Víťazoslav Struhár
(Liptovské múzeum - Ružomberok)

It is supposed, that Matej Bell (1684-1753) firstly noticed the Lisková Cave(1684-1753). He was an important Hungarian polyhistor and tireless promoter of natural attractions in Slovakia. He mentioned this cave in his most important book „Notitia Hungariae Novae Historico Geographica“. There he recapitulated a plenty of knowledge about the landscape and geography of former Hungaria. Second volume of the first part (issued in 1736) is most important for us. He described a lot of hills, mountain-ranges, rivers and another natural attractions and mentioned a cave in the hill called Mních, near Lisková. According to M. Bell was the cave unexplored at this time. He described it (on page 579): "Lisková (Liszkófalva - in Hungarian), lying at the bottom of Mních, near the river Váh, belonging to Lisková, in natural position a cave can be seen here, but its passages are still unexplored and leads far under Mních. It looks like a church and as if it represents sanctuary."

After this book the cave was forgotten for more then hundred years. Citizens of Lisková and Ružomberok still knew the cave and from time-to-time someone entered the aisles of cave, maybe hoping for some treasures. One of these men was an Italian Carlo Passini, who visited the cave few times in 40's of the 19th century and probably made its first description and maybe a plan. Karol Krczméry (1826-1902), mayor from Ružomberok, noticed the cave from Passini's manuscript. In 1844, Krczméry visited the cave, but he entered only its entrance. Later he informed Béla Majláth (1831-1900) and both of them entered the cave - it was 15th of August, 1871 - together with Július Neudeck, Michal Joob and Štefan Mišík.

Béla Majláth, a leader of this little expedition, was not any adventurer. He came from yeomanry clan in Ondrašová and belonged to the most educated man in then Liptov community. He spoke French, English, German, Italian besides Slavonic languages and interested in history and archeology. As a member of many Hungarian scientific societies he cooperated with many experts from these times. When he visited the cave, he had succesfully ended archeological researchs in Uhorská Ves and in Liptovská Ondrašová. Belo Polla, who elaborated the history of a archeology in Slovakia, classed him between the most important persons of Hungarian science.

The cave strongly impressed Majláth, who had a lot of experience with field ground researches. Lately, he wrote: "Amazing and terrible power of destruction is surprising, and here, by the lights of torches, almost ghostly in this neverending labyrinth. The torch-light is reflecting from wet and stalactite-covered walls. Here, a buzzing of falling drops can be heard in this half-gloom, where only darkness is hidden in unexplored aisles. There are many mounds of stone, which are blocking the hall as to its edge. Green-like color of stony blocks is covered by shimmering layer of sleek limestone."

He was leading a detailed dairy during the research, where he wrote dimensions and shapes of the aisles, their geological features and also localisation and description of sites with archeological findings. The fact, he did as an expert is proven by measuring of thickness and sequence of soil layers. This proceeding, also called as a stratigraphic method, is often used in present field archeology. Using this method a relative age of layers can be detected and is derived from an assumption, that the most lower layer is older, as layers situated above. Majláth realised correctly, that relatively big depth, in which findings were lying, is the evidence of its very old age. He ordered to dig through a cave sediments and always described its profile. He wrote, that a depth of one digging was of 8 feet (cca. 2,5 m) and got over four layers. A layer of humus was on the top, and a travertine (probably some sinters) below. The third level was from river pleistocene boulders and the lower layer is created from yellow gravel-like sand with archeological findings.

Besides archeological research, proper care was dedicated to a measuring of cave space, which resulted in the first known plan of The Lisková Cave. Its author was - pressumably - Július Neudeck, an engineer. Besides his work on Košice-Bohumín track he interested in prehistorical archeological sites and he even realized his own archeological research in Podtureň. But, mostly, he was engaged in hill-forts along the river Váh, and he wrote a book (consisted of two volumes) about this theme. He is considered for a pioneer of geodetical measuring of sites in Slovakia, because of a field plans published in this book.

Although the first research of The Lisková Cave took only one day, it provided a lot of cognitions, which became a subject of passionate stientific disputes later, and excited a scientific society. Its importance is in fact, that this was the first speleoarcheological research ever realized in former Hungaria. Bélo Majláth was written in history of modern scientific research of the caves. He elaborated onclusions and results of the research, published in special magazine Archaeologiai Közlemények (Archeological studies), where he outlined some problems related to evolution of human culture. His interpretations - influenced by then scientific cognitions - caused a huge excitement in scientific circles. The interest was attached by finding of the human forehead bone, similar to skulls of human ancestors known in these times: "This bone is conferring a wild look of this forehead bone. The eye-hole axis is very striking - according to it the forehead had to lead to the back side diagonally. In my humble oppinion, an owner of this bone belonged to the troglodital race of mikrocephals (cave people with the small skull - V.S.) and was on more primitive culture level as Neandhertals were." Majláth got a fragement of jaw with some teeth together with this skull, but this was a mistake.

The importance of this finding was fact, that it was found near molars of mammoth and - allegedly - splitted stone tools. This fact led into a cognition, that some human remnants from the paleolit were found in The Lisková Cave. In this time, it was courageous statement, because no skeletal remnants of such an old human were found in Hungaria until then. Controversy about genuinenes of the skull and other findings caused need of a new research, made by an educated expert. This research was planned by Hungarian Geological Society, but due to financial problems was never realized. The Lisková Cave was also mentioned in Vienna. In this time, Dionýz Štúr - a prominent Slovak geologist, who closely mapped geology of The High and Low Tatras - worked in Imperial Geological Institute in Vienna. Ján Kadavý, Czech teacher and music composer working in Liptov, sent him a letter, in which he described a cave near Mních, where a lot of animal bones are being occured.

A repeated research of The Lisková Cave began in 1876 under the auspicies of Hungarian Nature-historical Society. A prominent geologist Lajos Lóczy (1849-1920) - despite of his young age - was in charge here. His research took more time as the research before. In august of 1876, he stayed in the cave for ten days and employed 60 workers. Because of his careful record we can reliable identify his diggings and some of his probes are still visible. He focused only on back parts of cave. He found some cultural layers with plenty of human and animal bones and some ceramic fragments and carbons in some parts of Jánošíkova sieň (Jánošík's Hall). Depth of probe was of 2,2 m in neighbouring hall, leading upwards from ladder to first crossroad. He found a lot of findings there: human bones (he stated at least 17 humans) mixed with ash together, animal bones and ceramic fragments. This places was later called Archeologická sieň (The Archeology Hall). Entrance was also rich of findings. Some pieces of copper wire and one copper spiral were found at the first crossroad.

Lóczy tried to probe in further parts of the cave, but as he said, his efforts did not produce expected result. More luck he had by exploring one of the upper entries, where human remnants and vessel fragments lied on sediment surface.

The second research of The Lisková Cave produced many remarkable informations about this - surely important - site. Lóczy considered an existence of paleolithical settlement unlikely. This was the main difference between Lóczy and Majláth. He thought, that mentioned skull got into lower layers only accidentally and it can be dated to neolit, together with other findings. Although he refuted Majláth's assumptions, discussions about dating of this settlement did not lose its intensity. In next decades the site attracted a lot of researchers - cavers, geologists, archelogists and other. But The Lisková Cave has still a lot of secrets.

Víťazoslav Struhár


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