Environment Prehistory

The Koblarska cave (Koblarska jama) and the Black cave (Črna jama)

You should visit some when it’s raining. Or snowing. That is, if you want to witness the majestic interplay of water seeping through the floor and falling to the basin, from which it splashes in thousand little droplets … Or otherwise you also won’t be able to see a true underground “waterfall”. But that is just one scenic view. 

With most of the others, the weather does not play an important role. The temperature inside them is always between 8 and 10 degrees Celsius and since the ceiling is water-proof, it doesn’t matter when you decide to explore them. These small hidden gems that are strewn across the entire Kočevska region, that is. Now they give shelter to animals, while in times of yore they also provided shelter to people. The karst floor in the Kočevska region is reminiscent of Emmentaler cheese or a sponge-like structure. 

Currently, there are 12,589 caves registered in Slovenia, but according to the online cave database additional 300 are discovered each year.

Caves of the Kočevska region, excerpt from the eKataster of caves
Caves of the Kočevska region, excerpt from the eKataster of caves.

The speleologists recorded the Koblarska cave, known also as the Long cave (cat. No. 949), in 1927, while the first cave sketch was drawn by M. Bukovec two years later. The cave was (re-)discovered in the 19thcentury when K. Moser dug out bones of eight individuals. After him, many people have explored it, and in 1995 a systematic research was conducted by the following four individuals: Pavel Jamnik. Petra Leben-Seljak, Janez Bizjak and Brane Horvat. We can say it was re-discovered since remains of bones of 13 persons and a heap of shards of crockery, whose origin dates back to the Bronze Age, were found in it. According to the author of the article that was published seventeen years ago in the Archaeology Journal, the Koblarska jama cave that branches out in four sections, was a prehistoric cult place and a burial ground. That is, a place discovered by the people already in the times of the Neolithic, if not sooner. They buried their dead in rocky niches. According to the authors, man chose it as a burial ground exactly for its niches that could evoke the notions of the return to Mother Earth.

The Koblarska cave – a dripstone pillar; photo: Petra Šolar
The Koblarska cave – a dripstone pillar; photo: Petra Šolar.

According to ancient people’s belief, the caves and their entrances were symbolically reminiscent of the womb, the vulva. The cave that is located near a forest road and therefore easily accessible is not classified among the longest, neither among the deepest, but – in right weather – it certainly is among the most beautiful. It is distinguished by dripstone pillars, the above-mentioned interplay of water and the floor offering a magnificent show when the lighting is right.

The Koblarska cave – the interplay of water and light; photo: Petra Šolar.
The Koblarska cave – the interplay of water and light; photo: Petra Šolar.

Not far away from the Koblarska jama cave lies the Black cave (cat. No. 2934). It is one of six Slovenian caves bearing this name. A vast, mostly horizontal cave, whose entrance is secured with an iron grate conceals black stalagmites, stalactites and pillars. Unfortunately, many of them are covered with inscriptions or broken. The recognisable colour stretches all the way until the end of the 258-metre long “tunnel”. Towards the end of the 19thcentury, inscriptions were found on the walls, and that is why they assume that it served as a shelter for people.

Entrance to the Black Cave, photo: Petra Šolar.
Entrance to the Black Cave, photo: Petra Šolar.

The geologists attempted to prove the source of the dark layers using different methods, i.e. by researching lumps of calcareous sinter, insoluble remains and polished grindings. The analysis has shown that the sample from the Black cave near Kočevje contains organic matter. However, black layers are most likely the consequence of cave visits, perhaps already from prehistoric times onwards. Otherwise, the geologists don’t rule out the possibility of forest fires, charcoal burning activity in the vicinity, humic materials from the ground, activity of the micro-organisms and/or air pollution that can under certain climatic conditions penetrate far into the interior of the cave.

Marking on the rock in front of the entrance to the Black Cave; photo: Petra Šolar.
Marking on the rock in front of the entrance to the Black Cave; photo: Petra Šolar.

The exploration of caves requires appropriate footwear, a torch and company. However, the Underground Cave Protection Act stipulates that the caves must be protected and that we should not damage them (i.e. never break dripstones or leave inscriptions on them), and should preserve the cave living world and therefore handle them in such a way that the cave and the cave world are in no way compromised. 

Black Cave – the interior; photo: Petra Šolar.
 Black Cave – the interior; photo: Petra Šolar.

Sources:
– Jamnik. P, Leben-Seljak P., Bizjak J., Horvat B: The Koblarska jama cave in the Kočevska region – a prehistoric burial ground and cult place, anthropological analysis of skeletal remains with an adjoining description of burial gifts; Archaeological Journal (Arh. vest.) 53, 2002, pp. 31-49
4. Slovenski geološki kongres, Ankaran, 8.-10. oktober 2014.

More interesting facts about Kočevska (Gottschee) region in our other posts i.e.: https://www.kocevskibrlog.com/kocevje-little-bombs/

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