Víťazoslav Struhár - published in book Lisková 1252-2002

Every village in Slovakia has its own genealogy. Ancestors of current inhabitants lived in these places millions years ago, but history of some has only few centuries. But that's not the point. The important thing for current people is to respect the history of their land, instead of destroying of cultural richness and burgling of national heritage. The most important relics, giving us informations about former living, are hidden underground and their excavation is permitted only by experts. Unproffesional impacts of some adventurers can cause enormous damage and can prevent us from knowing the fate of ancient people or whole cultures.

Masív Liskovskej jaskyne v dobe výskumu L.Lóczyho

Also the cave, situated in the eastern part of hill called Mních (The Monk) will be joined together with Lisková. This cave is an example of such a disrespect. Almost mass activity of speleologists, treasure hunters, or local inhabitants caused problems. The doom of this National natural locality, important paleontologic and archeological site seemed to be inevitable, when a group of cavers stepped in and (maybe for good) interrupted its devastation.

After the cleaning and careful measuring came the time for complex evaluation of the role, which The Lisková Cave played in the prehistoric history of The Liptovská basin. In the short time a plenty of written and physical evidences has been collected and for its careful processing a monography is needed. But in this time, this article should be enough.

In 1736, the first historical reference about The Lisková Cave appeared in book written by Matej Bel - "Historicko-geografické znalosti o novom Uhorsku (Historical-geographical knowledge about the new Hungaria)". In the chapter about Liptov he mentioned a cave near the village of Lisková. According to him this cave was not explored and its passages led up to the depths of Mních. But this was not correct information. Archeological excavations of some middle-age vessels are the evidence, that this place was rarely visited a few centuries ago. Dark and cold underground passages, due to its climate conditions, can be used as perfect storeroom for people living in this area. The oldest writing from the year 1691, is the evidence that someone crawled through the cave and left a signature here. Thanks to another writings we know, that this place was visited also in the 18th century (signature of a man - Šestek (?) from the year 1700 or 1760).

Pôdorysový plán od B.Majláha (1817)

The real scientific interest of The Lisková cave is from the second half of the 19th century but its beginnings were, paradoxically, a little bit unscientific. Underground spaces will always attract an interest of some adventurers and it's no wonder that some Italian treasure-hunter is known. But it's very unlikely he found some treasure, maybe only some prehistorical vessels. The point is, that townsman Karol Krčméry from Ružomberok learned about his activity. He must visited the cave more than once due to his signatures on walls (first time probably in 1844). Then he notified Béla Majláth - enthusiastic historician and amateur archeologist - began to interest in this cave and he also organised an expedition in 1871.

Michal Joob, an attorney, Štefan Mišík, a vicar from Lisková and Július Neudeck, an engineer went in for the small expedition. They made an underground survey and some experimental diggings in some sites. As a result they found some interesting archeological findings and made very first ground-plan of the cave. The most important findings - amongst ceramic debris and bones - surely were some stone tools and fragment of human skull. Thanks to this skull The Lisková Cave was immediately famous in whole Hungaria and abroad either. Majláth - according to the fact that the part of the skull was near tools - assumed that these findings are from the same time - pleistocene. For the short period, the skull from Lisková was the first evidence of paleolitic human in former Hungaria. A lot of experts admitted that this skulls had some ancient lines, but no one dared to say the same assumption as Majláth did. So, an idea of re-exploring the whole site (under the auspieces of some scientific institution) raised again. This happened in 1876 under the auspieces of The Hungarian Society of the Nature Sciences. Lajos Lóczy from National Museum in Budapest was in charge here.

Prierez Archeologíckou chodbou s vyznačenými miestami nálezov

Sixty workers were digging through the cave sediments for ten days. Lóczy focused on detailed geological and topographical fixation of inner halls and passages, as on detailed stratigraphy description of probes. He found a lot of cultural stratums with ceramics, human and animal bones, fireplaces and some small articles, especially in Archeological hall. As a result he wrote a report with the drawings of passage profiles and obtained findings and this report was published (in German) "The Lisková Cave in the hill of Mních - Prehistorical cave dwelling and its remains", issued in Budapest, in 1878. Amongst detailed findings description he analysed human and animal bones in detail.

He focused especially on osteological remains of bear, which were - according to him - different from any known bones of cave bear. Only by using new zoological analyses we know that these remains belongs to arktoid taxon of bear (Ursus Arctos cf. Priscus). Both of the species extincted at the end of pleistocene and were living during the last ice age in the mountain area of Slovakia.

Well known "Skull from Liskova",
which was found in 1817 by B. Majláh

Naturally, he focsued on bone, discovered by Majláth. According to him, this bone got into the lower stratum only accidentally and he did not classified it as paleolitical. He negated Majláth's explorations and the oldest cave settlement dated into the era of neolit, eventually into the bronze age. And although he took off on privilege of The Lisková Cave, one primacy could not be doubted. Those summer day, 15th of august in 1871, took place the first speleoarcheological research in the modern history of caves in former Hungaria.

The cave was not forgotten. Its mysterious underground still attracted a lot of adventurers, scientists or historicians. In more than hundred years, The Lisková Cave got out a lot of its mysteries. First scientific work, referred to prehistorical settlement of this place, was written by Juraj Bárta - Tuka, Slovak archeoologist from Ružomberok.

In his work, published in Geographical magazine, he made a retrieval of older articles and in the epilogue he wrote, that (in this time known) findings and discoveries suggested a possibility of exploiting this place in the era of neolit or eneolit, as in the era of Lužická or Púchovská culture in the late Roman era. Unusual, but a little romantic, was his imagination about the huge ammount of human bones. He considered it to be the remains of inhabitants from the nearby hill-fort on Mních and their canibalic dispositions. He compared it with the settlement in Sásová (near Banská Bystrica) and in The Kroczyce Cave (Poland). Because Scientific archeological research have never taken place, then every descriptions of culture situation in this site remained only among the speculations. But some of the latest discoveries and research could help answering a lot of questions and lightened the importance of The Lisková Cave in prehistorical Slovakia. Especially, thanks to speleologists from Regional Group Ružomberok, The Liptov Museum achieved a lot of new, important artifacts, which helped to complete a jigsaw displaying the the history of cave.

Cult object from eneolit
which was uncovered in 1997

Today, finally, we can judge the stone-age settlement. The precence of human in this era was certified by excavations of B. Majláth. The attention was especially attracted by stone tools and fragments of copper jewellery. This typically occurs in the late stone-age (eneolite). According to all known objects in The Liptov Museum, the existence of older than eneolitic settlement is impossible. The forehead bone, found nearby mammoth's teeth is not likely to belong to paleolitic hunter, which lived in the area of Liptov in paleolite and his stone bones were found near the village of Bešeňová. But this does not decreased the importance of this object.

In 1993, the scientific began to feel an extraordinary importance of this place, when - near entry into known Jánošik Hall - was found a little, metal sculpture of an animal. Evidently, a small sculpture, with length of 46 mm and height of 19 mm is representing the ox or bull (Boss Primigenius), with forward-orientated horns, slight and few deflected torso and with cylinder-like legs.

Its head is figured with some conical jag, abdominal part has a hole of wide of 5 mm. After first examination was known, that this hole was used for joining of two similar bulls into the tandem, which remains are represented by the conical jag, coming out from the animal head. We know - according to some comparable findings from the Middle East - these kind of sculptures were a part of miniature models, which pulled four-wheeled, probably funeral carriage. The origin of these artifacts is lying in the area of Anatolia. Those animals, buried with drovers, were found in royal crypt and were pulling the carriage with dead king. The origin of this sculpture can be assumed, its age is not so clear, becuase it was found as an single object, without any other findings. Juraj Bárta made a research short time after the discovery, but he found no more surprises. It was necessary to wait few years in order to find another secrets of The Lisková Cave.

Only thanks to unbelievable lucky circumstances was possible to find an unique object, only few meters from there. In 1997, in one of the lateral passages, speleologist Štefan Sališ found a human skull and some fragments of ceramic vessels, which he transfered in the museum. Emergency research was quickly organized in order to protect another archeological findings. The results surprised whole archeological community. There was a lot of human bones - possibly from every part of th body - found in the stony fireplace surrounding. Skeleton fragments were located very carefully and the biggest attention was given to some skulls, which were squeezed together between some stones. After bones were removed, an coal layer was uncovered and the most important finding was found - so-called "záušnica", worn by the prehistorical woman at the and of 4th millenium B.C. (approximately the same era, when famous ice-man "Oetzi" - found in alpine glacier - lived). It was small copper spiral-like jewellery, used as a hair decoration. Most of known spiral-like decorations of this kind was made in middledanube-eastern-alps area and in Slovakia had been never found before.

Cult copper plastic of little bull
(4000 years b.c.)

Described object was not the only surprise here. The same surprising was finding of some ceramical fragments found nearby cult object. Fragments of typical vessels with button- and breast-like jags was the clear evidence, that there was found a first settlement of lengyel culture in Liptov - one amongst few in Northern Slovakia. These people lived especially in central part of south-western Slovakia and in neighbouring regions of Hungary and Austria; they visited north regions rarely and only in its younger level - so called Ludanice group. The reason was searching for some metal deposits as a result of rapidly developing ferrous metalurgy (copper) in the end of stone age. Most important sources were deposits of copper, malachite or azurite. By using this material a small metal objects from The Lisková Cave were made. We consider, that these artifacts were made from copper obtained in The Low Tatras.

Prospectors needed to came here with their family, presumably and they lived here for longer period. They raised a corn (remains of wheat were found), which was their main food supply. It is very likely they used a richness of forests and fished in the river Váh - small copper barb was found near little stone wall. Using of bow and arrow is proven by fragment of human jowl with sticked silicide barb - achieved during the first research of L. Lóczy - and only recently founded jaspise barb with indentation.

People needed to live in cave (or in its surroundings) at least for some ten decades and some of them died there. Their bone remnants have been removed into the cave, which was used as a crypt - the dome of deads. The apse - later filled with bones - was burned out firstly and into the heat ash a bones were stored. It is very likely that some ceramic artifacts were stored after the apse closing.

Mass grave from late stone/age
uncovered in 1997

We know - due to antropological analysis - a remains at least 16 humans were buried here, but to identify its sex is wery difficult, because its incompleteness. Adults died mostly between 20 and 40 year of life, only two of them could have 50 years and only one was older than 50. Only 6 of them were juvenile. An important was a discovery of some healed and unhealed vertebra-, ribs- and limb- fractures and finding of some intended cuts in one of the thigh-bones.

This unique discovery of worship object - which is rarely in Slovakia - helped to determine an age of the sculpture of bull approximately into same era. Uniqueness of this finding is in more things. The sculpture is the eldest metal object representing animal in Slovakia, and this is indicating that inhabitants of Slovakia knew yoke and (most likely) also four-wheeled carriage at the beginning of the third millenium B.C. But this is not all! Such old evidence of using animal-power for pulling is rare in whole Central Europe! Fact, that so important discovery was found in region with small residential density, is indicating that an important route to Poland led through this area. Using this route could get there two very similar of copper bulls, which were found near village Bytyň and with bovid from Lisková are an unique witnesses of high developed aesthetic feeling of these stone-age people.

But very valuable discoveries from eneolite are not everything. At the edge of the bronze-age the well visible portal attracted our ancestors. Very important is the fact, that from this site we have the eldest evidence of the late stone-age human in Liptov. According to fact, that caves were used to be only temporary settlements, we assume, that old bronze-age findings from this site are relating to any kind of worshipping. A treasure consisting from tens of bronze decorations (záušnica) of so called sibin type - which was found near human skeleton - could be an part of skeleton grave, as we know it from other burying grounds of the otoman culture, which existed in eastern part of Slovakia during the same period.

Historical bullwark
on hill "Mních" (The Monk)

Former - more or less episodical - settlement of Liptov in stone-age and older bronze-age resulted in constant and continual settlement of The Liptov Basin far to luzicka culture period. People of this culture colonised Slovakia in the half of the second millenium B.C. Burning of dead was typical for them. Burned human remnants were buried in earthen wessels with their personal things together and this resulted into creating of huge burying grounds. Graves of this type were found in Bešeňová, where a little settlement is likely to existed and burying-ground was also in Liptovský Michal with assumed settlement on the top of little mound above today's church. Very important discovery was partly revleation of middle bronze-age settlement unit in Liptovská Teplá - Madočany, which belongs to the oldest settlements of luzicka culture in Slovakia.

Very important in lužice settlement were fortified mountain, which was settled in late bronze-age. These places had also economical and administration importance besides the defense one and often had been bounded by large fortifications. Two important hill-forts were near Lisková in this time. The first one was only few kilometers far from Turík, in site called "Hradištia (Hill-forts)" today. Its area was larger than 3 ha, divided in two and fortified with double stonewall. Not less important was the second hill-fort, which consisted of four interconnected hill-forts, which were built on the top of Mních - an elongated hill situated between Ružomberok, Lisková and Likavka. With its dominant location attracted an interest in the last century and was mentioned by then scientists (Neudeck, Mihálik, Lóczy). A Knight-templar monastery is believed to stay here, but modern archeological and historical research displaced these arguments.

The hill-fort acropolis was bordered by set of few ramparts, which were measured by Vladimír Uhlár in 50s of the 20th century. This fortification is likely to built in late bronze-age, when it (maybe) performed a central role in Liptov. An importance of its position is documented by two bronze sword depots (liptov type), found in nearby Martinček. The first one was found 1890 and report was published by Mikuláš Kubínyi. The second one was found by Michal Mračko during the tillages in years 1912-1999 and consisted of 15 swords with typical engraved hilt.

Reconstructed ceramics
from The Liskova cave (1, 3-5)

Using of Mnich - as an advantageous and strategic site above the river Váh - continued in next period, too. Lužická culture continuously resulted in elder iron-halstatt era in this period. Special type of this culture created in basins of Northern Slovakia, which is according to most important archeological sites named "oravský typ". Lowland open settlements were founded besides the uphill settlement. V. Uhlár discovered in the Mních area a couple of settlements from halstatt-age (but we still don't know any grave from this area, although burying-grounds needed to be there). The 8 m long settlement with two lower objects and bottom rubbed with burned clay was found directly below the stone-pit in Lipá, near route to Ružomberok. A part of settlement was founded below the stone cliff nearby Martinček (Mních III) and some shatters and three knoll-like thread weights were found here. Very important discovery was metal knife in Mních II, which belongs to the oldest metal objects found in Liptov.

High economic and artistic level of this culture group - reflected in the richness and variability of grave articles - on one side, and menacing of unknown foreign ethnic groups on the other side. The restlessness of this period is well imaged by large set of uphill settlements in rather mountainious sites of Nízke Tatry (The Low Tatras) and Chočské vrchy (The Choč Hills). Uphill settlements were used only temporary when the danger was high in the late iron-age, what is in contrast with uphill settlements from the bronze-age. There is a couple of these settlements, which guarded entry to The Liptov basin from the west. An obscure settlement with terrace-like designed area was discovered on Sidorovo above Vlkolínec. One of the highest located hill-forts is situated on Predný Choč (1209 m) and is limited by the stone-made rampart (approximately length: 270 m). In the interior area were found fragments of halstatt vessels and coaled grains of pea and wheat. Mountanian hill-fort of oravský type with rich engraved decoration existed only few kilometers to west. This hill-fort was destroyed by strong fire, which probably caused its destruction.

But also some lower situated hill-forts existed besides these extremely situated ones. The fortification in Konislav, on the right side of the Jamník valley, belonged to them together with hill-forts on Mních. An ramparts - with limestone wall with height of 120 cm and protected by double-size mound - was discovered there. But the most of information were brought by researching of hill-fort lying 3 km far from Mních, in the area called Stráňa, near Ludrová. Remnants of stone-made retain-walls belonging to wooden houses.

Re-using of The Lisková Cave come within the same period and this is related with settlement on Mních and in neighbouring settlements. Some ceramical fragments with typical engraved decoration and fragment of a bronze axe remained from the era of halstatt people. But the most important finding is a non-complete part of barrel-like pot with vertical and horizontal engraved decoration and series of sticks on its perimeter. The decoration on the ceramic is of the same type asi on fragments from stone-pit Lipa (Mních IV). Two iron snaffles with lateral circles and lot of burned shards were found in destructive layer, which was marked by fire.

Human skulls bulit in stone casing of cult object

A violent destruction of some upper-hill hill-forts was a beginning of a new historical era in the later iron age which was represented by creation of the Latene culture. Its creators were historical Celts, which intruded mountains in northern Slovakia in 4th or 3rd century B.C. They collided here with former lužice population and cooperated on creation of the Púchov culture, which is probably the most spread culture according to a number of archeological sites. The net of settlements was densifying, upper-hills centres were replaced with smaller fortified fortresses, mostly situated in valley entries - e.g. the settlement below the castle of Likavka, where also the older fortification was situated (some celtic coins of Veľký Bysterec type were found there). The same situation was in Ludrová, where a few settlements existed below the hill of Pansová. Also the settlement near Turík is of the same type. A strategic location on Lipa was exploited in the era of the Púchov culture, while the settlement was situated in front of The Lisková Cave. In 1951, V. Uhlár uncovered a multi-layer settlement from the hallstatt era. The majority of findings are dated to later - Roman - era of the Púchov culture. Some pots, thin-sided wessels and some burned daub were found there, but the surprise was a finding of two iron barbs and two needles. A two-part millstone and abrasive stone from the layer II. are the evidence of ceral working.

Some scarce fragments of wessels with plastic semi-arch and some protrusions are the evidence that the people of the Púchov culture knew the cave, which was situated right above their settlement and they visited it from time to time.

At the end of 2nd century, after the extinction of The Púchov culture - which was related to the markoman's war - left Liptov and almost complete area of Northern Slovakia uninhabited. Next stage of settlement began in the end of 4th or in the beginning of 5th century, when groups of Germanic tribes invaded this area. Some uphill areas (Turík, Liptovská Mara, Lazisko, Liptovský Ján) were re-colonised. A settlement, which was dated to late Roman area was situated close to Liptovská Teplá, near the travertine spring.

Ritual ceramics

At the end of 2nd century, after the extinction of The Púchov culture - which was related to the markoman's war - left Liptov and almost complete area of Northern Slovakia uninhabited. Next stage of settlement began in the end of 4th or in the beginning of 5th century, when groups of Germanic tribes invaded this area. Some uphill areas (Turík, Liptovská Mara, Lazisko, Liptovský Ján) were re-colonised. A settlement, which was dated to late Roman area was situated close to Liptovská Teplá, near the travertine spring.

Layers marked with intensive fire were found in some hill-forts and suggests, that inhabitants faced a massive and violent attack, probably of other Germanic tribes. Scared to death they often refuged to caves. This activity is documentaried in "Okno" in Demänová, "Vyvieračka" in The Prosiek Valley or in "The Bat Cave" in Sásová. The Lisková Cave was not omitted, too. Some shards from massive vessels with typical wavy lines and even complete top from big vessel (now stored in The Speleology Museum in Liptovský Mikuláš) were found in some passages. A burying ground, found in 1939 at the bottom of entry space, is probably related to this layer. Vojtech Budinský-Krička - an archaeologist - acquired two human skulls, which he gived in to The Liptovské Museum. Every record found in The Lisková Cave is a conclusive proof, that this place was sought after and used during seven milleniums at least. Some of them sought an asylum only or good conditions for food storage. For some of them was this natural creation an entry gate to the mysterious world of dead. We can only suspect how they behaved. According to a matter-of-fact oppinion, at least tens of humans finished their lifes (some of them probably violently). We can say - flat and plain - that The Lisková Cave is one of the most important archeological site in Slovakia and is still hiding a lot of secrets. The Lisková Cave can be compared to well-known cave "Býčí skála" in Czech Republic, where an unique worshipped place was uncovered with some human victims. Both, The Lisková Cave and Býčí skála have a statue of bull in common. The Czech one was made from iron, but is also rare and brought from Egypt. Maybe this animal played some role in mysterious formulary ceremonies, which took place in the underground world of zigzag passages and large halls made by massive power of nature.

PhDr. Víťazoslav Struhár


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