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The Madara national historical-archeological reserve

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The Madara national historical-archeological reserve
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The national historical-archeological reserve “Madara” is located 17 km northeast of Shumen, 2 km from the village of Madara and 75 km from Varna.

Towering cliffs, beautiful natural surroundings, and plentiful water drew people here from the dawn of history.

First settled during the Neolithic Age (the late Stone Age), it has been occupied ever since. Over the centuries, rock sanctuaries were founded here, as were palaces and other habitations, fortresses, temples, hermits’ retreats and monastic complexes, places for solitude and for communal celebrations. Visitors can observe evidence of the material and spiritual cultural development of many ethnic groups – the earliest inhabitants, Thracians, Romans, Byzantines, Slavs, Bulgars, Turks, and others. Today dozens of monuments and artifacts from all epochs can be seen.

There are a number of hypotheses relating to the origin of the name Madara. Some historians think that it is connected to the ancient Greek epithet “madaros” which meant “naked”, “bald-headed”, or “treeless”. Others attribute an Old Bulgarian origin to the name, in which case it could mean Holy Cliff or Holy Place.

The first studies of Madara’s ancient history were completed in the 1930s, when two burial mounds were excavated on the plateau. An inventory of the gravesites yielded information about trade relations between the resident Thracians and Greek colonies situated in Asia Minor and along the neighboring Black Sea coast.

The Thracians had long used the caves as dwellings, and like their predecessors – the first inhabitants of the region – they enlarged them and made them more comfortable.

The ancient history of Madara is marked by a dominant Roman presence. The most impressive architectural monument is a Roman villa (the Villa Rustica), occupied between the 2nd and 4th centuries, comprised of a walled complex of buildings characteristic of rural villas in the European provinces of the Roman Empire. Most likely it was owned by a wealthy slaveowner.

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