Orpheus’ Lyre Rock Engraving Discovered in Bulgaria’s Eastern Rhodope Mountains

A small rock relief which is alleged to depict the lyre of Orpheus, the mythical Ancient Thracian musician and poet, has been found engraved in a rock cavern in the so called Eagles’ Rocks in the Eastern Rhodope Mountains near the town of Ardino in Southern Bulgaria.

The Eagles’ Rocks near Ardino are said to be part of an ancient religious rock complex. They are not to be confused with another similar site of the same name, also in the Eastern Rhodope Mountains: the prehistoric rock shrine Orlovi Skali (“Eagles’ Rocks”) near the town of Sarnitsa, Mineralni Bani Municipality, where huge human faces hewn into the rocks were discovered in 2016.

The rock relief allegedly depicting the lyre of Orpheus has been found on the inside wall of a rock cistern for collecting water, in the Eagles’ Rocks near Bulgaria’s Ardino by Mincho Gumarov, a local teacher, speleologist, climber, and a long-time explorer of the Rhodope Mountains, local news site Rodopi24 has reported.

The rock sign showing Orpheus’ lyre is said to be part of ensemble of engravings containing also other rock reliefs whose meaning remains a mystery. Based on their arrangement, the lyre depiction is said to be the focal point of the ensemble.

Orpheus, the legendary Ancient Thracian musician and poet as well as a prophet, is a major figure in Ancient Greek mythology. He is known to have lived in the Eastern Rhodope Mountains in today’s Southern Bulgaria.

Orpheus is known for the magic of his music, for starting the so called Orphic Mysteries cult, and for trying to rescue his wife Eurydice from the underworld, among other legendary feats. In the Antiquity of Classical Greece and Thrace he was celebrated as the greatest of all poets and musicians.

Orpheus is said to have been the son of Ancient Thracian King Oeagrus and the Muse Calliope.

According to one of the legends for his death, Orpheus was ripped apart by bacchantes (maenads),and his body parts were thrown in the Maritsa River in Southern Bulgaria, then known as Hebrus.

In 2016, Bulgarian archaeologists found in the Eastern Rhodope Mountains the rock grave of a person who they said was a dismembered Thracian princess. In their words, the burial reminded of the legend about the dismemberment of Orpheus.

The newly discovered rock depiction of Orpheus’ lyre near Bulgaria’s Ardino is yet to be examined by professional archaeologists.


Pasquale Barile

Pasquale Barile, freelance egyptologist and writer, deals with ancient languages and genesis of civilization. Founder and President of the Ancient World Society and HistoryLab, conducts an intensive research, divulging and teaching activity in history. He is a member of the EES (Egypt Exploration Society) and SE (Société d'Égyptologie). He lives in Bologna, Italy.

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