Historical Precedents

Bolomor Cave has been known since immemorial times. Its mouth hanging from the cliff of the l’Ombria can be seen from all the Valldigna. The use of the cave throughout the recent historical times has been related to a livestock activity with fold of herds of goats until the 1960s. It has also been used as a refuge in unstable moments. In the so called third Carlista War  (1872-76), the cave served as a refuge and hiding of the chivalry of families of the nearby settlement, avoiding being used for the war. Also, the yellow sand we find in the cave, product of the decomposition of the limestone in its walls,  was used for cleaning the kitchen crockery at least during all the first half of the twentieth century.

In the 1850-70 decades, the quest of inexistent treasures in the cave was frequent by part of the inhabitants of the valley. This activity stopped around 1870. Leandro Calvo writes about this in the newspaper “El Litoral, num. 183-1884” of Gandia:

«Estimulated the inhabitants of La Vall by their greed, and thinking that in other times, the money was destined to enrich the dead, they worked to find the treasures hidden in that Cemetery of Moors.  Not happy with throwing out so much preciousness -teeth of carnivores, deer, some pachyderm and, also, small pieces of white flint- …., they continue to excavate until the entrails of the mount, the slit each time narrower, and the present generation now gives herself as disillusioned, and God make the ones to come conserve the little that the presents have left

On the Summer of 1867, the Professor of Geology and Paleonthology Juan Vilanova y Piera and his pupil,  Eduardo Boscá, future Professor of Natural History of the Valencian University,  (1892) explored the cave and retrieved diverse archaeological materials of the considered as “important cave with bone fossils” (Vilanova 1893: 13 and 21). The materials recovered by Vilanova where donated for the creation of the first archaeological collection of the National Archaeological Museum (Madrid, exp. 1868/51), numbers 21 and 22: “Axes made of siliceous limestone of the caves of Bolomor (sic) (Tavernes de Valldigna)” and number 23: “bone breccias with stones and constitute a part of the first foundational funds for this institution (Cacho and Martos 2002: 385). This excursion can be considered the first scientific visit to the, at those moments, considered, “bony cavern, house of the primitive man”. From this moment, the site will be incorporated to the scientific circuit and is presented in universities and several prehistory international congresses, as the one in Stockholm (1875).

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Inventory of the collection Vilanova y Piera. National Archaeological Museum (Madrid)

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Juan Vilanova y Piera and Eduardo Boscà. Authors of the first scientific visit to Bolomor in 1867

By his side, Leandro Calvo, a religious man, and a geologist, (Escuelas Pías) explores the cave in various occasions since the decade of 1880 (Calvo 1908). The data he provided was incorporated to the monograph “Simas y cavernas de España” (1896: 343)”, of the National Geological Institute, published by Gabriel Puig and Larraz. In the book we can find a first stratigraphical description:

The cavity’s floor is constituted by a reddish clay deposit, mixed with animal bones and fragments of flint instruments, with two layers of stalagmite limestone, one underneath and the other on top. There, they call this fossil deposit, the Cemetery of the Moors.

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Recreation of the quaternary life seen by Vilanova y Piera (1896)

During the first half of the twentieth century, naturalists and researchers visit and comment the deposit of Bolomor and its remains of fauna and lithic industry. In this way, the abatte Henri Breuil, together with Leandro Calvo, explore the cave on the 29th of June of 1913 (Blay 1967), and in 1932 Luis Pericot retrieves the materials which were deposited by Breuil in the Institut de Paleontologie Humaine of Paris (Bru and Vidal 1960). At the beginnings of the twentieth century, the site is considered, along with the Cova de les Meravelles, Cova del Parpalló and Cova Negra as the most representative “confirming the presence of the prehistoric man in the valencian land” (Boscá 1901, 1916; Barras de Aragón and Sánchez 1925), although it was considered a shell midden “Kjoekkenmoeddings” following with the tendency of the times (Fletcher 1976: 18; Archive SIP unpublished). Possibly Eduardo Boscá visited the cave in various occasions before his death in 1924, as he recovered a collection of archaeological materials of Bolomor which nowadays can be found at the Biology School of Valencia. He classified the faunal remains of deer and horse as Equus adamaticus (Pericot 1942: 277).

In 1923, as a consequence of the discovering of the necropolis of the Cova del Barranc de les Foietes, in a ravine just next to Bolomor, the Town Hall requested the presence of a Commission of the School of Doctors of Madrid in order to examine the prehistoric cavities of the valley, and in November 1924, Dr. Carrillo and the mayor and doctor of Tavernes, Francisco Valiente explore the cave (Barras de Aragón and Sánchez 1925: 155-157):

«We found there a big cavity, similar to the entrance to a cave , with 10 m. of height. On the opposite side to the hillside there is an entrance with a strong slope, and towards the right, when entering, we can see the beginning of a chasm whose mouth has approximately two meters of diameter. But what is really notable and must be considered and studied is the fact that the walls and ceiling of the cavity are constituted by an ensemble of limestone and bones of different animal species, in the form of a terribly strong stone. The variety is enormous: long bones, short, plain, pieces of mandibles, horns, and molars of a big size, of herbivore species, and canines of carnivore species. Dr. Carrillo examined this ensemble without finding a sole human remain».

In this same moment, the publication of the work ‘medical Topography of Tavernes de Valldigna’ gathers the dimensions of the cave (Grau Bono 1927: 22):

«It is notable this cavity, its dimensions are of three meters of width by other many of deep … according to authorized opinions, it would have served as home for the primitive man».

At the beginnings of 1930, the ‘Secció d’Antropologia i Prehistòria del Centre de Cultura Valenciana’ (Section of Anthropology and Prehistory of the Valencian Cultural Centre) explored the cave, recovering a whole set of archaeological materials for the institution (C.C.V. 1931). Towards 1935 and without being able to localize any written documentation, there were several activities of extraction of stone with the use of dynamite in an important part of the archaeological deposit. This mining activity extracted blocks of various tones which were taken down with chains pulled by oxen till the town. Part of them, as it seems, where used to elaborate the stone tables of the disappeared casino, according to oral testimonies.

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Publishing in which there’s a reference to Bolomor Cave

The activities related to the «treasure quest» of 1860-70, as we understand of the tale of L. Calvo, took place with the use of blasts, “towards the entrails, each time narrower”. These efforts required of instruments, organization and an economic budget, affecting only sectors as the gallery or the chasm which have such narrow slits.  Without any doubt, these activities where developed during a long time, maybe favored by some protohistoric metallic finding or by whimsical obstinacy. When in 1880 Leandro Calvo visits the cave, the floor was formed by a reddish clay deposit between two stalagmite levels. The first appreciation is that there didn’t exist is an extensive layer, archaeological level 1, of an intense black color of easy erosion. The already mentioned red level can correspond to different warm levels or terra rossa such as level IV or level XIII, both restricted by stalagmite packets. In 1924 the entrance to the cave was the central part, like today, and this showed a height of 10 m. with a strong falling to the right (south) and with a presence of a chasm, with a two meter mouth. The existence of strong ossiferous deposits in walls and ceiling must refer to the North sector. The data of V. Grau which also corresponds to 1924, indicates little width of the cave, so it is possible that a part of the central deposit still existed.

Towards 1935 there mining activities must have taken place, searching for the stalagmite levels for their industrial exploitation. They used blasts, with block extractions and staggering with trenches on the Northern Sector. In the southern extreme, there was a well perforation of 3,5m and 95 cm of diameter, through blast-holes.  The activities of the 1930s would have been intense and abandoned with the using up of the quarry. This work produced transformations and conditioning for the stone extraction and the spill of earth to the gorge as waste. The strong ramp that exists in the west sector is due to the spill of sedimentary fill, whilst the stone extractions corresponds to the N Sector, which still shows abandoned blocks from the mining activity.

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Mining of stalagmite mantles basal


The archaeological excavation has allowed us to obtain information of these practices which show the existence of a dynamic which consists in perforating, after this, filling in the perforation and then start a new one next to it. This work generates, in many places, an inverted stratigraphy. There are cavities generated by the activity of a sole person, with the exact dimensions for him and his tools. The mining was very well planned because the staggering had been looked after and the existence of plaster remains is an evidence of the use of staging.  All these works during the XIX and XX centuries made disappear around a 70% of the archaeological deposit.

The site, from the decade of 1970, receives attention under the principal optics of its cataloging. The Prehistoric investigation service of Valencia in 1975 includes Bolomor in its visits (Fletcher 1976: 18), and retrieves sediments in 1977 (Fletcher 1978: 19) and has developed an urgent 1 meter pit which affected the upper levels (strata I, table B4) by J. Aparicio and F. Grau, in December of 1980 and granted by the Town Hall of Tavernes, leaving the archaeological deposit considered as an «entirely Mousterian industry, being present the Levalloisiene technique with small types» (Fletcher 1978: 19, 1982: 72). The cave was also visited from 1960 with other interests of other disciplines and activities such as geology and speleology, etc.

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Planimetry of Bolomor Cave (1962-1988)

In June 1982 Josep Fernández, after an underwater exploration in the ‘Clot de la Font’ on a request by part of the Town Hall of Tavernes, visited various caves of the municipality accompanied by members of the hiker Center of the town. The finding of this majestic site motivated the creation of a research project related to the Valencian University which was approved in 1989 creating an interdisciplinary team directed initially by Josep Fernández Peris and Pere Guillem Calatayud, and later by the first which starts up a long and uninterrupted work of excavation and research which is still on nowadays.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Barras de Aragón, F. y Sánchez, D. (1925). «Informe relativo a los huesos y otros materiales procedentes de Tabernes de Valldigna (Valencia)». Actas y Memorias de la Sociedad Española de Antropología, Etnografía y Prehistoria. p. 121-163.

Blay, P. L. (1967). «El Rvdo. Padre Leandro Calvo, escolapio, hijo adoptivo y benemérito de Gandia». Diario Ciudad, 7 octubre (Gandia).

Bosca Casanova, E. (1901). Discurso de inaguración del curso académico de la Universidad literaria de Valencia. E. Tip. Domenech, Valencia.

Bosca Casanova, E. (1916). «Un paradero de la época paleolítica en Oliva (Valencia)». Boletín de la Real Sociedad Española de Historia Natural, 16. p. 81-83.

Bru y Vidal, S. (1960). «El abate Breuil y la prehistoria valenciana». Archivo de Prehistoria Levantina, p. 7-28. Valencia.

Calvo, Leandro (1884). «Un paseo por la montaña». Diario Comarcal El Litoral, nº 183, julio 1884. Gandia.

Calvo, Leandro (1908). Hidrografía subterránea, p. 289. Ed. Luis Catala y Serra. Gandia.

Cacho, C. y Martos, J. A. (2002). «Colecciones paleolíticas de Madrid en el Museo Arqueológico Nacional». Bifaces y Elefantes. La investigación del Paleolítico Inferior en Madrid. Alcalá de Henares, p. 385.

Centro de Cultura Valenciana (1930-31). Sección de Arqueología y Prehistoria. Diario Las Provincias, 2 abril 1930 y 14 febrero 1931. Valencia.

Fletcher, D. (1949). Restos arqueológicos valencianos de la colección Vilanova y Piera en el Museo Antropológico Nacional. Archivo de Prehistoria Levantina II, p. 342-348. Valencia.

Fletcher, D. (1976). La labor del Servicio de Investigación Prehistórica y su Museo en el pasado año 1975. Valencia. p. 18.

Fletcher, D. (1978). La labor del Servicio de Investigación Prehistórica y su Museo en el pasado año 1977. Valencia. p. 19.

Ferrairo, J.M. (2008). Hidrografía y Geología Valenciana. Ed. CEIC Alfons el Vell. Gandia.

Grau, V. (1927). Topografía médica de Tabernes de Valldigna, p. 120. Imp. Baldomero Cuenca. Alcira.

Pericot, L. (1942). La Cova del Parpalló. Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas. 341 p.

Puig y Larraz, G. (1896). Cavernas y Simas de España. Boletín de la Comisión del Mapa Geológico de España, XXI, p. 443. Madrid.

Vilanova y Piera, J. (1893). Memoria geognóstico-agrícola y protohistórica de Valencia, p.13 y p.21. Madrid.

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