There are unsuspected places on Earth, cut off from the rest of the world for thousands of years, or hiding mysteries that are extremely fascinating and of great scientific and cultural interest. Among them are these caves that we’ll tell you about, and the most mesmerizing things they hide.
- Creatures of a lethal world
The Movile Cave located in Romania is unlike any other. This geological cavity was not discovered until 1986. Its interest lies in its long period of isolation, estimated to be around five and a half million years. But thanks to this atmosphere, coupled with the fact that the cave has been plunged into total darkness, scientists have been able to discover a veritable biological gold mine. They were able to identify 48 species, of which 33 exist only in this cave. The cave ecosystem relies above all on chemosynthetic bacteria, unlike other classic ecosystems which derive their energy through photosynthesis.
These invertebrate animals are indeed unique in the world. They have, over the millennia, adapted to the harsh conditions of the cave where the air, devoid of much of the oxygen, is toxic and extremely humid.
Of the creatures documented, most are related to the group of arachnids, neps (or water scorpions), pseudoscorpions, centipedes, leeches and isopods. Most have no visual organs and show no pigmentation. The specimens, on the other hand, have an extremely developed antenna system that allows them to move in the dark.
- Neanderthal constructions at Bruniquel
The Bruniquel cave is located on the slopes of the Aveyron Valley. After a narrow passage the cavity is transformed into a large cavity sheltering an underground lake and large limestone concretions.
In this large room, the speleologist and the scientists observed, in addition to the bear bauges, the presence of curious structures in the shape of circles. Pieces of stalagmites were installed on top of each other to form more or less rounded shapes. These “circles” are made up of 400 sections of stalagmites which show a certain will and continuity in these constructions.
These mounted structures have been dated for over 170,000 years ago, when Homo sapiens had not yet arrived in Europe, and the only hominid species proven to be present here is the Neanderthal who carried out an installation whose purpose escapes us.
- Human sacrifices rituals
The Sculptor’s Cave in Moray, Scotland, is a treasure trove of archaeological findings.
Large amount of human remains have also been discovered – especially those of children – suggesting that the cave may have been a center for funerary rites. Some of the cave’s most important features, however, are the Pictish symbols that can be found on the walls of its entrance passages.
There is evidence to suggest that one juvenile frontal bone was deliberately defleshed, hinting at practices or rituals which involved the curation of human remains (Armit et al. 2011).
The very nature of this site – a cave that was often difficult and dangerous to access – is likely to have made this a highly appropriate location for the undertaking of ritual practices. A dark and frightening place situated between land and sea, the upper world and the underworld, this was a liminal location in which rites of passage – transforming children to adults or the living to the dead – may have taken place.
- A hidden jungle
In Vietnam, in the province of Quang Binh (Center), in the national park of Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng, near the border with Laos, is the cave considered as the largest of our planet. The Mountain Cave, whose real name is Hang Soon Dong was listed in 2009, but it was a local man who discovered the entrance in 1991, without going into it. Its size is estimated at over 9 km long with a ceiling of 240m for 100m wide.
This stunning cave was created 2.5 million years ago by a river carving out the fragile limestone of the mountain, causing its ceiling to collapse. The cave is home to a virgin forest, underground rivers and a waterfall, rock formations including stalagmites and stalactites, and delicate flora and fauna.
- Remains of ancient sorcery
Blå Jungfrun Island is located in the Baltic Sea in south-eastern Sweden. Thanks to its remarkable nature, a Swedish national park was established on the island in 1926.
According to legend, it is on this island that the “witches of the North” gathered in the Middle Ages for the Sabbath. Witches were known to meet in Blå Jungfrun at the time of Maundy Thursday, to perform magical rites with the devil.
A 9,000-year-old ritual site has been recently discovered in the caves.
Among the findingss, an altar shows clear signs of having been shaped with grinding tools. Archaeologists suspect that offerings to deities could have been made here. There is also an area of the cave that resembles a stage, which could be the place where the ceremonies were performed.
They also discovered the remains of a fireplace which they said was seen from above as spectators watched the ceremonies.
- The oldest artwork
The ornate cave of El Castillo is one of the major sites of European prehistory, both archaeologically and artistically. In addition to its unique stratigraphy, it includes thousands of graphemes (graphic units) drawn, painted or engraved, distributed over all of its walls, throughout the network.
The cave hides within its interior an inextricable labyrinth frequented by humans for at least the past 150,000 years. Discovered by H. Alcalde del Río in 1903 and has been the subject of numerous archaeological works, the results of which are scientific references for understanding the development and human behavior during Prehistory in southwestern Europe and not chronology of Upper Paleolithic art.
Fifty rock paintings have been the subject of a dating campaign. These figures in El Castillo cave has been dated to 40,800 years ago, and became the oldest cave art in the world. It is possible that Neanderthals were the author of these artworks.
- A hobbit
In Indonesia, on the small island of Flores, east of Java, the Liang Bua caves have long been of interest to paleontologists. They could never have imagined that under their feet lay tiny beings of the genus Homo having coexisted with Homo sapiens and who still lived 18,000 years ago, with a discovery including a fragment of a jaw and six teeth.
The man of Flores, who would have lived 50,000 years ago, was discovered in September 2003 in the cave of Liang Bua. About one meter in size for 25 kg, they had an unusually small head compared to their body, housing a brain similar in size to that of a chimpanzee, which earned them the nickname of “hobbits”. Since this discovery, scientists have been trying to explain where this strange little being could come from, why it is so small and why it is only found on this island.
- Deepest dark hole
Sensational-seeking explorers can plunge into the bowels of the Earth in the Krubera-Voronja chasm, the deepest natural cavity in the world, in the Arabika massif, one of the largest karst massifs in High Mountain in the Western Caucasus region, Georgia. These mountains contain several hundred caves that began to develop when the mountains began to rise more than 5 million years ago. The cavity is 2,197 meters deep. Since its discovery in 1960, explorers and scientists have attempted to descend deeper into the cave, setting new records each time.
- Horrifying mummies
Close to the town of Kabayan in the Philippines, known for its burial sites which dot the surrounding hills, sleep mummies dating from the 12th to the 15th century. A veritable network of underground cellars was thus dug out in which thousands of mummified bodies are found.
The Ibaloi people buried the dead in the fetal position with their knees bent against the chest. Their method of mummification is quite unique – while a person was still alive, knowing that his death was near, he had to observe a certain diet to cleanse his body. Before his last breath, he was given a very strong saline solution to drink. As soon as the person died, he was put in the fetal position on a chair near a fire in order to drain the fluids and cause him to dry out. To dry out the inside of the body, tobacco smoke was blown into the mouth.
All fluids were collected in special containers, as they were considered sacred. Herbs were then rubbed all over the body until the top layer of the skin was removed. All that was needed was to take the body outside and let it dry in the sun.
The whole process took 6 months to 2 years. When the body was mummified it was placed in small pine wood coffins of typical shape and placed in one of the caves intended for the mummies. These are considered to be the best preserved in the world.
- Two million bats
Since August 2010, the Monfort cave located in Mindanao, southern island of the Philippines, officially holds the record for the largest population of fruit bats. Owned by the Monfort family, it is home to more than 1.8 million Geoffroy’s Roussettes, the typical species of Southeast Asia. For several years, the animals have been monitored and protected by the Monfort Bat Cave & Conservation Foundation, of which Norma Monfort is the founder and president.
Among the fruit bats, scientists observed an albino specimen, a phenomenon quite rare in these animals. The albino fruit bat was named Bianca bella.
- An underground cemetery of giant lemur
Deep below the surface of a water-filled cave in Madagascar, divers and paleontologists have uncovered a boneyard full of extinct giant lemurs.
Hundreds of bones dot the silty bottom of Aven Cave in Tsimanampetsotse National Park. The remains include exotic species such as the extinct elephant bird, a flightless giant similar to an ostrich, but the most numerous bones are from long-lost giant lemurs.
The largest of the extinct lemurs were as big as gorillas. Sometime between 2,000 and 500 years ago, all these giants disappeared, possibly at the hands of humans.
The underwater caves offer an unprecedented look at these lost species, whose preservation is really incredible. How all these animals found their way into Aven Cave is a mystery. The diving and scientific teams have only just begun to catalog what’s on the surface, much less puzzle out how the bone bed was assembled.
- The largest selenite crystals known to man
Discovered in 2000, the giant crystal cave (Cueva De Los Cristales) houses the largest crystals in the world. This cavity is connected to the underground networks of the Naïca mine in the state of Chihuahua in Mexico. A once flooded cavity, it’s located 290 meters below sea level, and contains giant crystals of selenite (or “moonstone”) and gypsum that can reach several tens of meters in length, for around fifty tons for the biggest. The galleries of the Naïca mine plunge up to 760 meters below the surface.
The thermal stability of the cave and the particular chemical composition of the waters, which have endured for thousands of years in the underground cavity, favored the slow and constant precipitation of waters rich in calcium sulphates to form these gigantic gypsum crystals and of selenite.
- The Crystal King
Ohio caverns were accidentally discovered in 1897 by 17-year-old Robert Noffsinger, according to the book, “Ohio Caverns, Ohio’s Outstanding Natural Wonder.”
The Crystal King is the oldest stalactite structure in Ohio. Known for its natural white color, the 200,000 year-old stalactite is nearly 5-feet-long.
- Big spiders
Just when you thought you knew where all the world’s creepy crawlers were located, researchers at the San Diego Natural History Museum — with help from experts in Mexico and Brazil — have discovered a new species of cave-dwelling spider in a small mountain range just outside of La Paz in Baja California Sur.
The Sierra Cacachilas wandering spider was discovered in 2013 and, four years later, published in Zootaxa as a new species on March 2, according to the San Diego Natural History Museum.
- Labyrinth tunnels
Mammoth Cave National Park is located in the state of Kentucky, in the southeastern United States. Known for its network of caves, it is the largest underground complex in the world, with its 600 kilometers of labyrinths buried underground. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its geological and biological riches, which make it a unique region.
Mammoth Cave was authorized as a national park in 1926 and was fully established in 1941. At that time, just 40 miles of passageway had been mapped. As surveying techniques improved, great strides were made in describing and understanding the overwhelming extent of the cave system. Several caves in the park were shown to be connected, and today, the cave system is known to extend well beyond the national park boundary.
- Luminous worms
The Waitomo Glowworm Caves attracts tourist tremendously as it harbors a very unusual insect. The best known of its peculiarities is of course its ability to emit a very clearly discernible light, and at the same time somewhat unreal as it gives the impression of emanating from nowhere.
The local Māori people had known about the caves for about a century before a local Māori, originally from Kawhia, Tane Tinorau, and English surveyors, Laurence Cussen and Fred Mace, were shown the entrance in 1884 and Tane and Fred did extensive explorations in 1887 and 1888. As they began their journey, they came across the Glowworm Grotto and were amazed by the twinkling glow coming from the ceiling. As they traveled further into the cave by poling themselves towards an embankment, they were also astounded by the limestone formations which surrounded them in all shapes and sizes.
- Satanic statues
The notorious Hellfire Caves were constructed by members of a club founded by Sir Francis Dashwood included various politically and socially important 18th-century figures.The club motto was Fais ce que tu voudras (“Do what thou wilt”), and club activities included numerous illicit activities including sex parties, drinking, wenching, and mock rituals according to a summary provided by Ancient Origins.
Meetings occurred twice a month. Many rumours of black magic, satanic rituals and orgies were in circulation during the life of the club.
The notorious Hellfire Caves are known Worldwide for their terrifying paranormal activity and have become synonymous with Poltergeist activity and ghostly apparitions alike. The mystery and intrigue surrounding this elaborate network of caves just adds to its popularity and with a morbid history of murder, Satanic rituals and ceremony.
- Dripping slime
In Cueva de las Sardinas, Tabasco, Mexico, Northup, Boston and their colleagues studied cave-dwelling microbes, and made the astonishing discovery: bacteria are making sort of a biofilm in which they live, says Northup, a microbiologist, librarian and avid caver at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.
Caves provide one of the most constant of environments; the temperature and humidity remain the same. But in some caves, hydrogen sulfide combines with oxygen to produce sulfuric acid. Some bacteria add their own acid as a waste product. To protect themselves, bacteria produce their own microenvironment within the slimy biofilm.
- Salt men
An extraordinary archaeological discovery was made in the Chehr Abad Salt Mine, near the city of Zandjan. The first of the “salt men,” as they are now called in Iran, was discovered by chance in 1993 by miners. His body was brutally extracted from its salt matrix by a bulldozer, which damaged it somewhat. He was in his thirties and had long hair and a large beard. He lived during the Sassanid era, nearly 1,700 years ago. Six other mummies have been discovered afterwards.
Organic bodies immersed in salt can be preserved for a very long time, the proof is made with the archaeological discoveries of the mine of Chehr Abad. But they also decompose as soon as they are no longer there.