A. Sutherland - AncientPages.com - The world below us is in many cases just as interesting as the ground we walk on. Across the Europe there are thousands of underground tunnels from the north in Scotland leading all the way down to the Mediterranean. This 12,000-year-old massive underground network is very impressive.
There are also underground labyrinths that haven’t been fully explored to this day.
One of them is located about 52 kilometers from Constanța, historically known as Tomis, the oldest continuously inhabited city in Romania.
A huge underground city where you can get lost
This huge labyrinth of 12 hectares lies beneath the plateau of Limanu. Researchers started to investigate it in 1916 and discovered traces left by humans, carved walls and ceilings, as well as very old ceramic fragments. Drawings and inscriptions in Roman and Cyrillic alphabets on the walls prove the cave was inhabited between 1st century BC and 10th century AD.
The labyrinth is very vast and the early inhabitants of the cave used a marking system to avoid getting lost.
Approximately 4,000 meters length, Limanu Cave is by far the longest in Dobrogea. It has a dizzying branching of galleries, like the street network of an unorganized ancient city chaotically developed. Some researchers believe that at least some of the galleries were entirely dug by human beings, as there are tooling marks on the walls.
The network gallery actually resembles a city street map, like the street network of an ancient city developed chaotically, thus the impression of an underground city.
Some of the galleries have a rectangular, very regular section and it seems they were actually been carved by humans as signs of chiselling are visible. In order to avoid the collapse of ceilings, supporting walls and pillars were built in limestone slabs. The cave's morphology is specific of caves with a horizontal stratification developed in Sarmatian limestone in the form of tabular structures.
Of special interest are the drawings of horse riders; horses seen from one side are drawn galloping, and the faces of the riders are seen from the front. Their silhouette and presentation strikingly resemble those of Dacian riders depicted on pottery discovered in many settlements in the area inhabited by Thraco-Dacians.
The earliest drawings are very likely from the apex of the Geto-Dacian culture, the time when archaeologists also say the cave was furnished as well. Other drawings — Christian religious symbols, letters or words in the Cyrillic alphabet — belong to the Roman-Byzantine period and the subsequent times, and they are evidence that the Limanu Cave was a shelter for the local population until later, 10th-11th centuries AD — as Ph.D. Boroneant mentions in his works.
'Of all the caves of Dobrogea, the Limanu is the only one that comes closest to Dio Cassius' description of the legendary Ciris. It is the only one able to justify the deployment of a Roman army to besiege a place of refuge. Surveys have revealed archaeological material proving that the cave was inhabited by local Dacians even in that era. Existing evidence allows us to assume that the maze of Limanu was ordered by a local Geto-Dacian authority as a defence measure against the Roman danger. The account of Dio Cassius shows that the cave was a place of refuge, purposefully chosen and furbished, not some adventitious cavern,' Ph.D. Boroneant writes in his 'Labirintul subteran de la Limanu' (The Underground Labyrinth of Limanu).
Strage tales of mysterious sounds coming from the underground realms
Local stories mention strange and frightening wails coming from the depths of the earth, with those who hear them becoming mesmerised and starting looking for the voice. It is said that the voice would be the voice of the entrance guardian who wants to lure in the profane and make them blasphemously tread on the sacred earth of Zamolxis.
Moreover, a mystery was woven concerning the interpretation of images displayed by fallen boulders at the entrance to the cave, which should be the faces carved in stone of Zamolxis, whose spirit guards the entrance to the sacred realm until the Dacian ancestors come back from the abyss.
A scientific explanation for these strange sounds provided by speleologists is that the eerie wails are produced by the wind that sweeps through many underground galleries at Limanu, a noise that apparently affects the human psyche.
The cavern has a special characteristic: although it is located on a complex of lakes and close to the Black Sea, it is so impenetrable that not even water could pass through, thus you won’t find any stalactites or stalagmites here.
The cave is also known as Caracicula (the old name of Limanu settlement), Bats’, or Icons’ – due to some images carved in stone that once guarded the entrance.
Included in the Natura 2000 Site, Limanu Cave is one of the three habitats in Romania for horseshoe bats – Rhinolophus Mehelyi. The species decreased from over 5,000 specimens to about 300 individuals.
However, ecologists warned on the vulnerability of the cave, which is a magnet for treasure hunters. Through their actions they tend to destroy the fauna.
Being located near the border with Bulgaria, Limanu cave had the reputation of a tunnel carrying fugitives across the border, particularly during the communist time.
There are many reasons to suspect the Dobrogea caves are hiding mysteries still waiting to be discovered.
Written by – A. Sutherland - AncientPages.com Senior Staff Writer