Bull statue from Moravian cave Býčí skála
Cave “Býčí skála” (Bull Rock), called after this sacred animal from time immemorial, (therefore, surprisingly, its name is not related to its most famous discovery), is located in the Moravian Karst, which is definitely worth visiting – see map at http://mapy.cz/s/hWY1. The cave itself with mysterious history only rarely opens to visitors, just for a few days a year – in 2015, you have this unique opportunity in May 16 – 17 and 23 – 24.
But now more about the statue itself and other findings in the place – the largest share of findings fall to Hallstatt period to years around 750 – 560 BC, although there were many older evidence of settlement. Cave Bull Rock is part of one of the largest cave systems in our country with total length of 17 km. The discovery of the bull happened in 1869. Previous and subsequent archaeological research was led by “father of Moravian archaeology”, doctor and researcher Jindřich Wankel, who was exploring the area after repeated finds of human bones etc. during extractions of sand and gravel by employees of local ironworks. However, the bull itself was found by cousins Gustav and Arnošt Felkl. Statuette itself (10.1 cm long and 11.3 cm height) was in a clay pot coated with carbonized millet. The bull is made of bronze, filled with soil; on forehead, shoulders and spine it used to be decorated with pieces of iron (that succumbed to corrosion); the bull was attached to a metal plate (which is lost) and in its eyes, there was probably glass. It’s possible that it was made in Egypt and imported here. The statues is now on display in exhibition of Natural History Museum in Vienna (Naturhistorisches Museum).
This significant finding led Mr. Wankel to further investigation and in front 45 meters long cave part called “Hallway”, he made subsequent discoveries of strong remains of fire, with mixture of ceramics sherds, one bronze helmet, an iron knife with bronze handle, a belt, a few tips for arrows, some iron axes, one iron short sword sheathed in wood, bronze and gold ornaments – bracelets (300 pieces), leg bracelets, rings, pendants, pins (15 pieces), headbands; and amber (about 1300 pieces) and glass (4500 pieces) pearls (glass pearls were blue, black and greenish, and place of their production remains unclear), burned wool fabrics, hollow forged iron ring; and last but not least there were 40 human skeletons, which were missing limbs or heads. The initial assumption was that these were remains of mostly young women, however this was later re-examined with conclusion that there were 17 male and 11 female skulls (persons at age of 30 – 40 years) and 10 children. Besides, they found remains of two horses. Around, there were food containers, mainly with grain. Another extraordinary discovery was then a stone altar on which laid two female arms, on which there were bracelets and gold rings, and the next to it, a half of skull. The finder thought these arms were chopped off, but later examination doesn’t confirm that. Behind the altar, in addition to amount of pottery another human skull was found – dr. Wankel interpreted this as a finding of a cup made from a human skull, but this is rather romantic idea and not true. At another separate location there were remains of one man and a pig, along with some dishes; one pot contained a human skull. Interesting is also a finding of a girls’ skull, on which trepanation was carried out; the girl apparently lived further after the operation. Another finding was of remains of a chariot with bronze fittings and a male skeleton on it. In another part of the cave, blacksmith workshop was located, including many everyday items produced here. Unfortunately the whole space was severely damaged during construction works in 1944, as the cave was planned to be used as German underground factory.
Interpretation of the findings vary considerably. The original discoverer himself thought it was a funeral of some kind of a king or leader, accompanied by human sacrifices. Other researchers have theorized that it could be an accident, maybe a result of a sudden explosion of gas; or a massacre by foreigners etc. A likely explanation is that it was a sanctuary – a sacrificial and burial place.