Museum of the Rhodope Karst – Chepelare

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The Museum of the Rhodope Karst in Chepelare has been in existence since 1980. It is the only such museum on the Balkan Peninsula.

Exposition begins with geology section. Several showcases show beautiful minerals typical of caves. Part of the collection consists of minerals that are found on the surface of the earth but are very characteristic of the region of Rhodope – agates, corundum and other precious and semi-precious stones.

The development of the cave in Bulgaria can be traced back to the hall dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the cave art in Bulgaria. The collection includes a unique Petromax lamp, belonging to Ivan Bures (1885 – 1980), a zoologist and entomologist who is the first in Bulgaria to explore the inhabitants of the caves and to discover new species of science.

The Museum of Speleology also has a rich collection of different types of rocks and cave formations.

The departments of bio-speleology and cave palaeontology are among the most interesting for visitors. In the biospeleology department are shown animal species living in the caves. For the Bulgarian caves, it is mainly invertebrate animals – spiders, locusts, crayfish, centipedes, beetles. One of the most interesting specimens is the “Light Gray” beetle, which, if it comes out in light, dies.

The exhibits of palaeontology show the animals that inhabited the caves. In the caves of Rhodope are found many bones of the cave bear. Visitors to the Museum of Paleontology can see a restored entirely of natural bones skeleton of a cave bear. The bear was a massive mammal that reached a height of 4.5 m. The animal has disappeared since the last ice age on Earth. Another curious detail that visitors will learn is that the caves in the region were also inhabited by cave leopards in the past. The museum can be seen as part of a lower leg of a leopard, which is the oldest bone of such an animal found throughout Europe. The museum also contains remains of rhinoceroses that thousands of years ago inhabited the territory of modern Bulgaria.

The last collection in the museum is dedicated to people who lived in caves thousands of years ago. Most of the oldest exhibits in the museum are from Yagodinska cave and are 6000 years old.

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