Ten Amazing Caves of the Ancient World
Caves play an important role in the story of humanity. In addition to providing shelter for our earliest ancestors, caves were also often considered to be mystical and magical realms. For some cultures, caves are the gateways to the underworld, while others believed that supernatural beings dwelled in these subterranean areas. Here we look at ten incredible caves or cave systems of the ancient world, from 70,000-year-old shelters for prehistoric humans to 18 th century meeting places for black magic and sordid rituals.
Devetashka cave is an enormous cave in Bulgaria, which has provided shelter for groups of humans since the late Paleolithic era, and continuously for tens of thousands of years since then. Now abandoned by humans, it remains a site of national and international significance and is home to some 30,000 bats.
Devetashka cave, which is known as Devetàshka peshterà in Bulgaria, is located roughly 18 kilometres north of Lovech, near the village of Devetaki. Beautiful stalactites and stalagmites, rivulets, majestic natural domes and arches can be found within the enormous cave and one can see why various human populations would have chosen Devetashka as their home.
The earliest traces of human presence date back to the middle of the Early Stone Age around 70,000 years ago. The Devetashka cave also contained one of the richest sources of cultural artifacts from the Neolithic (6th millennium - 4th millennium BC).
Dunmore (meaning ‘great fort’ in Irish) Cave is a limestone cave located about 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) to the north of Kilkenny City, near Castlecomer. Within the cave, there is around 300 meters (99 feet) of known passages and caverns.
Dunmore Cave was at one point of time within the territory of the ancient Irish kingdom of Ossory, which was situated between the Viking strongholds of Dublin, Waterford and Limerick. The rivalry of the different Viking clans in Ireland provided one of the most chilling episodes in the history of Dunmore Cave.
According to the Annals of the Four Masters, around A.D. 928, the Vikings of Dublin were marching to attack their rivals in Waterford. On their way to their enemy’s place, it is said they raided and pillaged the surrounding countryside. When they arrived at Dunmore Cave, they found a large number of women and children hiding in it. Allegedly hoping to capture them alive so that they could then be sold as slaves, the Vikings devised a plan to drive them out of the cave. They lit large fires at the mouth of the cave in order to force them out of their hiding. The fires grew too large and consumed the oxygen in the cave, resulting in the suffocation of the refugees. It is recorded that a thousand people died in this manner.
In 1973, the bones of 44 people, mainly belonging to women, children and the elderly, were found in Dunmore Cave, thus giving some credence to the annals. Yet, whether there were as many as a thousand victims, or perhaps less, is another question.
The mysterious man-made caves in Belgium burrow thousands of feet into the soft rock south of Brussels. The grottoes of Folx-les-Caves are located in the municipality of Orp-Jauche in the province of Walloon Brabant. In the distant past, the grottoes were used as mines. One of the rocks found there was tuff, a type of soft volcanic rock which is rich in calcium carbonate. It is unclear when humans first mined the grottoes. Some have speculated that they were in use since Neolithic times, i.e. around 2600 B.C., and that aurochs horns were used as mining tools.
The mines are a labyrinth of about 60,000 square meters (approximately 650,000 square feet) as a result of centuries of mining. This made it a perfect hiding place for refugees seeking to escape those who occupied Belgium over the centuries. It has been suggested that the mines have been used by refugees as early as the Roman period all the way to the Second World War.
The most famous tale relating to the grottoes of Folx-les-Caves is that of Pierre Colon, who lived some time during the 18th century. Colon was a thief dubbed the ‘Belgian Robin Hood’, as he, like his English counterpart, stole from the rich and gave to the poor. Colon was said to rob rich merchants passing through a forest nearby, and his hideout was the grottoes of Folx-les-Caves. Eventually, the law caught up with the benevolent thief, and he was hanged to death on the spot where he committed his crimes.