwest Bulgaria, right next to prehistoric drawings depicting hunting scenes from several thousand years ago. Photo: Andrey Shurelov, Facebook
The Magura Cave in Northwest Bulgaria featuring invaluable prehistoric cave drawings from as early as 8,000 – 6,000 BC, a candidate for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, has been vandalized with scrawls by unknown persons.
The 15-million-year-old Magura Cave is one of the most famous sites for cultural tourism in Bulgaria.
Its prehistoric cave paintings dating back to the period from 8,000-6,000 BC until 3,000-1,200 BC, i.e. from the Paleolithic (Epipaleolithic), Neolithic, Chalcolithic (Aeneolithic, Copper Age) and Early Bronze Age (although at least one local researchers maintains that they are much older).
The more than 750 Magura Cave drawings depict hunting scenes, deities, and religious ceremonies such as fertility dances. They were painted with bat guano.
One of the most intriguing drawings is a sun calendar with 366 days and 5 marked holidays deemed to be Europe’s earliest known sun calendar.
On May 15, 2019, however, a Facebook post by a concerned visitor revealed that the Magura Cave had recently been vandalized with fresh scrawls right next to the prehistoric drawings.
The vandalizing inscription reads, “Radi, Pavcho, 2019 Antov," and seems to have been scribbled by boys or young men who visited the Magura Cave very recently.
The prehistoric hunting scenes near the fortunately short-lived 2019 vandalizing scrawls. Photo: Petar Chetashki / Bulgaria’s Ministry of Culture
The great hall (Arc Hall) of the Magura Cave with its prehistoric paintings remained closed to visitors for many years after the cave was declared a monument of culture of national importance by the Bulgarian authorities back in 1965. Before that, in 1960, it was formally declared a natural landmark.
It was open for visitors in recent years at the insistence of the local authorities from Belogradchik Municipality as a means of boosting cultural tourism. In addition to the Magura Cave, the area is also home to the Belogradchik Fortress and the Belogradchik Rocks.
However, researchers have been alarming the public since at least 2018 that the Magura Cave has no adequate security to prevent visitors from vandalizing its invaluable prehistoric drawings.
“Radi, Pavcho, and Antov 2019! Let it be known! History keeps being written – 12,000-year-old drawings co-exist with inscriptions that are several days old. In another 12,000 years, the new inscription will have become an ancient one, and researchers will then argue over who those Radi, Pavcho, and Antov were!" wrote in his post Andrey Shurelov, a Facebook user who made public the vandalizing of the Magura Cave.
Shurelov revealed that the scrawls did not actually cover any of the prehistoric drawings, and were only on the surface of the cave walls.
Shortly after the news about the vandalism broke, the local authorities removed the fresh scrawls. However, the police made it clear they had no way of finding the perpetrators since the Magura Cave has no CCTV cameras to monitor the tourists who view it.
Part of the prehistoric sun calendar drawn on the walls of Bulgaria’s Magura Cave features 366 days, and is Europe’s oldest known sun calendar. Photo: Ministry of Culture
Over the past several years, Bulgarian visitors have vandalized with scrawls crucial international historical and archaeological landmarks such as the Ancient Roman Colosseum from in Rome, Italy, the Hiroshima Bombing Memorial in Japan, and the Ancient Egyptian Great Pyramid of Giza (Cheops’ Pyramid) in Egypt.
Learn more about the Magura Cave and its prehistoric paintings in the Background Infonotes below!
The Magura Cave featuring prehistoric paintings from the Paleolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic (Aeneolithic, Copper Age) and Early Bronze Age is located near the town of Rabisha, Belogradchik Municipality, Vidin District, in Northwest Bulgaria.
The combined length of its corridors is 2.5 km; the cave has a permanent year-round temperature of 12 degrees Celsius (except for one warmer chamber where the temperature is 15 degrees).
The 15-million-year-old Magura Cave is a famous archaeological and paleontological site. Inside it, researchers have found bones from cave bears, cave hyenas, foxes, wolves, wild cats, otters, and other prehistoric animals.
The Magura Cave is home to 8 species of bats, all of whom are under protection. It was granted the status of a natural park in 1960. It is located close to the largest non-draining lake in Bulgaria, the Rabisha Lake.
In 1984, the Magura Lake was put on UNESCO’s Tentative List for consideration as a World Heritage Site.
The largest chamber in the cave is the Arc Hall, which is 128 meters long, 58 meters wide and 21 meters tall.
The oldest prehistoric paintings in the cave date to the Late Paleolithic period (Epipaleolithic) – about 8,000 – 6,000 BC; the latest are from the Bronze Age, and date to the period between 3,000 BC and 1,200 BC.
The more than 750 paintings depict primarily hunting scenes, religious ceremonies such as fertility dances, and deities. These include anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, geometric, and symbolic images. The drawings were painted with bat guano.
The most popular image from the Magura Cave is from the Cult Hall and depicts a large dance and hunting scene in two rows.
Because of a drawing showing the local mushroom Boletus, which has hallucinogenic effects, there have been interpretations that the paintings depict aliens.
Another group of the Magura Cave drawings from the Late Neolithic is seen as a highly accurate solar calendar calculating 366 days and a year of 12 months.
Before 1993, the Magura Cave had open access, and some of the drawings were vandalized by treasure hunters.
Together with the nearby Rabisha Lake, the Belogradchik Rocks, and the Belogradchik Fortress, the Magura Cave has emerged as one of the most popular destinations for cultural tourism in modern-day Bulgaria.