In an attempt to attract visitors, a number of archaeological sites in Bulgaria have been comparing themselves to the most famous cromlech, or stone circle, in the world: Stonehenge. More often than not, however, the Stonehenge tag has been applied to places which have nothing to do with stone circles.
In fact, Bulgaria did have quite a number of real cromlechs in the past, but only two survive today: near the village of Dolni Glavanak, in the Eastern Rhodope; and close to the village of Staro Zhelezare, between Hisarya and the southern slopes of the Sredna Gora mountains.
The stone circle at Staro Zhelezare was discovered in 2002, under a pretty insignifcant mound by the village's dump yard.
It was a surprising discovery: 24 erect stones forming a circle with a diameter of 7 m. The slabs in the northern part of the circle rose up to 1.8 m; with one exception, the stones on the south were less than a metre high.
According to Dr Georgi Kitov (1943-2008), the scientist who discovered them, the cromlech was erected in the 6th Century BC and was used for astronomical observations. Other researchers think that the circle was built around the 10th Century BC, and the tumulus was erected later to hide the stones, for a reason that's as yet unknown.
Regardless of its scientifc significance, the Staro Zhelezare stone circle seems doomed to disappear. After the excavations ended, the dug-up cromlech was abandoned, his sole protection from the elements coming from a flimsy cover. Soon, the roof collapsed and wind and rainwater started eating into what had remained of the mound. Several years after the discovery, all the slabs had fallen down and the undergrowth had taken over, hiding everything in tall grass and thorns.
A structure which had survived for millennia has now almost disappeared.