Rock sanctuary ("sacred territory") in the "Slaveevi skali" area – Western Rodopi
The area of "Slaveevi skali" is situated ten kilometers west from the town of Velingrad in the mountain side Alabak (Western Rodopi). The ground rock research1 revealed that in most of the rocks there are traces of cuts with various shape and size that are a result from human activity. They are found on a large area that is spread west up to the peak of Samara (1359m) and its range is about 400 dka.
The rock cuts in this location can be considered as religious devices that are well known types2 from the science resources:
1. Altars of sacrifice (pits) with round or rectangular shape and low relief, which diameter varies from a few centimeters to tenths of centimeters. Such type of rock cut devices are often found in the area and their number is hard to be determined. They are located both in groups and also independently on separate rocks. The devices are cut horizontally and are often connected among each other with a furrow.
2. Horizontally cut pools of sacrifice with low relief, which width varies from 0.70 m to 1.20 m, length up to 2.20 m and depth from 0.20 m to 0.75 m.
3. Small pits with low relief and a diameter of about 0.10 m, which probably were used as a base foundation of the wooden construction3
4. Horizontally cut beehive-like niches with low relief.
The combination of huge horizontally cut pools of sacrifice with smaller pits (with round or rectangular shape) gives us the right to search for a particular relationship among them. It is probable that the smaller pits were used in sacrifices with smaller animals, whereas the pools of sacrifice were used for bigger ceremonies4. Also it is probable that all types of devices were used at the same time for a single rite5.
At one of the many research trips to the rocky area "Slaveevi skali", that I made while studying the ground, I encountered a section on the ground surface where a huge number of ceramic pottery as well as many clay spoons are found.
The archeological material dates back from the late Bronze Age and from the early Iron Age6 and is consisted mostly of crushed ceramic pottery with various size, shape and decoration. The structure of the ceramics is rough and in most of the pots consists of many mixtures that are still to be identified. Most of the fragments are not properly fired and that can be seen from the dark strip all along their profile.
Having in mind the well known conservatism when it comes to ceramic decoration, which is typical of that area7, and having in mind the lack of wholesome researches on the ceramics from the region of Western Rodopi, we could not say more for the time being without taking the risk of mistaking8.
In fact the total listing, geographic locating and thorough studying of all the religious devices in the area are a hard task to perform at this stage of the research. Probably if a longer research9 is held with the participation of a team of experts in different fields using the interdisciplinary method10 as a leading one in their work, the bases of the current thesis would be confirmed, supplemented or even rejected11.
Still, if we take into consideration the presence of such a great number of cuts in the rocks located in the area, in contrast to the other region, the types of religious devices, their orientation to one of the solar directions resulting in drawing conclusion of the type of rite, which can be defined as solar-like12 and last but not least the duration of their use13 we can conclude that we encountered an ancient religious complex14. This is the "sacred territory15" that used to have the function of a religious centre in the area (Western Rodopi and more precisely the region of the Chepinska valley). The confidence to claim the area a "ritual and religious centre16" give us the archeological materials in the neighbourhood, some of which have been an object of research for tenths of years17, and others (still not published) could become a matter of further studies, aiming to define and reveal the relationships which existed among the different objects of rite in this region in the area of Thrace and their attitude towards the "sacred territory" (the sacred complex) in the Slaveevi skali area.
Author: Dimitar Bayrakov
Master of Cultural Studies at the Faculty of Philosophy, "St.Kliment Ohridski" University, Sofia
1 The ground rock research in the Slaveevi skali area had been made by me during the years 2002-2003. It helped me for the defence of my thesis "Rock sanctuaries in the Western Rodopi", Cultural science, Faculty of philosophy, "Kliment Ohridki" University.July, 2003.
2 Petkova I. 2001: 35
3 Fol V. 2000: 161; Fol V. 1993: 58
4 Petkova I. 2001: 36
5 Fol V. 1993: 47; Bunov P. 1988: 76
6 I hereby would like to thank Mrs. Maya Avramova and Valeria Pholl, who helped me with the listing and dating of the ceramics in the Slaveevi skali area.
7 Leshtakov Kr. 1990. 1: 1-17
8 Hänsel B. 1976. V. II.; Bonev. Al. 1988: 103
9 Domaradski M. 1980. № 2: 28-31
10 Fol V. 2000: 151
11 Look below
12 Gocheva Zl. 1988: 151
13 Fol V. 2000: 11-17
14 Bunov P. 1988: 74-77
15 Francovich G. 1990.
16 Bayburin A. 1983; Bunov P. 1988: 74-77; Domaradski M. 1988: 93; Marazov Iv. 1984. № 3: 21; Fol V. 2001: 845
17 Domaradski M. 1994: 126-136; Gizdova N. 1990: 75-81; Arnaudov Al. 1994: 29-30
1. Arnaudov Al. 1994. From the past of Western Rodopi. Slaveevi gori. t. I.: 29-30 (in bulgarian)
2. Bonev. Al. 1988. Some archeological monuments from the thracian land, dealing with the astral rites in the prehistoric period. – Interdisciplinary researches XV: 103 (in bulgarian)
3. Bunov P. 1988. Tracian religious monuments over the town of Kotel. Centuries. (in bulgarian)
4. Domaradski M. 1994. Sanctuary on the peak of Ostretz near the town of Velingrad. Slaveevi gori. t. I: 126-136 (in bulgarian)
5. Domaradski M. 1980. Area research as a method of archeological research. MPK. № 2: 28-31 (in bulgarian)
6. Domaradski., M. 1988. Types of Thracian sanctuaries. Interdisciplinary researches. (in bulgarian)
7. Fol V. 1993. The rock, the horse and the fire. Sofia. (in bulgarian)
8. Fol V. 2000. Huge and rock cut monuments in Ancient Thrace. Sofia. (in bulgarian)
9. Fol V. 2001. Perperek I. Sofia. (in bulgarian)
10. Francovich G. 1990. Santuari e tombe rupestri dell'antica Frigia e un'indagine sulle tombe della Licia. V. I (text), v. II (tavole). L'Erma di Bretschneider , Roma.
11. Gizdova N. 1990. Thracian object at the fortress of Cepina. Tracian culture in Rodopi and upper river valley of Marica river, Mesta river, struma river. Smolian: 75-81 (in bulgarian)
12. Gocheva Zl. 1988. Orientation of religious Thracian buildings. (in bulgarian)
13. Hänsel B. 1976. Beiträge zur regionalen und chronologischen Gliederung der älteren Hallstattzeit an der unteren Donau (Beiträge für Urund Frühgeschichtliche Archäologie des Mittelmeer Kulrurraumes, XXVII), Bonn
14. Leshtakov Kr. 1990. Decoration of ceramics of the peak of Allada in Eastern Rodopi dating from the late Bronze Age. – Archeology. 1: 1-17 (in bulgarian)
15. Marazov Iv. 1984. Art mix in ancient periods in mythological and religious context. Art.. №3: 21 (in bulgarian)
16. Petkova I. 2001. Sacrificial altar types in the region of the kingdom temple Perperek. – Perperek I.: 35 (in bulgarian)