Rock-Cut Sanctuaries in the Eastern Rhodope Mountains: The Glouhite Kamani Cult Complex and Surrounding Region
Southeastern Bulgaria is rich in archaeological sites where the natural rock of the terrain has been shaped by human agency into distinctive formations, apparently for purposes of religious cults. Such human alterations of the natural environment include the carving of niches, steps, platforms, channels for water, and unusual designs that appear to have symbolic value. Many of these rock-cut monuments are located in isolated settings that are difficult to access, that coupled with their unusual character, suggest that the monuments formed part of cult shrines and perhaps sites of pilgrimage. The creation and use of these rock-cut shrines can probably be ascribed to the Thracians, the ethnic group that was dominant in southeastern Europe during the later second and first millennia BCE.
With LiDAR an accurate record of surface anomalies over a larger area can be obtained and the identification and nature of these anomalies can be checked by survey coverage on foot. This will increase our knowledge not only of rock-cut features in the larger region, but also of settlements and transportation routes, enabling a broader regional picture of the cult sites to be obtained. Currently the extremely dense forest cover, rugged terrain, and lack of roads in this area combine to make surveys that rely only on exploration on foot extremely slow and often inaccurate. An airborne LiDAR scan, despite its high initial cost, will yield more accurate results, saving time and money in the long run. This survey will produce a detailed map of archaeological features in the region and help clarify the role of these rock-cut features in ritual usage at Gluhite Kamani and neighboring areas.
The goal of the project is to conduct two seasons of field survey in spring and fall 2015. The project will be under the joint direction of Dr. Nehrizov of the Bulgarian National Archaeological Institute and Museum and Professor Lynn E. Roller of the University of California, Davis. Annual reports will continue to be published in Bulgarian and American archaeological journals and there will be a final joint publication of the project at its conclusion.