Some formations in the shape of stony, imposing and strange columns of stone, surround the desert landscape in northeast Bulgaria, near Varna. In some areas, stone pillars resemble some petrified trees. In other areas, the columns are wrapped in up to five layers of limestone. Many know these formations under the name Pobiti Kamani, which translates to ” hammer stone “.
Others call them “Standing stones,” “Stone forests,” “Fossil forests,” or “Stone desert.”
Along the Black sea coast of Bulgaria, there are 18 geological sites with stone pillars spread over an area of 43 square kilometers. Each site has a different number of columns or layers of columns, piled one over the other.
Perhaps the most interesting site is in a quarry in Beloslav, where five layers of columns, cemented with limestone, are visible.
Looking at the landscape offered by Pobiti Kamani, you might think that people have carved the columns and placed them on the ground as if they wanted to build a Greek temple. But the pillars are not made by the hand of man.
There are natural limestone columns that formed in the reefs of a sea that existed in the area during the eocene. Some of these pillars are empty inside, others do not.
The columns range from three to ten meters tall and have a width of between two and eight meters. They have an approximate age of geologists at 50 million years.
For nearly 200 years, researchers have been making various assumptions about how these columns were born.
The first documentary of these formations belongs to a Russian archaeologist, Victor Tepliakov, who arrived in Varna during the Russo-Turkish War of 1829. He described the structures as “temple or palace columns”.
Tepliakov believed that the mysterious structures might have belonged to an ancient cyclopic population. However, the archaeologist also considered that the structures could have formed naturally.
Another researcher, Dzhambazov Margos, believed that the pillars were, in fact, trees that rotted into the sea and turned into stone.
However, this theory does not explain the existence of columns arranged in layers.Therefore, she was later denied.
The dominant theory about the formation of Pobiti Kamani is that a large amount of methane gas has come to the surface through some seawater vents. Then, supporters of the theory, the bacteria oxidized methane, turning it into calcium carbonate.
Thus, around the methane that rises to the surface these columns were formed.Eventually, the sea dried up, and the columns remained.
However, in the “Eocene Recesses in Varna, Northeast Bulgaria” (2014), two Bulgarian researchers present a series of arguments against the methane gas theory.
They propose, instead, the hypothesis that algae and bacteria have calcified during the miniaturization process. Over time, they say, other organisms have attached to these atolls.
Then a complex process caused the atoll to rise vertically. The two researchers believe that the pillars were, at first, filled with sand. Progressively, the sand would have disappeared, giving the columns the appearance of empty tubes.
As early as 1937, the area is protected. UNESCO wants to include the site on the world heritage list. On the other hand, researchers would like the Stone Forest to become a national and European geopark, as it offers many opportunities for scientific research.
Besides the unique desert environment, where many animals live, as well as endangered species, Stone Pobiti Kamani is unique in the world.