MAN IN CAVES - Archaeology in Slovak karst

From the existing data on the evolution of the Slovak karst it follows that Man had a decisive role in it. Even that he his attention turned to the surface, the caves were no exclusion. Numerous easy accessible caves were an effortless and safe dwelling of Man since the primeval times in characteristic karst territory. A significant dense settlement of the Kosice basin made a very important influence on a prehistoric habitation of the Slovak karst. Mainly terraces of Hornad river are famous archaeological localities where concentration settlement of all the periods from the Prehistory to the Middle Ages has been brought at fact. This phenomenon is a product of many factors. The most important were the favourable condition for farming, near sources of raw materials (stone, copper, iron) in the Spis-Gemer Ore Mountains and Slanske vrchy Hills as well as wealthy water resources.
Stone Age
The accessibility of some caves as the Domica Cave , the Silicka ladnica Ice Cave, Slaninova Cave and the Jasovska Cave influenced as early as in the Late Paleolithic Age the hunters of the Szeletien, Aurignacien and Gravettien cultures in the range from 36 000 to 28 000 years BC in searching for them. Some findings do not exclude even earlier settlement.

The Bukk Culture vessel glued into sinter (The Domica Cave) (68kB).

The most intensive settlement occurred in the Late Stone Age - the Neolithic Age. Particularly in winter period the Ardovska Cave, Certova diera Cave, the Domica Cave, the Jasovska Cave and Silicka ladnica Ice Cave were settled by the creators of so-called East (Gemer) Linear Culture , who were soon replaced by the creators of the Bukk Culture from the Middle Neolithic Period (4 130 years BC). An extraordinary scientific place in learning about the character of the Neolithic Age has the Domica Cave, which in particular during the Bukk Culture with four evolution phases was the most important cave centre (on picture). In summer time the creators of Bukk Culture were dispersed on the plateaus of the Slovak Karst. With the production of ceramics and new kinds of stone smoothed tools a new form of settled productive economy. From the Eneolithic Age are in some caves (the Mastalna Cave, the Fajka Cave) humble relics of the creators of the Baden Culture with the canescent decoration of ceramics (2200 BC).
Bronze Age
In the Bronze Age the settlement intensified first by the creators of the young Bronze Age Piliny culture (1 400 - 1 150 BC) and after that with a mass settlement of the Kyjatice culture (1 150 - 700 BC) which developed from the previous one. Its tribe site was probably the Silicka ladnica Ice Cave, too. The chasmlike Majda-Hraskova Cave and the Babia diera Cave had a function of ancient shaft graves. A discovery of the masks of cult made from the human skulls and other anthropological finds evidence the offer cult cannibalism with broken and cut bones. The similar finds are from the Kostrova Cave in the Zadielska tiesnava Gorge (on picture). It is a case of finds of great importance. The human relics from the Ludmila Cave, Ardovska Cave, Certova diera Cave, Oblukova Cave, Drienovska Cave and others may have a connection with the existence of the supposed cult region in territory too.

The mouse of the Zadielska tiesnava Gorge (51kB).

The creators of the Kyjatice culture besides the perfect product made of bronze, became well-known for a production of lustre lead ware. They were settled in the open settlement, but they settled almost all horizontal caves as well, what can be related besides the function of wintering with the searching for water. The abysses of this place as not good for settlement preserved the primeval relics. Human or animal remains in it probably only as due to a fall or a wash down but anyway these are an evidence of life in their neighbourhood.
Ancient Age
The lasting of the Kyjatice Culture until the old Iron Age has a proof in the oldest finding of iron objects and crude iron in the Jasovska Cave and the neighbouring Fajka Cave, but the learning of iron proceeded slowly. The evidences about its production come particularly from surface. For example the Vrania skala Rock is a Hallstatt site of fortified settlement. Large fortified site places on the opposite Zadielska plateau. Height of the walls conserved up to present is up 3 m. Area of the fortified site is about 110 hectares. An origin of the site is probability connected with a cross of the important trip lines from Kosice basin to Roznava basin and from Hungary Lowlands to Spis-Gemer Ore Mountains.
Casual appears that was the settlement of the Celts of the Late Iron Age (La Tene, 4th - 1st century BC). La Tene relies were found in the Ludmila Cave, Ardovska Cave, Certova diera Cave, Silicka ladnica Ice Cave, Zihlavova Cave and the Jasovska Cave. The Medvedia Cave, Lipova Cave, Kralovska Cave and Kostrova Cave in the Zadielska tiesnava Gorge along important transit way of West-East were settled by Man of the Neolithic Age, young Bronze Age and Roman Age. The utilization of the caves in the subsequent Roman Age (0 - 4th century AD) is proven by the finding of precious Roman coin of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121 - 80) of the 2nd century AD. Other cave settlements of the period are as well the Fajka Cave of Jasov, Ardovska Cave, the Zihlavova Cave and the Kralovska Cave.

Findings of the following period can be found particularly in the open settlements. In the Zbojnicka Cave (the Forest Robber's Cave) better known for its Neolithic, but in particular young Bronze Age settlement we can sporadically find a jewel of the Belobrdy culture, which in the 10th and 11th century represents the origins of the Slavonic - Old Hungarian symbiosis.

Inscription from 1452 on wall of the cave (66kB).

The existing knowledges on the material culture of the 13th century from the Jasovska Cave, Moldavska Cave and Kralovska Cave do not count out the truth of the legends about their usage in the time of the Tartar inroad, and particularly about the rescue of king Bela IV. after the lost battle at Mohipuszta. A unique is the charcoal inscription (on picture) in top passage of the Jasovska Cave from 1452 about the victory of J. Jiskra in the battle at Lucenec and a finding of an iron lance from 15th century in the Liscia diera Cave, which maybe related with the episodic sojourn of the later Hussite soldiers. Another evidences of the use of the caves are the findings of the Lithuanian coin of Jan Kazimir from 1653 in Kralovska Cave, the chased oriental dagger from the Jasovska Cave, what can have connection with the raid of the Turkish Army, the copper tenpoltura in the Zrnovy previs Overhang what indicates the passage and the hiding place of the Kurucs of F. Rakoci in 17th - 18th centuries. The inscription worth mentioning is in the Silicka ladnica Ice Cave saying about a visit of count A. Revitzky from the first third of the 19th century.

The ruins of the Turna castle shielded entry in the Slovak karst (70kB).

Some caves since autumn 1944 snuggled deserters from the Hungarian army, or became a temporary hideout for the inhabitants during the passing of the front - line.

SLOVAKIA CAVE SERVER prepared by Eduard Kladiva (Old Cave Dog) from Speleoclub CASSOVIA . Please send all comments, notes and corrections on e-mail