The Mystery of Tatoul
by Valentina Radinska

If you go south of Momchilgrad and pass the village of Raven , you will reach the remote hamlet of Tatoul. The houses are scattered around the rugged ground with craggy outcrops, overgrown with low shrubs ; nothing suggests that not far from here lies one of the most interesting and least studied ancient Thracian monuments in Bulgaria - a shrine from the 5th century B.C., called Tatoul, after the near by hamlet.

If you're not accompanied by a local and moreover a local who knows the way, and what's more who knows the goat paths to the top, where the shrine is located, you would never find it yourself. From the roadside it looks like an ordinary rock, one of the many, deceptively close, deceptively accessible. We do not know when the Thracian shrine was discovered. Ever since 1981 the shrine has been studied by the local astronomical observatory at Kardzhalii, and Prof. Nikola Nikolov, one of the few specialists in archeoastronomy in Bulgaria. Perhaps it is better to say, used to study the shrine, for after the death of Slavei Zlatev, the Director of the observatory, everything ceased.

The absence of funding - nothing new - also affected enthusiasts and the shrine at Tatoul was abandoned. Yet, what has been established so far? It is not by chance that it is called the "Bulgarian Stonehenge"? It was Prof. Nikolov who gave it its name. The ground for a parallel with the famous megalithic monument in Great Britain was the following: alongside its use as a shrine, where sacrifices were made to the ancient Thracian Gods, it clearly was the place where sunrise and sunset were observed at certain days of the year - the day of the autumnal equinox , when, for instance at sunset the sun appears in a slit in the rocks. The rock, concealing the shrine, resembles a truncated pyramid , it is unique - non other has been found in the Bulgarian lands. Steps, leading up to the top, with a strange 170 cm sarcophagus are surrounded by a outfall. Specialists suppose that the chute drained the blood of the sacrifice, placed in the sarcophagus. They could have been young maidens or was the size of the sarcophagus due to the stocky Thracians? This we leave to Thracian scholars. The Thracians were known to venerate the sun and their rites were connected with this cult. Most probably sacrifices were performed at dawn or sunset.
Below the outcrop, at a distance of perhaps some 300-400 m altitude there is a horizontal meadow, preserved to this day. Scholars believe that probably here, below the rock, the multitude gathered ; there, before the initiated they sent the gifts to the Gods, to propitiate them or beg something from them. At the side of the rock a niche was dug out, probably the place where additional gifts were left for the venerated deities.

The orientation of the sarcophagus is northwest- southeast and at its top edge there is something like a groove, which suggests that the sarcophagus was closed in some way by a lid. Could this have been a protective lid - not to allow access of the body of the sacrifice to animals in the forest and birds of prey? This in turn leads on to the supposition that the sacrifice was kept in this sarcophagus for some time.

What is the greatest mystery and the most sensational element in the "Bulgarian Stonehenge"? And why is the study of the site so pressing and should not be put off? The author, in spite of not being a specialist, suggests a curious parallel.It is the parallel with the pyramids in the Giza plateau , which, according to the latest research dating them a few years ago, had no other function but serve as a structure for reincarnation. The Rhodopes is a sacred mountain range, it is the domain of Orpheus, who not only is a mythical figure, but also a reality. Orpheus is one of the great teachers of mankind. His contact with Egyptian civilization, his stay in the secret Egyptian schools are known to scholars. In fact we already have a confirmation in Bulgaria. Thus, a sun dial , dated from the 3rd century , with the image of Isis and Osiris - the supreme Egyptian deities was found near Silistra. Below them ,playing on the lyre is a seated Orpheus.

Perhaps Tatoul is the key to a new approach on how knowledge of ancient Egyptian civilization reached the Bulgarian lands; was not Orpheus himself a bridge? Perhaps we could find other proof for the links between other cultures? Perhaps the mysterious Thracians, who disappeared in so strange a manner, were not part of another ancient civilization. Many are the questions raised by Tatoul. And no doubt these questions will be answered. The problem of the Bulgarian Stonehenge, of many other important questions call for an answer, which cannot be delayed forever. Perhaps when we uncover the secrets of the ancient shrine in the Rhodope mountain range, will not only be a sensation, but also will cast new light over the past, and hence a confident glance in the future.