The Forgotten Observatory of Cocev Kamen

In the grand scheme of things, megalithic observatories aren’t really all that common. It’s not like you are going to find one in every other town you come across, over there behind the Walmart. But Macedonia has been blessed with not one, but two (and not a Walmart in sight). The most well-known is at Kokino, but we first paid a visit to Cocev Kamen.

Cocev Kamen is slightly more well-known than the nearby rock dwellings of Golemo Gradište, but that doesn’t make it any easier to find. There were neither trails nor signs to provide any sort of clue as to the rock’s location. Just like with Golemo Gradište, we had to rely on GPS to get us close, and then scout the area. Luckily, Cocev Kamen is hard to miss. This enormous rock sitting alone in the middle of a field practically screams, “Carve into me, ancient ones! Use me for your mystic rites!”

We had marched straight through a field to reach Golemo Gradište and now, later on the same day, found ourselves making another beeline through untamed nature to a second giant rock. Long pants would have been a good idea, as our shins took a serious beating from the scratchy brush, but it wasn’t especially difficult to reach Cocev Kamen.

The path led us directly onto the lower levels of the rock itself, where there are some rudimentary carvings. Interesting, but we had been hoping to get higher up, and the path ended here. Or did it? On the wall, obscured by moss and shadow, we found a set of carved niches leading straight upward; a ladder etched into the stone. Not entirely sure of ourselves, we placed hands and feet into the grips, and started upwards like clumsy rock climbers. The steps were worn but usable, and before long we were at the top. Exercise caution if you go yourself, but Jürgen and I had no problem.

Climbing this ancient ladder was exhilarating, and the effort brought us to some cryptic, ancient carvings. There was some sort of ritualistic tub, and a few thrones. Not much is known about Cocev Kamen. Because the main platform faces east, it’s believed to have been an observatory and there is general consensus that it was used as a temple. The uncertainty regarding its purpose adds a sheen of mystery to the experience of visiting, and it’s fun to speculate on the uses of various carvings.

On the top of the rock, I climbed into one of the ancient thrones and looked out over the Macedonian countryside. Except for a shepherd visible in the distance, there wasn’t another soul around. I felt a shiver rush through me when I realized that I was enjoying the exact same view as my prehistoric ancestors. I was even sitting in their chair!

It seems a shame that Cocev Kamen sits alone, forgotten in the middle of nowhere, but this neglect makes for a more thrilling adventure. In many other countries, a site of such importance would be ringed off. You’d have to stand in line for tickets and you’d never be allowed to clamber up its ancient ladder, let alone sit in its thrones. I’m not usually in favor of “keeping things secret,” but for Cocev Kamen, I’m willing to make an exception. The longer this ancient observatory stays relatively undiscovered, the better.

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