Szeleta Cave

Created at 19.4.2017


Szeleta Cave is situated in northeastern Hungary in the Bükk Mountains formed in the limestone escarpment of the Szinva Valley at 345 m.a.s.l. and 100 m above the village Felsö-Hámor. The cave is 60 m long and opens to the south. The present-day entrance leads to the main hall from which two corridors, the main gallery and the lateral gallery branch off. At the end of the main gallery, a small cavity with stalagmites marks the deepest part of Szeleta Cave. Following the start of archaeological research in 1906, a long succession of fieldwork events organized by different researchers and institutions ensued that continues to this day. Ottokár Kadić and Jenö Hillebrand carried out the initial systematic excavations between 1906 and 1913 where a significant part of the cave deposits were removed and the current stratigraphy was established. This was followed by intermittent small-scale interventions until a systematic excavation and dating program was started in 1999. In 2012, a small trench previsouly excavated in 2002 and 2003 in the rear of the main corridor was re-opened providing the opportunity to investigate the remaining sediments in the cave. Szeleta Cave is the eponymous site for the Szeletian technological group thought to reflect the last occurrence of Neanderthals in Central Europe. Our new radiocarbon chronology, based on AMS 14C dating results of in situ bone and charcoal samples, lends support to the argument that the Szeletian does not represent a transition towards, but rather contemporaneity with the Early Upper Paleolithic. The Szeletian now appears to be of the same age as the early Aurignacian in the region which is linked to the early Anatomically Modern Humans. Consequently, Neanderthals are the likely authors of the famous Szeletian leaf points – bifacially shaped implements that are important cultural markers for the MP-UP transition.

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