Astronomy aficionado or not, this place is something you ought to visit. Listed side by side with ancient observatories as Stonehenge (Great Britain), Abu Simbel (Egypt), Angkor Wat (Cambodia), Machu Picchu (Peru), it represents a significant heritage and definitely a must see for people whose interests rest with ancient history, nature, or somewhere between adventure and mysticism.
Kokino is located in about 19 kilometers northeast of the city Kumanovo, in what is administratively known as the municipality of Staro Nagornicane. It was discovered in 2001 by Jovica Stankovski from the National museum of Kumanovo- Macedonia. At first, nothing about this site blends in with the surroundings. Standing tall in the middle of nowhere, it appears quite outlandish. One look, and it is easy to see why.
Occupying almost 5000 square meters, it rests on two scale-like established platforms, beneath the mountaintop Taticev Kamen with an altitude of 1013 meters. The entirety of the observatory is volcanic rock. But carving and shapes alone, though interesting, are of significantly less value when compared to what this site once served for.
Namely, it has seven markers that were once used for following the Sun and the Moon in order to understand astronomy. Three of the marker cuttings were intended to mark the rising of the Sun in the day of the summer solstice, the autumn and the spring equinox and the winter solstice.
The six remaining marker cuttings marked the spots of the rising of the full Moon in the days when it has the smallest and the biggest declination during winter and summer. The two marker cuttings that were used for measuring the length of the lunar months can be seen from here. They were utilized for the making of a calendar for a periodic cycle of 19 lunar years. By far we can speculate, within reasonable limits, that Kokino observatory served just as much of a ritual purpose as it did for observing and measuring the cycles.
Especially significant is the stone block with a separate marker cutting on its top. It was made for ritual function with an explicit solar character. In mid-summer (end of July) a sun ray from the sunrise that penetrated through the opening of the stone marker cutting and passed by the right edge of the artificially formed trench, illuminated the ruler alone, who set on one of the four stone thrones, made especially for rite needs. The illumination of the face of the ruler, in all likelihood, signified ritual union with the Sun God and returning/renewing of his ruling power.
Going back in time
History wise, it speaks volumes about life back in the day- Pagan rites, prehistoric beliefs, but also curiosity and the effort to improve life of the community by understanding nature. Following and understanding the cycles easily represented the peak of the human creative thought at the time. This had its implications over not only rituals, but community activities such as agriculture, especially knowing when to plan or harvest.
The making of the calendar was one of the basic functions of the megalithic observatory “Kokino”. Most probably, the announcement for the days when the most important events started was made by lighting a fire on the mountain top located behind the thrones. This spot opens a view in a radius of more than 30km, and hence the fire could be seen by the inhabitants of all surrounding places-Now, a great opportunity to observe the landscape and try to guess how it once looked.
The thrones carved in the stone, are alone enough to make you stretch your fabric of imagination far and wide. By and large, it seems as though despite all the findings we know very little about what took place here. The artifacts, dating as back as to the early Bronze Age (19th century BC.), only let your imagination roar still further, raising more significant unknowns. Some connection has been established between couple of them, and the cult of fertility. The professional guides can go into further detail on spot.
The perfect experience
Macedonian observatory Kokino indeed paints a vivid image of how there was once a highly intelligent civilization there. An incomplete image, and one so descriptive, yet so mysterious that you feel the rush of adventure once you take a grip on the rocks and start climbing the platforms.
The road leading to the observatory isn’t perfect by any stretch, but it reinforces the feeling of adventure, out there in the open, at this mostly uncrowded site. It is perfect for taking a hike, a mild one in fact, especially recommended during summer days.
Some folks decide to partake this adventure by taking the night shift, often times camping and carrying with them astronomy equipment, mostly telescopes. Many times, during astronomy related events, more people gather and set tents, lighting fire, drinking beer and having a good time. If you need the convincing to join, you can bring a six pack, or dork up and take telescope equipment. There is a warm welcome either way.
In less than couple of kilometers though, you can find two of the most popular national hotel-restaurant resorts- Vizijana, and Etno Selo, which both stretch over couple of thousand square meters, and are located in isolation from civilization and beautiful nature surrounding. Perfect for having a meal from the ranges of Macedonian traditional ones, as well as a short couple-of-days stay in what is a top-notch Macedonian traditional experience.
Also equipped with conference rooms, as well as children playgrounds, fish ponds and biking trails, these places offer a surprising diversity. One that will make an amazing hike to Kokino even better if put in combination. Whatever else might be said, Kokino observatory is a place you would never regret visiting, and indeed one of a kind.