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Big discovery in Croatia: Neanderthal tools found in Upper Barać cave

Big discovery in Croatia: Neanderthal tools found in Upper Barać cave

Neanderthal tools found in Upper Barać cave (Photo credit: Dinko Neskusil)

The discovery of a stone tool that is a typical Mousterian tool confirmed that the site of Barać caves in Rakovica, Croatia hides the remains of the material culture of the Neanderthals. 

What was found was a type of tool called a “scraper”, an artefact that is broken off by hitting the core with a hammer, or a larger piece of raw material.

The material from which this tool is made is a silicon rock that has good fracture properties and is therefore often used by Neanderthals, as well as the Hominini that preceded them and those after them. 

Tools similar to this were found in the Vinica and Velika  pećina caves in Kličevica, where the age of the archaeological context in which the tools were found was determined by radiometric dating and it unequivocally indicates the Mousterian age.

Due to the similarity of the morphology and the way of making the artefact from Barać caves with those from Vinica and Velika pećina caves in Kličevica, it can be said with high probability that it is a Neanderthal tool. 

Big discovery in Croatia: Neanderthal tools found in Upper Barać cave

(Photo credit: Dinko Neskusil)

The tool was found next to the first phalanx and tooth of a cave bear and is currently the only find from the Mousterian age in the Upper Barać cave. 

The research was carried out last year during the project of restoring the entrance part of the Upper Barać cave, and these unexpected results delighted everyone present. 

The remains of the material culture of the Neanderthals were found by an external associate of the institution, speleologist Hrvoje Cvitanović in the presence of archaeologist Jane Frdelja, both members of the speleological club Ursus spelaeus from Karlovac.

“While restoring the entrance to Upper Barać cave when we set up a protective fence around the existing probe with exhibited artefacts, I found a stone tool that seemed very interesting to me at first, primarily because the artefact was next to the phalanx and teeth of the cave bear, and secondly, is that until then I had never seen such a treatment of this material except in professional literature. This is an accidental finding, because if we had decided to place the pillars only a few centimetres away, this tool would have remained buried in layers of earth. I felt extremely satisfied because we are talking about a rare discovery that represents the potential for further research whose outcomes are gaining not only national but also international significance,” said Hrvoje Cvitanović.

Big discovery in Croatia: Neanderthal tools found in Upper Barać cave

(Photo credit: Dinko Neskusil)

This great discovery that puts the site of the Barać caves on the map of important archaeological sites was officially presented today when the Public Institution Barać caves in collaboration with external collaborators will reveal the overall results of recent research in the Significant Landscape of Barać caves conducted in 2020 and 2021 with the aim of protecting, maintaining, preserving, promoting and using protected natural values in the municipality of Rakovica.

Encouraged by a really great discovery from the Institution, they plan to continue researching the entrance to the Upper Barać cave in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture, the Ursus spealeus speleological club and the Department of Archeology at the Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb and the University of Wyoming in the USA.

Big discovery in Croatia: Neanderthal tools found in Upper Barać cave

(Photo credit: Hrvoje Cvitanović)

“We consider this extraordinary finding to be a potential for further socio-economic development of tourism in our area. Our goal is to achieve a recognisable national importance by exploring the Upper Barać cave, which should be improved by promoting it on the world tourist market and participating in international scientific events. These results are a great motivation for us to continue our research, because really, wherever we go, we find something! Still, caves are the last unexplored areas on Earth. We will not stop here,” said the director of the Barać caves Public Institution, Tihana Oštrina.

The specific goal is to investigate the layers of Neanderthal artefacts that would confirm the activity of Neanderthals, to find out the extent to which they were present in the Upper Barać cave, while during the research it is necessary to confirm the recurrence.

Big discovery in Croatia: Neanderthal tools found in Upper Barać cave

Presentation of the results of research at Barać caves

“This is a very interesting scraper on a very high quality material, very high quality raw materials. According to the usual typology of Francois Bordes, we can say that it was an angular scraper, namely this transverse edge is processed and according to him it is a transverse scraper, but this edge is processed and these 2 edges are joined, but the orientation is, given on the surface, ie part of the impact surface, the orientation is as follows and it is an angle scraper. Such tools are typical of the Middle Palaeolithic or Mousterian, which is always associated with Neanderthals in Europe. Sometimes I can come to a younger period, so it is difficult to 100% conclude on the basis of one artefact what it is in terms of culture, but this is a very typical scraper and is very likely that this is related to the Neanderthal. This would mean that we have another, new Middle Palaeolithic site in Croatia, where at least for a short time, in Barać cave, on the basis of at least one such finding, for now, Neanderthals visited,” concludes Dr. sc. Ivor Karavanić, dir. prof. At the Department of Archeology, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Zagreb. 

He added that this should be understood as an incentive for further research as this discovery gives great value to the site itself and proves the presence of man in a period that is very attractive not only for national but also for international science.

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