Recent archaeological investigations have uncovered a significant and monumental water sanctuary, referred to as a Nymphaeum, located above the reservoir in the southern district of Perperikon.
The discovery, dating back to the 2nd to 3rd centuries, sheds new light on the historical significance of this ancient site. Professor Nikolay Ovcharov, the head of the excavation at the Perperikon archaeological complex, revealed this finding during a press conference.
Perperikon, located at an elevation of 470 meters in the Eastern Rhodopes of Bulgaria, has long been considered one of the oldest megalithic monuments in the region.
Until recently, the prevailing belief was that the site housed only a water reservoir. However, recent excavations have unveiled the presence of a splendid sanctuary adorned with a Roman wall and columns. This newfound structure challenges the previous assumptions.
Nymphaeums, often referred to as sanctuaries for water nymphs, were architectural wonders of the past. These semicircular, lavishly decorated Classical fountain houses served as public drinking fountains, replete with sculpture-filled niches. Beyond their utilitarian function as reservoirs, nymphaeums also doubled as assembly chambers for various ceremonies, including weddings.
Professor Ovcharov emphasized that the specific area where the discovery was made had long been regarded solely as a water reservoir with a capacity close to half a million liters and a depth of approximately 5 meters. It was only through ongoing restoration efforts that archaeologists stumbled upon the existence of this water temple.
Intriguingly, the structure differs from the cistern on the Acropolis in that it was cut into the rocks on only three sides. The eastern side stands out with a meticulously crafted square wall, which, as further investigations revealed, served as the facade of this remarkable facility.
Excavations have yielded fragments of cornices, column pedestals, column bases, and possibly even statues, all attesting to the grandeur of this ancient water sanctuary.
Professor Ovcharov underscored the importance of urban nymphaeums, particularly during siege periods, while highlighting that similar artifacts glorifying water are rare in Bulgaria. He noted that analogous examples can be found in Asia Minor, further emphasizing the significance of the Perperikon discovery in the broader historical context.
Despite limited state support, archaeological excavations at Perperikon have persevered for the past two years, thanks to the assistance of the Municipality of Kardzhali. These efforts are set to continue until mid-September 2023.
Perperikon, believed to be a sacred place, is situated atop a 470-meter-high rocky hill in the Eastern Rhodope mountains of southern Bulgaria, approximately 15 kilometers northeast of the modern town of Kardzhali. Its roots trace back to the Chalcolithic period over 8,000 years ago, with its zenith occurring during late Antiquity, when it served as a prominent city center within the Thracian province of the Roman Empire.
The place stands as the largest megalithic ensemble site in the Balkans. Over millennia, it evolved from an 8,000-year-old prehistoric megalithic shrine to a site of cultural convergence, marked by the influences of the Thracians, Romans, Byzantines, and the medieval Bulgarian Empire.