Underground Labyrinth With Secret Passages, Tunnels In Dobrogea Plateau, Romania

In many cases, the world below us is just as fascinating as the ground we walk on. Across Europe, there is a hidden, often millennia-old subterranean realm of tunnels stretching from the north in Scotland leading down to the Mediterranean.

It is an underground world of never-ending tunnels, massive caves, and labyrinths dug by unknown ancient men. There are also underground labyrinths that have not been fully explored yet.

One is located about 52 kilometers from Constanța, historically known as Tomis, the oldest continuously inhabited city in Romania.

A Vast Underground City Where You Can Get Lost

This vast labyrinth of 12 hectares lies beneath the plateau of Limanu. Researchers started investigating the place in 1916 and discovered traces left by humans, carved walls and ceilings, and ancient ceramic fragments. Drawings and inscriptions in Roman and Cyrillic alphabets on the walls prove the cave was inhabited between the 1st century BC and the 10th century AD.

The labyrinth is vast, with a total length of passages of approximately 3.5 km. Dacians used it to hide from the Roman proconsul Marcus Licinius Crassus (c. 115 BC —53 BC), who played a vital role in transforming the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire. The cave’s early inhabitants used a marking system to avoid getting lost.

Approximately 4,000 meters in length, Limanu Cave is the longest in Dobrogea. It has a chaotic branching of galleries, like the street network of an ancient city. Some researchers believe that at least some of the galleries were entirely dug by human beings, as there are tooling marks on the walls. Indeed, Limanu Cave represented an important human refuge, even since Dacian times.

The network of galleries resembles a city street map, like the street network of an ancient city developed chaotically, thus creating the impression of an underground city.

Remarkable Galleries

Some galleries have rectangular, very regular sections, and it seems humans carved them as signs of chiseling are visible. To avoid the collapse of ceilings, supporting walls and pillars were built in limestone slabs.

The drawings of galloping horses are of particular interest, while their riders have faces displayed from the front. Their silhouette and presentation resemble those of Dacian riders depicted on pottery discovered in many settlements inhabited by Thraco-Dacians.

This artwork belongs to the Roman-Byzantine period and the subsequent times. Other pictures show Christian religious symbols, letters, or words in the Cyrillic alphabet.

According to Ph.D. Adina Boroneant, “Vasile Pârvan” Institute of Archaeology, Romanian Academy, the Limanu Cave was a shelter for the local population until later, 10th-11th centuries AD.

Surveys have revealed archaeological material proving that local Dacians, even in that era, inhabited the cave. Existing evidence allows us to assume that a local Geto-Dacian authority ordered the maze of Limanu as a defense measure against the Roman danger.” The account of Dio Cassius shows that the cave was a place of refuge, purposefully chosen and renovated, not some adventitious cavern,” Ph.D. Boroneant writes in ”The Underground Labyrinth of Limanu” (”Labirintul subterrane de la Limanu”).

Tales Of Mysterious Sounds Coming From Underground Realms

Local stories mention strange and frightening wails like a prolonged high-pitched cry of grief, pain, or anger coming from the depths of the earth.

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. This noise affects the human psyche.

The cavern has a unique characteristic: although it is located on a complex of lakes and close to the Black Sea, it is so impenetrable that not even water can pass through.

The cave is also known as Caracicula (the old name of the Limanu settlement), Bats’, or Icons’ – due to some images carved in stone that once guarded the entrance.

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 about 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.