Víťazoslav Struhár
(Liptovské múzeum - Ružomberok)

The Lisková Cave - important karst and archeological site - it's the most famous dwelling cave in Liptov. Its expressive, easy visible entry portal, enormous inner space in some halls and good accesibility - probably that were the reasons for its settlement during some prehistorical periods. A question about using this place in prehistorical times was elaborated earlier in literature (Bárta, 1955). Only few archeological sites have so rich history of exploring and long-lasting scientific disputes. Very important source of information is study written by Hungarian geologists L. Lóczy, where lot of valuable informations can be found (Lóczy, 1978). Finding from this period are, unfortunately, impossible to gain.

Disaster of this very popular cave is in her almost permanent devastating by amateur diggings and unprofessional actions of pseudospeleologists. This fact is degrading a possibility of correct expertise of its residential, burial and worshipping function and also caused a problem with correct dating of findings. Only accident and luck helped to save an archeological finding of big importance (Speleologists from OS Chočské vrchy, leading by Štefan Gajdoš, helped us a lot). These speleologists informed Liptovské Múzeum (The Liptov Museum), which undertook steps to save mentioned artifacts. In september 1997, an archeological research took here in very hard conditions and important cognitions were acquired.

Topography of surrounding and cave geomorphology


Liptovská kotlina (The Liptov Basin) is representing typical mountainous region of Northern Slovakia, with high mountains and deep valleys, rough climate and lot of precipitations. Orographically, it is representing megasynclinale, 50 km long with maximum width of 15 km, with river Váh in the middle. The basin is built with sediments of central-carpathian paleogen, on which quarternary sediments are lying. Triassic limestones and dolomites are reaching the surface sometimes (Gross, Köhler, 1980). These are most suitable for creating of karst formations and caves, which are generally called Liptovský kras (The Liptov Karst). The most famous and largest cave systems are in Nízke Tatry (The Low Tatras), the smaller one can be found in Západné Tatry - Červené vrchy (The Western Tatras - The Red Hills) and in Veľká Fatra (The Giant Fatra). Chočské vrchy (The Choč Hills) are representing only marginal zone with little number of karst formations. The Lisková Cave is the most famous system besides some smaller caves in Prosiecka dolina (The Prosiek Valley). This cave is situated southern part of Chočské vrchy (Predný Choč).

Lisková (the cave is situated in its area) belongs to district of Ružomberok. An oblong limeston massif "Mních" ranges from its north-western border toward northern part of Ružomberok. Mních is famous for plenty of numulitic limestones and eocene fossils. And a system of hill-forts of lužická and púchovská culture is also remarkable. The cave is situated in its south-eastern spur, created by isolated limestone plate. Geologically it is created from so-called guttenstein dolomites of mid-triassic age, which are interlard with vertical and horizontal fissures of NW-SE and NE-SW orientation (Janáčik, Šrol, 1965). Development of space is related to attack of allochthonous stream, which came from branch of Váh. This river excavated a complicated system of passages and spacious halls in (at least) four levels, which suit with terraces of Váh (Hochmuth, 1983). A internal decoration is relatively poor and is preserved mostly on higher levels, but sedimentation processes are very active here - a thickness of sediments (especially in lower levels) has few meters on some places. Temperature in underground is stable during full year and reaches 7-8 °C. Total lenght of passages has at least 2200 m, but the cave is located on relatively small pôdorys (120x100 m). A main portal entry in the system of passages is from south, few other entrances leading in upper levels are situated western of the main entry. Typologically, The Lisková Cave is fully developed endokarst, related mostly on absolute limestones from marginal parts of karst areas, formed by rivers (Jakál, 1993).

Site localization and description of finding

A place with plenty of archeological and osteological finding was localized in one of the fissure aisles on level II., related to the largest spaces in cave, especially with Jánošíkova sieň (The Jánošík's Hall). Entrance into this passage starts in hall below so-called "Beťár" where a height difference is more than 2 m from Archeologická sieň (The Archeological Hall) and new discovered space is its vertical continuance in north-western direction. In north-eastern direction is this new passage (with dimensions of 3x2 m approximately and some horizontal fissures) connected with neighbouring Jánošíková sieň, to which is easy access from below "Beťár" through a hole (50x50 cm). Total distance from the main entry to this place is 62 m approximately. A former entrance leading into new discovered space was overwhelmed (probably intentionally) with bigger stones to the height of 20 cm. The fully area was strongly covered with cave sediments to height 40-100 cm from the top. Some fragments from stale top and some fragments of sinters with some human bones were on the surface.

By using successive uncovering of powdery light-brown loam a stony border was discovered in the depth of 30 cm. This border lined a plenty of human bones with dominant four carefully placed skulls - three of them were put facial part downward and one of them upward. Skeletal material was placed also on surrounding stones and even behind them, where it could get because of gravitation and slope of descending terrain (pic. 2). After removing of osteological remnants a fireplace was detected. Due to a plenty of skeletal remnants a new-discovered hall was called "Kostnica" (A place of bones) but later was re-named to "Kostnica II". Reason for this change was a later written report by J. Bárta, in which he named another part of the cave with this name.

Preliminary evaluation

A lot of material, which is still analysed, was taken from the cave during its exploring. A human remnants were the most frequent - represented with skulls and bones. At least 16 humans of various age and sex were found here. A less numerous were some archeozoological findings, locally mixed with human bones. A ceramics was mostly found in the area of stone border and less numerous was near acumulated bones. This ceramics had typical rougher and rawer material with som microscopical particles of minerals, varying from the ceramics of lužická and púchovská culture, which is deposited in Liptovské Museum in Ružomberok, although a thick-walled, well-burned ceramics with gray-black color. Its morfology and typical decoration classed this ceramics to the lengyelská culture. But this material had some elements (decoration, shape of vessels), which are peculiar in lengyelská culture. From metal objects the most important is a little copper spiral, found in a coal layer below the rock and a copper wire.

According to actual knowledge we can interpret this finding as secondary multi-funeral - worshipped object from the eneolit. Non-anatomical arrangement of human bones proves, that anthropological remnants were brought there after specific period, when it came to disarticulation of joint coupling and desintegration of soft tissues (Černý, 1995, 302-303). A circumstantiality, typical for collection of small bones (ossa digitorum manus et pedis) and a careful deposition of bones into area of stony shell without any destruction suggests that it is special type of burying ceremony. This kind of religious expression in Slovak caves is rare at this time, unlike using of another underground rooms. We can mention the cave Dúpna diera close to Slatinka nad Bebravou, where a burying ground with 26 humans was found (The Ludanice group of The Lengyel culture - IV. level).

The latest opinions are going out of the theory, that the caves are habitable only during the rainless periods. Continuing of the optimal climatic period is under consideration, which enabled to use these places for a longer period (Wiederman, 1996, p. 13-14). This could also explain, why more Liptov caves were settled during the middle and young eneolit, often in the inaccessible and distant areas (Bárta, 1997, p. 32-34). In this case founded shards could support the long-period stay of people in The Lisková Cave. But there is also a possibility, that the cave exploiting is specific culture phenomenon, which is independent of the climatic conditions and where the mysterious environment induced the atmosphere enabling the contact with Gods (Matoušek, 1993, p. 13-14).

Still unanswered is the presence of the relic from the Lengyel culture in the Liptov region, because this is culture linked to fertile plain areas on the south-west and it is clear, that this site is eccentric emerging (Pavúk, 1981, 255). A question has arised, what caused the conjunction of the people deeply into the mountain valleys of the Northern Slovakia. Beside mentioned climatic changes it could be caused with the change of the economic structures or the prospection of the metals linked with the accelerated copper metalurgy (Struhár, 1997, 25). The last possibility is suggested by the tracks of the ancient mining, which were founded in the souther part of the Low Tatras and which are dated to the younger Lengyel culture and the tracks of the copper production from Slovenské Pravno in the Turiec Basin - 50 km away from The Lisková Cave - approximately of the same age. (Točík - Bublová, 1985, 85; Nevizánsky - Šalkovský, in print).


The complex speleoarcheological research evaluation is not finished yet. But in this stage we can say, that the achieved informations, are the evidence of the totally unknown period of the ancient settlement in the Liptov region. The most important acquisition is, that the first stratificated founding in authentic stand was found here, in the locality which has been devastating for more than one hundred years. Very important is also the founding of the copper bovid - only one of this type in Slovakia, which is emphasizing the nature of the Lisková Cave and together with the latest foundings enlarges our information about the young eneolite (Bárta, 1993).

Víťazoslav Struhár


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