Complexes from Mamutowa and Maszycka Caves

Mamutowa Cave

This cave (Wierzchowie, Wielka Wieś commune) was discovered for archaeology by Jan Zawisza (in 1873-82 he carried out excavation works there). Due to finding large amounts of mammoth bones he called it Mamutowa Cave [Mammoth Cave]. Further excavation works were carried out by Stanisław Kowalski (1957-67). The relics from both research campaigns reflect several settlement phases. The oldest one, dated back to the transitional period between the Middle and the Upper Palaeolithic Age, represents the so-called cultures with leaf-shaped blades (Szeletian and Jerzmanowice cultures). The second settlement phase distinguished in the cave is related to the so-called Aurignacian culture, which in Poland dates back to 35-30 thousand years ago. The collection of around 20 spindle-shaped spearheads made mainly from mammoth tusks, the so-called Mladeč blades, which was found in the cave is identified with this cultural horizon. The most distinct traces of settlement were left in the cave by the creators of the so-called Gravettian culture, which in the middle phase of the Upper Palaeolithic Age, 20-30 thousand years ago, spread over vast regions of Europe, leading to their significant cultural unification. Representatives of this culture made a breakthrough in the previous hunting methods based on the use of a spear by replacing it with a bow.

Some of the oldest relics of Palaeolithic applied art discovered in Poland (e.g. a small quadrangular plate made from mammoth tusk with two drilled holes for hanging, decorated with lines of punctures, dated to around 30 thousand years) were found in the Mamutowa Cave. Elements of a necklace made from mammoth tusk and drilled animal teeth, as well as an object made from reindeer coffin bone, by some scholars considered to be a whistle, were also discovered in the cave.

 

Maszycka Cave

In 1883, Godfryd Ossowski discovered in the Maszycka Cave (Maszyce, Skała commune) evidence of a tragedy that took place 14-15 thousand years ago. He excavated fragments of skeletons (mainly skull bones) of at least 16 people, among them 5 women, 3 men and several children. Damage visible on the bones in the form of cuts made with hard tools, breaks and cracks, and finally human teeth bite marks indicate that the cave inhabitants became the victims of cannibals. Objects and tools of the killed remained in place (including objects made from animal horn and bone). Among them is a collection of arrowheads made from reindeer antlers decorated with carved symbolic representations. Similarly decorated were the split-ended hand-grips made from bone. The object made from reindeer antlers with a hole in the middle and a phallic ornament at the ends is presumably connected to magic and is interpreted as an attribute of shamanistic power.

So far, it is the richest collection of Palaeolithic art of the Magdalenian culture from the Polish territories.

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