Archaeologists Have Discovered A Transylvanian Cave Filled With Jewelry And Skulls That Dates Back 3,300 Years

After thousands of pieces of imported jewelry and offerings were found inside this Transylvanian cave, researchers believe the offerings were made as part of a nymph cult.

Jewelry and skulls dating back 3,300 years were found inside a Transylvanian cave.
Dan Tautan / Shutterstock

After thousands of pieces of imported jewelry and offerings were found inside this Transylvanian cave, researchers believe the offerings were made as part of a nymph cult.

Deep in the darkest reaches of Cioclovina Cave in Transylvania, archaeologists have discovered an astonishing amount of jewelry and skulls that have been estimated to date back 3,300 years. It is now believed that this site was once a subterranean temple of sorts that may have been used as part of a nymph cult, with offerings given to the naiads who dwelt in this sacred location.

According to Haaretz, researcher Dr. Mihai Rotea from the National Museum of Transylvanian History explains that nymph worship in this Transylvanian cave would be highly appropriate, especially given its remoteness as well as its inaccessibility. Further, when reading texts in The Odyssey, Homer himself described naiads as making their homes inside caves that would have held special altars inside.

“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 naiad. 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.”

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

A new study of this Transylvanian cave by archaeologists from Romania, Denmark, and the Netherlands reiterates that 1,100 years before the Silk Road trade route was first established, trade routes already existed between Central Europe and Mesopotamia, which is further evidenced by the large amounts of precious stones, glass beads, and amber that was found inside Cioclovina Cave, with 7,500 offerings found inside that were most likely dedicated to naiads.

In particular, the glass beads that were discovered inside the cave were fashioned out of both Egyptian and Mesopotamian glass which have been dated from between 1400 to 1100 BC. Along with these glass beads, archaeologists also found 1,770 amber beads that had originated in Scandinavia.

As a further test of the date of the cave, archaeologists conducted radiocarbon analysis of animal bones and found that their initial estimate of its age was indeed correct, as these bones were found to date from between 1,428 and 1,263 BC.

And much like Homer had described in The Odyssey, archaeologists found that the jewelry and skulls from different animals had been placed carefully on an altar in the Transylvanian cave that was constructed approximately 20 feet above the cave’s floor, showing that this place was almost certainly used for rituals associated with a nymph cult.