Archaeological and natural reservation Jaskinia Raj (The Paradise Cave), Chęciny
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

Archaeological and natural reservation Jaskinia Raj (The Paradise Cave)

Chęciny

photo

Jaskinia Raj is one of the most beautiful caves in Poland, enchanting with richness and diversity of calcite dripstones, and one of the most important Palaeolithic sites in the region of Świętokrzyskie. Neanderthal encampments evidence contacts of this population with areas located south from Poland.

Location and description

Jaskinia Raj is located approximately 10 km to the south-west from Kielce, on the slope of the hill Malik, which belongs to Bolechowicki range of Wzgórza Chęcińskie laying between Bobrza and Gałęzice. Archaeological finds were grouped in the section close to the opening and the south-western part of the Primary Chamber, which suggests that these sections of the cave were inhabited.

History

Ca. 70-60 thousand years ago, the cave was two times an encampment of Neanderthals whose cultural traditions were connected with influences from the southern areas (basin of the central section of the river Danube, and Hungary in particular). It was rediscovered by local inhabitants: Józef Kopeć and Feliks Wawrzeńczyk, in 1963. In 1964, teacher Mirosława Boczarowa and students: Bogusław Bałdun, Zbigniew Bochajewski, Włodzimierz Łucki and Wojciech Pucek of the Vocational School of Geology in Cracow entered the cave, named it, and informed Ryszard Gradziński from the Speleological Section of the Polish Scientific Society about the discovery. In October, they jointly prepared the first photo documentation and a plan. They notified of the discovery the National Council for Environmental Protection and the Voivodeship Environment Protection Authority. In 1965, geological surveys and documentation works were commenced, and the cave was covered with scientific supervision (Zbigniew Rubinowski and Tymoteusz Wróblewsk). 8-05-1967 "Raj" was registered as an archeological site, and on 5-10-1968, a natural reservation was created here. At the initiative of Stefan Kozłowski, works aimed at rendering the structure available to tourists and the related scientific research were started, and lasted from 1967 to 1972. An official opening was held on 9-06-1972.

Condition and results of archaeological research

Examinations were carried out from 1967 to 1969 under the supervision of Janusz Krzysztof Kozłowski and Małgorzata Kaczanowska. 345 artefacts were found in total in the older encampment, including 65 tools, and in the younger one — 288 items, including 62 tools, made of a couple types of flint material, originating mainly from the local glacial formations, probably collected in direct vicinity of the cave. Also stone tools and numerous animal bones (of a horse, reindeer, rhino, and wolf) were discovered at the level of the older encampment, and bones of a mammoth, muskox, grouse, and Arctic fox — at the level of the younger one, which partially resulted from the alternate inhabitation of the cave by humans and animals. An important discovery, revealing much information about the culture of Neanderthals, were entanglements made of reindeer antlers, protecting against wild animals, as well as traces of haematite, a natural dye, ground into a powder with the use of stone grinders and probably used for body painting for magical purposes.

The historical structure is accessible upon prior reservation by telephone. A tourist route of 180 m may be used, and there is also a stand with museum exhibition, presenting flint tools, remnants of prehistoric animals, and reconstruction of a Neanderthal encampment, and in the Neanderthal Centre, a life-sized mammoth replica, multimedia presentations, replicas and a 3D hologram of sculls, and scenes of hunting and everyday life of a Neanderthal (jaskiniaraj.pl).

Compiled by Nina Glińska, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland Kielce, 07.10.2014.

Bibliography

  • Studies on Raj Cave near Kielce (Poland) and its Deposits [in:] Folia Quaternaria 41, Kraków 1972.
  • Kozłowski J.K, Stanowisko paleolityczne w Jaskini Raj., „Z otchłani wieków” 1969, vol. 35, fasc. 1, pp. 3-8.
  • Madurowicz E. (ed.) Badania i udostępnienie jaskini Raj, Warszawa 1974.

General information

  • Type: Cave
  • Chronology: paleolit środkowy (70 - 60 tys. lat temu)
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Dobrzączka , Chęciny
  • Location: Voivodeship świętokrzyskie, district kielecki, commune Chęciny - miasto
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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