Caving History

Caving is considered an extreme sport. However, people have been entering and exploring caves way before extreme sports became a thing. The mystery, the unknown, and, even more importantly, the need for resources such as water, storage, and shelter have been luring people into caves since the beginning of humankind. The same reasons are attracting people to enter the caves today. 

The cave on the photo is strategically located and serves as a perfect shelter. Invisible from one side and unreachable from the other enables people to hide and survive using the sinkholes in front of it as pastures and fields.

The first known cave investigations were conducted in the Paleolithic era (30,000-10,000 years ago). However, as far as it is known, true cave exploration began in the 15th century, when people started to enter caves with the intent of exploration and survey. The earliest known cave map is from 1546. It shows a cave plan in Naples, Italy, ever since the exploration and mapping of caves advanced until exploration turned into the study of caves or speleology as we call it today.

Cave paintings are one of the oldest signs of people entering the caves.

The most essential region of systematic cave exploration and studies is Kras or Classical Karst in Slovenia. Here is where the documented exploration and study of caves began. Scientists could use their predecessors’ records, allowing the exploration to be continued and systemically recorded. This period marks the development of the first cave maps that could be used for navigation purposes and formed the base of modern cave mapping. Termin karst, now used worldwide, was derived from the word Kras. Kras with the capital k refers to the region in Slovenia, while kras with lower k refers to the landscape.

Cerkniško jezero, on the photo, is a karst phenomena called polje. Several caves or voids located at the edge of a polje work as springs or swallow holes, depending on the water levels. These caves are also known as estavelas. During a drought, a polje will be a regular valley, while it turns into a lake during high water levels. Cerkniško jezero is the first polje ever described as a karst phenomenon. It was described by Janez Vajkard Valvasor in 1689.