A Sacred Site in Romania

John Palmer introduces a sacred site in an unfamiliar territory to NE readers

Perhaps the best-known ancient sacred site in Romania is the circular temple observatory and quadrangular sanctuary (one of seven, two of which are circular) of Sarmizegetusa Regia in Thrace – this was known in Roman times as Dacia, the ‘capital’ of Dacia and Getas, destroyed by the invading Romans. The diameter of the largest circle is 96′ 5″, on a par with 100 Roman feet, an integral unit of length. It is a concentric circle (c. 100 BCE) with a central horseshoe, its principal axis aligned to the midwinter solstice sunrise (an altar is inscribed with ten rays).

Megalithic sites seem to be rather rare in Romania, but Arthur Szabo, who has a radio programme in Reghin, has forwarded me some information on an engraved stone (see illustration) which is probably unfamiliar to readers in Britain and may be of interest.

In July 1987, a highschool student discovered the engraved stone (illus.) in the valley of the Paltinu River, in the Calimanului Mountains, near the village of Gura Haitii (about 27km from the town of Vatra Dornei), which lies in a dormant volcanic crater. Around the site are rock peaks featuring obvious simulacra which cannot fail to have eaught the attention of the ancients; places bear names such as the Twelve Apostles (Doisprezece Apostoli), the Ancestor or Old Man (Mosul) and the Martyr (Mucenicul).

The engraved andesite stone, of irregular form, measures 135cm in height, 92cm in width and weighs an estimated 1.5 tons. The engravings are on the smooth side of the stone and are believed to have been made with metal tools, which means that they are not of neolithic but Bronze or Iron Age date.

The design is a circle of 21.5cm diameter, with six rays; various smaller circles also appear, one on the extreme right being 5.8cm across. In Romania, historians seem to think these engravings represent an extreme abstract of a human face/human body, verging on a solar composition to comprise an idol suggestive of a ‘solar cult’. The other side of the stone is also engraved, but less clearly. Nearby another, regularly shaped, andesite stone was found.

Could these stones have been part of an astronomical alignment, e.g foresight and backsight? Unfortunately, no-one seems to have taken accurate bearings at the site, since it is supposed that both stones were part of a dolmen, with a third stone yet unfound. If these stones were part of a dolmen – unlikely, but not impossible – this would be a major discovery, considering the age of the monument thus implied; however, since the markings were made with metal tools, this would appear doubtful. I suspect the circle with six rays is no archaic abstract human form but a solar symbol, a ‘sun wheel’.

Arthur Szabo notes that the Celts spread through the N and W of Dacia, particularly in the E of the region; this is well attested by narrative sources referring to the Britogalls near the Pontic colonies (Pontus Euxinus was the old name for the Black Sea) and sites whose original Celtic names were Arrubium (now the village of Macin), Noriodunum (Isaccea) and Aliobrix (Cartal-Orlovka).

Published in NE80 (Spring 2000), p.13