Consecutive animal species and appearance of previously unseen conceptions determine two stages of creation of Magura cave paintings. Continuation of the painting’s style and meaning over a large time span.
This issue has not been previously discussed in any publication I am familiar with but it has to be kept in mind when trying to date the paintings of Magura cave because there are solid facts which cannot be neglected.
About 120 of the 712 paintings are convex meaning that the contour and the surface of these paintings are above the level of the wall they have been painted on. This is considered to be the result of extended erosion and it means that long time has passed since the paintings were created. The rest of the paintings are plain which means that they were created more recently thus determining at least two stages of creation.
Additional data is available among the paintings themselves as the convex ones display animals which are not recently available on the Balkan Peninsula but are known to have lived in the region while among the flat paintings only deer and a horse can be recognized. This is an evidence that a long period of time has passed between the two stages of creation as long as to allow for fauna change.
Except for this, new types of shapes and geometric elements appear among the flat paintings. As paintings serve to express particular ideas, it is obvious that new conceptions have originated over the discussed time span and have been depicted during the second stage.
Meanwhile, the style and meaning found in the convex paintings have completely transferred to the flat ones revealing that the tradition and the philosophy of the initial paintings have preserved, developed and transferred over the period of time.
eng. Kiril Lyubchov Kirilov
Board member of NGO “Archaeological society of Belogradchik”, Bulgaria, Vidin district, Belogradchik, 3900, 8 Petko Kovacha str.
eng. Kiril Lyubchov Kirilov
Various researchers of the paintings of Magura cave which is located in the Northwestern of Bulgaria suggest different dating due to particular reasons. The dating vary from 12 000 BCE to 2 600 BCE. Some of the studies state that there are at least two separate stages of creation of the paintings based on the fact that in some places the paintings have been depicted very close to one another and it looks like newer paintings have been created oved older ones.
I have not so far found a study which discusses the varying thickness of the paintings but this feature exists and has to be considered when studying the paintings. Figure 1 displays an example of convex paintings.
Fig. 1. An example of convex paintings in Magura cave.
Figure 2 displays an example of convexity in some of the paintings and it is visible that the contour and the surface of the particular painting are located above the surface of the surrounding wall. In this case the difference between the two levels is about 1 cm.
Fig. 2. An example of convexity in some of Magura cave paintings.
There are two suggestions what the cause of the convexity might be:
- Suggestion 1 is that the wall has been scraped on purpose so the paintings become convex. Indeed, there are a number of scratches around these paintings and one scratch really coincides with a contour. But in the rest of the cases which are 120 in total there are no signs of scratching the wall. Furthermore, the contours are irregular as it can be observed in the case of Fig. 1. This leads to the conclusion that the convexity has not been achieved through scraping;
- Suggestion 2 is that the paint used (bats’ guano) serves as a sealant to the rock surface. The rock is limestone which is relatively easily degraded by the combination of carbon dioxide and air moisture which substances are abundant inside the cave and together form carbonic acid which reacts with the limestone. Due to this reason the rock surface is slowly eroded and driven back while the sealed rock under the surface of the paintings remains intact. This leads to the formation of relief paintings over time. The observed condition and features of the paintings determine that Suggestion 2 should be the real process.
I supply a modified edition of the map of all Magura cave paintings (1) which is displayed on Figure 3. Paintings shown in red are convex and decided to be older while paintings in black are plain and supposedly newer.
Fig. 3. A map of the two stages of creation of Magura cave paintings.
Both the beginning and the end of the row of paintings are located in the beginning of the Gallery of the paintings, close to its entrance/exit on the opposite walls. Thus all convex paintings are located in the beginning of the gallery and all plain paintings – in its deeper parts. There is a suggestion that erosion may be faster closer to the entrance/exit of the gallery as it allows for more movement of air and substances to take place then in the inner parts. This suggestion can be studied by measuring the convexity of all paintings to check whether it decreases smoothly with entering deeper into the gallery or there is a clearly distinguished step pattern. If the convexity decreases smoothly, this may mean that the paintings have been created continuously by adding new ones over relatively small time spans or it may mean that the speed of erosion decreases smoothly while entering deeper into the gallery, respectively while going further from the entrance/exit.
When this measuring takes place a new publication will be made to share results and thoughts on the topic. Now the focus goes to additional data found in the very paintings which are supposed to express ideas and even conditions of their time.
Figure 4 displays all the animal paintings depicted in Magura cave. The data is available after the creation of the complete catalog of all Magura cave paintings (2).
Figure 4. All paintings of animals in Magura cave.
This illustration follows the same logic – paintings in red are distinguishably convex, while paintings in black are plain. The numbers under the paintings show their respective indexes in the catalog (2).
The convex paintings represent animal species which are not currently available in Europe. Some of them may be interpreted as it follows: 076 – an ostrich, 078 and 079 – large birds, 1017 – a cave bear, 1023 – a giraffe, 1031 – a camel. If this interpretation is correct, then all of these are species known to have inhabited the Balkan Peninsula in the past and it has to be clarified in what period the animals used to live in the area. This is a clue to dating the convex paintings as these animals had to be common during the period.
Then the plain paintings display completely different types of animals – deer and a horse meaning that the common animal species at that time had changed to modern ones. No deer neither horses are available among convex paintings which is a clue to dating both plain and convex paintings – convex must be assigned to periods before deer and horse became common to the Balkan Peninsula and plain paintings could not be created before the appearance of deer and horses because people could not have an idea of them before that moment.
A comparison can be done with the rest of the paintings to find out whether the style and meaning of the paintings has changed over the suggested period of time which has allowed for fauna change. Figures 5 to 17 show comparison among the paintings inside various groups of similarity based on the groups of similar paintings shown in the catalog (2).
Fig. 5. Comparison between convex and plain paintings’ style and meaning.
Fig. 6. Comparison between convex and plain paintings’ style and meaning.
Fig. 7. Comparison between convex and plain paintings’ style and meaning.
Fig. 8. Comparison between convex and plain paintings’ style and meaning.
Fig. 9. Comparison between convex and plain paintings’ style and meaning.
Fig. 10. Comparison between convex and plain paintings’ style and meaning.
Fig. 11. Comparison between convex and plain paintings’ style and meaning.
Fig. 12. Comparison between convex and plain paintings’ style and meaning.
Fig. 13. Comparison between convex and plain paintings’ style and meaning.
Fig. 14. Comparison between convex and plain paintings’ style and meaning.
Fig. 15. Comparison between convex and plain paintings’ style and meaning.
Fig. 16. Comparison between convex and plain paintings’ style and meaning.
Fig. 17. Comparison between convex and plain paintings’ style and meaning.
Based on the presented similarity among the paintings in the respective groups, a conclusion can be made that the style of the paintings has both preserved and passed on in time over the time span between the two supposed stages of paintings’ creation. As the shape and configuration has preserved, the meaning of the paintings must have preserved as well as particular shapes express respective ideas and we find that the shapes are similar both in convex and plain paintings.
The similarity concerns 306 paintings out of the total number of 712 (2). This is 43% of the paintings’ total number which resembles a significant transition of style and meaning (i.e. culture) between the two periods of time.
As the total number of convex paintings is 120, the total number of plain paintings is 592. Out of them 255 are similar to convex paintings which is 43% or this percentage shows what part of later culture is based on direct transfer from earlier culture.
A more specific case is displayed on Figure 7 where plain human shapes have similar construction to convex ones but significantly differ in elements and attributes and therefore are not counted as direct inheritance.
Then this research comes to what is different between plain and convex paintings. Figures 18 to 25 show plain paintings which do not have analogs among convex ones.
Fig. 18. Differences between convex and plain paintings in Magura cave.
Fig. 19. Differences between convex and plain paintings in Magura cave.
Fig. 20. Differences between convex and plain paintings in Magura cave.
Fig. 21. Differences between convex and plain paintings in Magura cave.
Fig. 22. Differences between convex and plain paintings in Magura cave.
Fig. 23. Differences between convex and plain paintings in Magura cave
Fig. 24. Differences between convex and plain paintings in Magura cave.
Fig. 25. Differences between convex and plain paintings in Magura cave.
The lack of analogs of some of the plain and supposedly newer paintings among the convex and supposedly older ones may be interpreted as development of ideas and concepts over time as new shapes express new ideas. The fact that a difference is observably available is coherent with two other facts: there are convex and plain paintings; animal species in convex and in plain paintings differ.
All these fact together lead to the conclusion that Magura cave paintings have been created in two stages separated by a large time span. Over this period paintings preserved initial style and ideas but also developed new concepts including more complex numeric expressions and operations, heart-shaped symbols, the idea of the symbol T which stands for God-Speech, astronomic knowledge, depictions of stars. In the case of Magura cave paintings we observe a large step forward in human development based on what people knew and thought long time ago. This determines Magura cave as a place of preferred storage of culture.
- 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., Kiril Lyubchov Kirilov, June 21, 2016, ID 494;
- The creation and use of a complete catalog of all Magura cave paintings as a separate scientific tool as well as a referential tool and source for various studies, comparisons, analyses. Goals, methods and results. Opportunities created through the process., Kiril Kirilov