Cioclovina Cave (Roumanie) : Treasure, Skulls From Nymph Cult

PART . 2

Sacred horses and Hygeia

Factoring in all their discoveries so far, the researchers believe that the bronze artifacts and exotic beads deposited inside this naturally-made Great Hall were of religious significance.

Dr. Mihai Rotea, a researcher  from the National Museum of Transylvanian History, makes the case that this remote, inaccessible cave had been a cultic or sanctuary place, perhaps for nymph worship.

Homeric texts strongly connect nymph adulation with caves, springs and nature:

At the head of the harbor is a long-leafed olive tree, and near it is a pleasant, shadowy cave sacred to the nymphs called naiads” (Homer, Odyssey, XIII, 103–105);

He also writes,

"Cold water flowed down from the rock above, and on the top was built an altar of the nymphs where all passers-by made offerings", (Homer, Odyssey, XVII, 209–211).

Caves, springs, rich vegetation, even gardens are elements of nature connected with nymphs, about which not only Homer speaks, but other historical sources too,” Rotea says.

1218255600The entrance to Cioclovina Cave, Transylvania.Dr. Rotea and Jenatte Varberg

For instance, an ancient bilingual inscription in Greek and Latin discovered in the Romanian spa area of Geoagiu (in Hunedoara County, the ancient Germisara), interpreted by I. Piso, falls into the same thematic sphere: cave‐water‐nymphs. The inscription speaks of the thermal springs in Germisara: “Sunt Getici fontes divina nympha creati” (The springs of the Getae were created by the divine nymph). The springs were supposed to be under the protection of one or several nymphs associated with Aesculapius, Hygeia, and Artemis/Diana.

Other elements supporting the theory that Cioclovina Cave was a site of nymph worship are signs – when taken collectively, if not individually - of feminine divinity.,  These include blue glass beads and amber beads with the jewelry of numerous types, made of bronze.

Possibly, since it seems that rich jewelry had been offered there to a female deity, the worshipers plying the cave had been female too. Yet another indication that the cave had been a place for worship, possibly over generations, is that the many pearls discovered inside were apparently not placed there once, but many times.

"The cave is difficult to access except in summer and autumn because of the amount of water. It has been a difficult journey through the river with only torches as the source of light source," Varberg tells Haaretz. She feels that the vagaries of the trek plus the surrounding of awe-inspiring natural greatness of the cave itself also support the hypothesis thatthe treasure was for the gods.

"The journey through the underground river is like a journey into the interior of the earth. That feeling has undoubtedly also affected the people of the past," she says evocatively. If indeed the cave was sacred, the trek into it was likely considered a journey into another world, where man crossed an important border.

"Bones of horses and ceramics have been found in small niches in the rock wall. One can imagine the sacrifices inside the cave in the light of the dancing fire and to an exuberant sound of the river's noise thrown against the raw rock walls,” she says.

There is no indication at this point whether travelers were involved in the rituals in the cave or whether it was only their merchandise that was sacrificed.

But it is striking that the tradition of sacrificing women's jewelry and equipment together also occurs in Scandinavia. Not in caves, this is true, but in swamps and by watercourses. Very likely, not only luxury goods were changing hands along the ancient trading routes of Eurasia, but rituals and beliefs too.