A mystery almost as old as Egypt's pyramids

Well temple near the village of Garlo is the oldest example of sacred masonry in Bulgaria

The corridor leading to the well temple turns at an angle.

An underground well temple (also known as sacred pit), which is the only one of its kind found on the Balkans, is located at only 60 kilometres to the west of Sofia, hidden in the folds of the Greben Mountain. Archaeologists rank it among the most ancient cult masonry works in the Bulgarian lands and are unanimous that it is older than the Thracian megaliths of the mountains of Rhodope, Strandja and Sakar.

The temple is dated back to the 12th-10th centuries BC, however there is a hypothesis claiming that it is even more ancient. Some experts relate the site to the sacred pits found among the remains of the Nuragic civilisation which was thriving in Sardinia. There are constructions similar to this well temple also in Crimea and in Palestine.

This kind of architecture might have taken root thousands of years ago in ancient Mesopotamia. According to one hypothesis, a large group of Sumerians ventured westwards to the Bulgarian lands in search of non-ferrous metals suitable for development of bronze metallurgy. Later they headed for Sardinia and after finding what they needed, they settled there. When they were still in the Bulgarian lands, the Nuraghi built the sacred pit near the present-day village of Garlo.

The structure gives rise to other hypotheses - it was an ancient solar calendar, an observatory for seasonal astronomical measurements, or a cult centre where the elements of nature were worshiped. However, none of these can be easily proven.

Being a very complex structure, the well temple is built exclusively of stones, without mortar or any other grouting. Thanks to its stone masonry, the building and stairs leading to it have outlasted centuries and are in a very good condition at present. Only the vault that served as an entrance to the main room is slightly tilted.

The southern part of the well temple is dug into earth. The seven-metre long corridor with 13 stone stairs leads to a circular hall in the centre of which there is a five-metre deep well. It has a semi-spherical cupola-like cover with an opening in the centre while the corridor is covered with a pseudo-vault. There is a niche in each wall. Of special interest is the construction technique - the upper stones press down on the lower ones and so ensure the building's stability.

On the way from the village to the well temple there is another interesting site, the so-called Latin Cemetery, a pileup of stone crosses quite unusual for the Bulgarian lands as the crosses are inside a circle. Experts' opinions on their origin differ - some relate them to the Bogomils, others maintain that these are Irish, Celtic or Templar signs.

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