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The complete map of all Magura cave paintings – creation, use and perspectives.

юни 21, 2016


After eight years of intentions to decode what knowledge, information and ideas have been expressed through the rock paintings in Magura cave located in the Northwest of Bulgaria, it became obviously necessary to create a complete catalog of the paintings in order to make the research scientific. The catalog was necessary to make it possible to cite specific paintings in the process of demonstration of the proposed hypotheses. The first step to do this was to create a complete map of all paintings so they could be counted and described.

After the direction of writing and reading of the paintings was clarified, group and individual pictures of the paintings were taken, organized, stitched and vectorised. The vectorised copies of large segments of the walls were arranged in their natural order and joined together thus creating a complete map which was then verified on site.

This process created the present complete map of Magura cave paintings which allowed for documentation and counting of the paintings to take place.

As a result a document has been created which makes it possible to scientifically test theories, test various suggestions of the coding and reading system, count, gather statistic data, analyze the age and style of the paintings, compare them to other paintings, organize paintings in groups of similar shapes etc.

Full title:

The creation and use of a complete map of all Magura cave paintings as a separate scientific tool as well as a premise to the creation and use of a complete catalog of all Magura cave paintings. Goals, methods and results. Opportunities created through the process.


eng. Kiril Lyubchov Kirilov


Board member of NGO “Archaeological society of Belogradchik”, Bulgaria, Vidin district, Belogradchik, 3900, 8 Petko Kovacha str.

Corresponding author:

eng. Kiril Lyubchov Kirilov


A new, amateur research of the meaning and significance of Magura cave paintings was started in the beginning of 2008 which used a new approach of the study.  The research was amateur because it was not done by a respectively educated specialist neither it was sanctioned by any institution. The research represented the approach of an engineer to the field of ancient symbols and expressions. What is important here is that many of the paintings inside Magura cave are very similar to symbols used in various teachings and religions. An example of this is the presence of a number of paintings which resemble alchemy symbols (Fiigure 1).

figure 1 alchemy comparison

Enter a caption

Fig. 1. Comparison between alchemy symbols and Magura cave paintings.

Then another research was conveyed in search for the name Magura around the World as it was suggested that its paintings had influenced the formation of various teachings as one is able to recognize them there. Therefore, if this suggestion turned out to be true, many traces of the name Magura should be found even in distant areas as the suggested process of knowledge transfer was from Magura cave to the outer world. In this suggestion Magura cave was meant as a library, a storage of knowledge and ideas, therefore it had to be the source and its name had to be remembered in the places where the information was spread due to the significance of the event.

A summary of the results is expressed in Figure 2 where 400 out of 2 400 locations of the name Magura have been marked. At 200 places the name is spelled exactly Magura and the other names are very similar to it: Magora, Mogora, Mahura, Masura, etc.

figure 2 Magura name map

Fig. 2. Spread of Magura name around the world

The raw data revealed that except for populated places the name Magura is always related to three types of sites: hills, springs and caves. This is an indirect proof for one initial source of the name’s spread and the only place where the three meanings join is Magura cave in the Northwest of Bulgaria as it is a cave, located inside a hill and a lake is found near to it. This makes Magura cave a very probable source of the spread.

Furthermore, in places of higher concentration of the name, legends of divine entities similar to the Goddess-Mother of Magura are found. For example, Ma-Gu in China who is related to caves, has a sacred lake next to her most important temple, governs fertility and families, grants knowledge and skills to adepts. The same goddess is found in South Korea with the name Mago.

All these facts point to Magura cave as the source of knowledge and culture spread over a vast territory. Therefore a new stage of the research became necessary – comparison of Magura cave paintings to other paintings around the World in order to find out whether symbols have been spread as well. In order to be able to convey such a study one has to have a catalog of all Magura cave paintings which to serve as a proof of similarity of difference between various paintings. Before a catalog can be made, the must be a complete map of all the paintings in their natural order – as they are in the cave.

This is what strip of events and necessities has led to the creation of the present map.

The map is useful and important on its own because it lets researchers have a brief look at all the paintings, convey studies, check hypotheses, etc. The map can become even more important if future studies prove that Magura cave was indeed a library and has influenced the formation of cultures, teachings and religions in the vast area shown on Figure 2.

Method of creation:

In the process of the research it was clarified in a number of examples and then confirmed all along the paintings that the direction of writing and reading in Magura cave is from the right hand to the left hand which proved to be very useful for the creation of the map because it was clear what direction should be followed and therefore it was possible to determine the first and the last paintings in the gallery.

The second stage of the work process was to take pictures of every group of paintings and every scene following the direction of the reading.

The third stage was to take a picture of every single painting following more or less the same order. It was not always possible because at some places the paintings are organized on two or more levels or appear to be randomly placed of the walls. This did not cause serious problems as the position of every painting had already been clear on the group and scene pictures. Figure 3 represents an example of an individual picture.

figure 3 individual image

Fig. 3. An example of an individual picture.

The next step was to create as large as possible panoramic views of wall segments. Therefore the pictures of individual paintings, groups and scenes were joined together manually so that it was possible to guarantee proper overlapping.

Figure 4 represents the way pictures of individual paintings and pictures of small groups of paintings were joined together in order to create panoramic views of wall segments.

figure 4 creation of wall segments

Fig. 4. Creation of wall segments.

The fifth stage was to redraw all the paintings and their respective groups or scenes. This was done by using graphic software and by following the outlines of the paintings. This was not always an easy and precise task as many paintings are very faint or their outlines are not very clear. Therefore a large numbers of outlines are subject to discussion. In order to minimize the errors in this process, various corrections of tone, hue, contrast, brightness, etc. were done so it would be possible to see the outlines more clearly. Figure 5 demonstrates ax example of a redrawn wall segment.

figure 5 segment example redrawn

Fig. 5. An example of a redrawn wall segment.

The sixth stage of the work was to join all the segments in a complete map. Note that large gaps between scenes and groups of paintings were truncated and even in this case the aspect ratio of the resulting file was 1:90. This led to the necessity to divide the strip of paintings into four rows and to further truncate gaps between groups and scenes in order to make the map convenient and easily readable.

The next step of the work was to verify the map on site comparing it to the real paintings. During this stage it turned out that 24 paintings and groups of paintings had been missed and this issue was amended.

After this, all the positions of edges and truncated gaps were noted on the map so the user could know that this is not the actual distance between the groups and scenes. Indeed, the map is not to scale. Different groups and scenes are to different scale as the objective of the map is to present the most relevant information – the order of the paintings, their shapes, their organization into the groups and scenes and to be the base for the creation of a complete catalog. The map is shown on Figure 6.

figure 6 Magura paintings map

Fig. 6. Magura paintings map.

It may be an object of future activities to create a map to scale if this turns out to be necessary for some reasons.

It must be kept in mind that accurate scaling may never be done due to the relief and curvature of actual wall which have bigger surface then their perpendicular projection on a plain. There will always be distortion as this is in the map. Despite of this, individual paintings and small groups of them can be drawn in scale which has been done in the catalog.

The last step was to count paintings and elements.

A painting is defined as a bound groups of elements. The bounding may be by physical joining of elements or by close relation of elements by their meaning.

An element is a separate depiction which has no physical bound to other elements.

The total number of the paintings is 712 and the total number of physically unbound elements is 1 468.

This makes Magura cave paintings one of the most thorough and abundant sources of knowledge and base for analysis and comparison on ancient symbols in the World and the map is the first scientific step to their decoding.

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