One cave regarded as holy in Malaysia is the Batu Caves. This holy cave is a limestone hill, which has a series of caves and cave temples, located in Kuala Lumpur- the capital of Malaysia. The cave is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India, dedicated to god Murugan. It is the focal point of the annual Thaipusam festival in Malaysia and attracts over more than 1.5 million pilgrims, making it one of the largest gatherings in History.
The picture above is the enclosure of the Cave of the Patriarchs. The Cave of the Patriarchs is considered holy for the Jews, Christians and Muslims. It is a series of subterranean caves located in a complex called by Muslims the Ibrahimi Mosque or Sanctuary of Abraham. The name is either a reference to the layout of the burial chamber, or alternatively refers to the biblical couples, i.e.: cave of the tombs of couples. The compound is located in the ancient city of Hebron. The 3 religious groups maintain the same traditions that the site is the burial place of four Biblical couples: (1) Adam and Eve; (2) Abraham and Sarah; (3) Isaac and Rebekah; (4) Jacob and Leah. According to Midrashic sources the Cave of the Patriarchs also contains the head of Esau and according to some Islamic sources it is also the tomb of Joseph.
Amarnath Caves are one of the most famous shrines in Hinduism, dedicated to the god Shiva. The caves are located in the Jammu and Kashmir. The shrine is claimed to be over 5,000 years old and forms an important part of ancient Hindu mythology. Inside the main Amarnath cave lays an ice stalagmite resembling the Shiva Linga, which waxes during May to August and gradually wanes thereafter. This lingam is said to grow and shrink with the phases of the moon, reaching its height during the summer festival. According to Hindu mythology, this is the cave where Shiva explained the secret of life and eternity to his divine consort Parvati. There are two other ice formations representing Parvati and Ganesha, Shiva’s son.
For Buddhists, the Holy Cave of Matale is the most holy of all the caves in the whole island of Sri Lanka. Two thousands years ago a small group of Theravada Buddhist Monks gathered there for several years to inscribe the entire Pali Tipitaka in Ola Leaves, a crucial historical act which sustain the original textual teaching of the Buddha to this day.
Other caves considered holy in India are the Ajanta Caves in Maharashtra, India. These are rock-cut cave monuments dating from the 2nd century BCE, containing paintings and sculpture considered to be masterpieces of both Buddhist religious art and universal pictorial art. The Ajanta Caves have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983.
A visit to New Zealand is incomplete if we’re not going to see some of its popular caves. A cave worth-seeing there is the Gardner’s Gut, an extensive cave system in the Waitomo area. It is located in the Ruakuri Caves & Bush Scenic Reserve, an area that also contains a number of other natural features of note. With a length of over 12 km of explored passages, it is the country’s 6th largest known cave system.
Looking for an exotic cave? Well, the Ease Gill Cave System which is the longest cave system in the British Isles, with over 100 km of passages is the right cave for you. Just looking at its unique krypton-colored stalagmites and stalactites is already an awesome experience. This cave also includes connections only passable by cave diving that spans the valley between Leck Fell and Casterton Fell. The water resurges into Leck Beck.
UK offers lots of scenic views and one of these is the natural wonder – Fingal’s Cave. It is a sea cave on the uninhabited island of Staffa, in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. The cave is formed entirely from hexagonally-jointed basalt columns, similar in structure to the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland making them a unique tourist spots.
One of the most important cave systems known in Portugal is the Gruta de Moinhos Velhos. The system has about 9 km in extension. It is characterized by the existence of two fossil paragenetic main conduits of about one decameter in diameter with dendritic tributaries, and a set of semi-active passages in a dendritic pattern at the north and angulates at the south. The fossil zone has a drop of 100 meters and the thickness of intermediate zone varies from 80 meters upstream to 60 meters downstream. Water flows in syngenetic galleries, from the northern to the southern quadrant, towards Gruta da Pena spring.
Another well-known tourist spot in the Iberian Peninsula is the Caves of Nerja. These caves are a series of caverns close to the town of Nerja in Andalusia. Stretching for almost 5 km the caverns are one of Spain’s major tourist attractions. Concerts are regularly held in one of the chambers which form a natural amphitheater.
From Western Europe, let’s proceed to the eastern European countries. One popular cave for a destination is the Eisriesenwelt. The name of this cave means “World of the Ice Giants”. This cave is a natural limestone ice cave located in Werfen, Austria. The cave is inside the Hochkogel Mountain in the Tennegebirge section of the Alps. This cave is really worth visiting because it is the largest ice cave in the world, extending more than 42 km and visited by about 150,000 tourists every year.
Another cave in the continent of Europe which is regarded as a famous tourist destination is the Caves of Han-sur-Lesse. These caves are a major tourist attraction with about half a million visitors annually. The caves are the result of the underground erosion of a limestone hill by the river Lesse. The caves have a constant temperature of 13°C (55°F) and a high level of humidity
One of the largest and commercially celebrated caves in the US is Luray Caverns located in Virginia, USA. It has already drawn several thousands of visitors since its discovery in 1878. The underground cavern system is generously adorned with speleothems (columns, mud flows, stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone, mirrored pools, etc). The caverns are noted for the Great Stalacpipe Organ, a lithophone made from solenoid fired strikers that tap stalactites of various sizes to produce tones similar to those of xylophones, tuning forks, or bells.
As of 2008, Lechuguilla Cave is the fifth longest cave known to exist in the world with a length of 193 km. It is also the deepest in the continental United States at 489 meters or 1,604 ft long. This cave is well-known because of its unusual geology, rare formations, and pristine condition.
From Continental America, we’ll finally end up in the “Land of the Rising Sun” -Japan. I think something is wrong here, isn’t it more enjoyable if our last destination is the “Land of the Setting Sun? Well, just asking, to continue with our tour, Abukuma-do or Abukuma Cave is perfect cave for our last destination. This cave is a limestone cave located in Fukushima Prefecture discovered only in 1969. Visitors can traverse a 600-meter-long path inside the cave as well as a 120-meter-long exploration course to view the stalactites and stalagmites. Each stalactite has taken more than eighty million years to form. Beyond the public areas lie about 2,500 meters of cave that are not open to the public. The temperature inside Abukuma-do is around 15°C and the humidity is above 90%.
There are still a lot of things to discover about our past. This cave in Somalia just recently provided us additional know-
ledge of the past. Laas Geel, a complex of caves and rock shelters in Somalia is famous for its recently discovered cave
paintings. The caves are located outside Hargeisa. They contain some of the earliest known art in the Horn of Africa and
the African continent in general, dating back to somewhere between 9,000-8,000 and 3,000 BCE.
In Asia, an important archeological site recently excavated is the Liang Bua Cave on the Island of Flores, Indonesia.
It was the site of the 2003 discovery of a potentially new species of Homo genus, Homo florensis, the remains of which
are coded LB1, LB2, etc, after the cave. So far it is the only location in which such remains have been identified.
Israel has always been one of the most important sources of archeological finds and one of these many sites is the
Cave of Letters. This is a cave located in the Dead Sea area that contained one of the largest caches of ancient docu-
ments and personal correspondence ever discovered in the land of Israel. This cave was discovered in 1960, the cave
contained letters from Bar Kochba, leader of the Third Jewish Revolt, as well as other documents from that period. Since
its discovery the letters found there have slowly been published, but not yet in its entirety.
An archeological site that provided the world with some significant findings is the Cave of Archedemos the Nympholept.
This small cave is located somewhere in Attica, Greece. The cave is unique in Greece because ancient sculptures hewn
into the living rock of the cave exist. In fact, the sculptures are carved into a calcite column and flowstone within the cave.
The cave was used from the Archaic period and reused in Early Christian times. The marble votive tablets from the cave
are now exhibited at the National Archeological Museum of Athens.
Ghar Dalam which literally means “Cave of Darkness” is an extraordinary pre-historical cul de sac containing the bone
remains of animals that were stranded and subsequently became extinct on Malta at the end of the Ice Age. This cave
was the site where remains of extinct animals were found like dwarf elephant, hippopotamus, deer and bear. Their bone
deposits found here are of a different age; the hippopotamuses became extinct about 180,000 years ago, whilst the deer
species became extinct much later, about 18,000 years ago. It is also here that the earliest evidence of human settlement
on Malta, some 7,400 years ago, was discovered.
Archeological finds in China have given us early idea about early men. One significant archeological site in that country
is Zhoukoudian or Choukoutien. This is a cave system near Beijing in China. It has yielded many archeological disco-
veries, including one of the first specimens of Homo erectus or commonly called Peking Man, and a fine assemblage of
bones of the gigantic hyena Pachycrocuta brevirostris. The Peking Man lived in this cave approximately 200,000 to 500,000
Tabon cave is the site of important Philippine Archaeological discoveries. The Tabon caves are a set of caves in Quezon,
Palawan, Philippines. They are famous for the found skull cap remains of the Tabon Man, which are 22,000 years old.
Bones of elephants have also been found in the area signifying that the Philippines was once connected to mainland Asia.
One of the most popular sites in the world for its prehistoric cave paintings is Lascaux Caves. They contain some of the
most well-known Upper Paleolithic art. These paintings are estimated to be 16,000 years old. They primarily consist of
realistic images of large animals, most of which are known from fossil evidence to have lived in the area at the time. In
1979, Lascaux was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.
Still in Europe, one important cave which houses a collection of prehistoric polychrome cave paintings is Font de Gaume.
It is a cave in southwestern France and is a popular site for tourists. Font de Gaume holds over 200 polychrome paintings
and is considered the best example of polychrome painting other than Lascaux. The paintings in Font de Gaume include
depictions of more than 80 bison, approximately 40 horse depictions, and more than 20 mammoth depictions.
In Europe, another significant archeological site is Pestera cu Oase (The Cave with Bones), a system of 12 karstic galleries
and chambers located in Romania. This cave is where the oldest modern human remains (between 35,000 and 40,000 years
old) in Europe have been found.
Another popular cave in Europe because of its Upper Paleolithic cave paintings is Altamira. Altamira, Spanish for “high
view”, is a cave in Spain which features drawings and polychrome rock paintings of wild mammals and human hands.
The cave with its paintings has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Another notable cave in Spain is Cueva de los Casares. It was discovered in 1933 and contains a number of Paleolithic
cave paintings and is most notable for a series of paintings depicting what some have argued is the earliest representation
of human understanding of the reproductive process, featuring images of copulation (perhaps mediated by a mysterious
shaman figure), pregnancy, childbirth, and family life. Mammoths and other animals feature frequently in the illustrations.
There are many representations of animals, anthropomorphs (human-like figures), and ideomorphs (including penises,
vulvas, tools, and more abstract images). The cave and its paintings are little known to scholars outside Spain.
A site where evidence of human habitation had been found is Karain Cave. This is a cave and a Paleolithic archaeological
site located in Turkey. These evidences date back to the early Paleolithic age (150,000-200,000 years). The Museum of
Anatolian Civilizations hosts an extensive collection of artifacts from the excavations at Karain. The stone and bone tools
of the people of that Age are exhibited in the museum.
This cave had saved a few Jewish lives during the Nazi occupation of Ukraine during the Second World War. The Priest’s
Grotto is a cave in Ukraine, part of the extensive Gypsum Giant cave system, now known to be among the longest in the
world at over 77 miles explored. Several Jewish families lived in the cave during the Nazi occupation, some of them never
exiting for over an entire year. Thirty-eight Jews survived the occupation in this way (during a period when 95% of Jews in
Ukraine were exterminated and only 1% of families survived intact).
One remarkable cave in South America for its archeological importance is Actun Tunichil Muknal. It is a cave in Belize.
As a Maya archaeological site, this cave is notable for its skeletons, ceramics, and stoneware. The most famous of
the human remains is known as “The Crystal Maiden”. It is the skeleton of a teenage girl, probably a sacrifice victim,
the bones of which have been completely covered by the natural processes of the cave, leaving them with a sparkling
appearance. There are several such skeletons in the Main Chamber. The ceramics at the site are significant partially
because they are marked with “kill holes”, which indicates they were used for ceremonial purposes.
Without these archeological sites we will not have a clear understanding on the life and culture of primitive people.