LIFE13 NAT/SI/000314

The Željnske Jame forest reserve

Published on 13. 1. 2015 under Kočevska
The Željnske Jame forest reserve

It is a trip into the mysterious underground and a journey into prehistoric times of the ice-age hunters who set the first fire beneath the shelter of the cave opening some 20,000 years ago.

The Željnske Jame caves were first recorded and drawn 250 years ago. This was done by Jožef Anton Nagel, who was appointed to Štajerska and Kranjska by Francis I (Franz I.), the first Emperor of Austria in 1748, to study the natural features and report on the results of his findings. His findings were described in the work entitled “Description of natural curiosities in the Duchy of Carniola, commissioned by his Holy Roman Emperor and Royal majesty Francis I”. The work is still conserved as a manuscript and kept at the Austrian National Library. It also includes a description of the Želnjske Jame caves.

The locals knew the caves for millennia. The proves of it can be found in archaeological remains from the Palaeolithic or Old Stone Age, the beginning of which is determined by the earliest known use of stone tools some 2 million years ago while its ending corresponds to the end of the Ice Age (10,000 years ago).
The excavations in the Željnske jame caves were conducted in the beginning of 1970s.

Today, the cave system has active water flows. The plan of the whole system was drawn up by the members of the Speleological section of the Železničar Alpine Association from Ljubljana. In the morphological or structural sense, the gypsy caves differ from others with their active, relatively narrow and low passages. The excavations under 6 meters did not reach the hard rock ground, so the cave was significantly larger before the sedimentation process, and its water flow much stronger than today. Perhaps, the sinkhole drained off all water from the Kočevska valley at that stage. When the Rinža River ran into another, perhaps current river bed, both the remaining streams made their new paths and continued the process of karstification in a much smaller scale.

The evidence of the oldest human presence is a burned bone fragment which was discovered below the current water level. Systematic research due to deep ground water is impossible, so we only know that the cave was occupied by man at that time. The characteristics of the findings from that period are the presence of light grey flint stone marble used for the making of tools. The findings from Željnske jame are mainly made from the stones of lesser quality, such as cherts, tuffs, various silicates, etc.