Potočka Cave on Olševa

High above Solčava, on the slope of Olševa – altitude 1700 m – lies the karstic cave named Potočka Cave (Potočka zijalka).

Potočka Cave has special significance concerning the lands of current Slovenia – in the Aurignacian, circa 30,000 years ago, the cave was inhabited by the ice age humans.

The cave – 115 m in length, in the middle 40 m wide, and 4-10 m in height – and its history have been known among the local population for a long time. The first exavations had already been done by J. C. Gross from Austria. Extensive excavations, 1928-1935, were led by the gymnasium teacher and natural scientist Srečko Brodar (1893-1987). Between 1997 and 2000, the cave was explored by the Department of Geology at the University of Ljubljana and the Institute of Palaeontology at the Vienna University; fossil remains of animals were also precisely analysed.

The cultural remains from the Potočka Cave entail items made from stone and bone.

During Brodar's excavations fireplaces were discovered at the cave's entrance; all 300 stone artifacts and 47 bone points lay there; most items were discovered at the western wall, which is the location of a large fireplace. In the rear part of the cave, there was a modest trace of fire-making, and as many as 80 bone points were found at the location. In the rear part, the cave is 15 m higher than the entrance and is therefore the warmest part of the cave. One of the found objects bears special significance, namely it is the prototype of a bone needle without an eye – the thread passed through the hollow bone. A third of bone needles is embellished with incisions; circular and spiral decorations on three examples display artistic leanings of the then tool maker.

Scientists are still puzzled by a large amount of gravel, mixed with charcoal, which was obviously brought to the cave. The only credible hypothesis is that the mixture was used for tanning hides.

The cave has a plethora of animal remains, among which dominate the fossil remains of the cave bear Ursus ingressus. Brodar discovered 150 cave bear skulls; according to the calculations based on preserved skeletal remains, there were 1000 cave bears present in the cave. There are much fewer remains of wolves, martens, lynxes, deer, chamoix, alpine marmots, foxes, rabbits, and of wolverines. The excavations between 1997 and 2000 yielded additional fossil remains of cave bears; the cave was their hibernation space between 35,000 and 26,000 BC.

The Potočka Cave archaelogical diggings are stored by the Regional Museum of Celje.

The cave finds are of paramount importance for researching the last Würm ice age in the Alps. During the great freezing, there were warmer periods when the ice retracted and the frozen Alps became hospitable.

The museum exhibition offers an overview of the evolution of man on display boards; you can find out more about the excavations, what was found in the cave, what the ice age flora and fauna was like, and much more. Indeed, the exhibition has actual finds on display: bone points, stone tools, a reproduction of the bone needle, and the skull of a cave bear.


The Permanent Exhibition Potočka Cave – A Sanctuary of the Ice Age Man on Olševa

The exhibition is located in Firšt lodging house since 1996. The exhibition is the fruit of labour of the Palaeontological Institute of Ivan Rakovec at the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Ljubljana. It is dedicated to the institute's researcher prof. Srečko Brodar, PhD, and is part of the Regional Museum of Celje.

The 18 panel boards show the evolution of man, stone and bone tools of the Cro-Magnon humans, flora and fauna of the ice age, as well as the procedure and documented material regarding Brodar's excavations. The exhibited items consist of fascinating finds, namely the exceptional cave bear skull, various stone tools, bone spear points, and, of course, the reproduction of the most important find from the Potočka Cave – the most ancient bone needle in the world.


Information and prior announcements:

Gostinsto in turizem Firšt (Catering and Tourism Firšt)

Jože Firšt s.p.

Logarska dolina 1a,

3335 Solčava

Phone: +386 (0)3 839 46 78

E-mail: info@first-logarska.si