Scientists uncover the world’s oldest pyramid… in Bulgaria
Formillennia, the pyramids of Egypt have inspired awe among those lucky enough to witness them. But, in at least one respect, it seems that a series of massive rock steps recently discovered deep in the mountains of Bulgaria may put the pharaohs’ celebrated resting places in the shade.
This natural pyramid-shaped rock formation was, experts believe, fashioned into an important ritual centre at some point between 4,500 and 4,000 BC – meaning that it was used at least 1,350 years before pyramidic structures were built in Egypt, and 1,100 before those of the Mesopotamian civilisation.
Located near the Bulgarian village of Kovil in the Rhodope mountains, the 15-metre-high edifice features five natural rock steps. On the lowest and largest of these, is a rock-cut altar that is illuminated by the sun’s rays at sunrise on the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. This has led archaeologists to suggest that the site functioned as a solar temple.
The upper steps of the pyramid also feature rock-cut altars, while a series of mysterious channels are carved into the rock.
It seems that the rock-cut altar was quite a late addition to the site. In fact, the team of archaeologists investigating the find – led by Bulgarian academic Vassil Markov – believe that it was made in around 2,500 BC, centuries after the area was first used as a cult centre. And, far from standing in isolation, the pyramid is part of a larger prehistoric ritual complex of up to a square mile.
This latest find follows the discovery of two smaller, pyramid-shaped rock outcrops also used for cult practices. Yet it is the sheer scale of the new discovery that makes it stand out. “I was stunned when I stood in front of it,” said Markov, head of the University Research Centre for Ancient European and Eastern Mediterranean cultures at Bulgaria’s South-West University. “I am unable to offer an explanation as to why it had been missed by scientists.” David Keys
“Experts have found an altar that is illuminated by the sun on the vernal and autumnal equinox”