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A cave or cavern is a natural void in the ground, specifically a space large enough for a human to enter. Caves often form by the
weathering Weathering is the deterioration of Rock (geology), rocks, soils and minerals as well as wood and artificial materials through contact with water, atmospheric gases, and biological organisms. Weathering occurs ''in situ'' (on site, with little o ...
of rock and often extend deep underground. The word ''cave'' can refer to smaller openings such as sea caves,
rock shelter A rock shelter (also rockhouse, crepuscular cave, bluff shelter, or abri) is a shallow cave-like opening at the base of a bluff or cliff. In contrast to solutional caves (karst), which are often many miles long, rock shelters are almost alway ...
s, and
grotto A grotto is a natural or artificial cave used by humans in both modern times and antiquity, and historically or prehistorically. Naturally occurring grottoes are often small caves near water that are usually flooded or often flooded at high ti ...
s, that extend a relatively short distance into the rock and they are called ''exogene'' caves. Caves which extend further underground than the opening is wide are called ''endogene'' caves.
Speleology Speleology is the scientific study of caves and other karst features, as well as their make-up, structure, physical properties, history, life forms, and the processes by which they form (speleogenesis) and change over time (speleomorphology). ...
is the science of exploration and study of all aspects of caves and the cave environment. Visiting or exploring caves for recreation may be called ''caving'', ''potholing'', or ''spelunking''.


Formation types

The formation and development of caves is known as '' speleogenesis''; it can occur over the course of millions of years. Caves can range widely in size, and are formed by various geological processes. These may involve a combination of chemical processes, erosion by water, tectonic forces, microorganisms, pressure, and atmospheric influences. Isotopic dating techniques can be applied to cave sediments, to determine the timescale of the geological events which formed and shaped present-day caves. It is estimated that a cave cannot be more than vertically beneath the surface due to the pressure of overlying rocks. This does not, however, impose a maximum depth for a cave which is measured from its highest entrance to its lowest point, as the amount of rock above the lowest point is dependent on the topography of the landscape above it. For
karst Karst is a topography formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone, Dolomite (rock), dolomite, and gypsum. It is characterized by underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves. It has also been documented for more weathe ...
caves the maximum depth is determined on the basis of the lower limit of karst forming processes, coinciding with the base of the soluble carbonate rocks. Most caves are formed in
limestone Limestone (calcium carbonate ) is a type of carbonate rock, carbonate sedimentary rock which is the main source of the material Lime_(material), lime. It is composed mostly of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different Polymorphis ...
by dissolution. Caves can be classified in various other ways as well, including a contrast between active and relict: active caves have water flowing through them; relict caves do not, though water may be retained in them. Types of active caves include inflow caves ("into which a stream sinks"), outflow caves ("from which a stream emerges"), and through caves ("traversed by a stream").


Solutional

Solutional caves or karst caves are the most frequently occurring caves. Such caves form in rock that is soluble; most occur in
limestone Limestone (calcium carbonate ) is a type of carbonate rock, carbonate sedimentary rock which is the main source of the material Lime_(material), lime. It is composed mostly of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different Polymorphis ...
, but they can also form in other rocks including
chalk Chalk is a soft, white, permeability (Earth sciences), porous, sedimentary rock, sedimentary carbonate rock. It is a form of limestone composed of the mineral calcite and originally formed deep under the sea by the compression of microscopic pl ...
, dolomite, marble, salt, and
gypsum Gypsum is a soft sulfate mineral composed of calcium sulfate Hydrate, dihydrate, with the chemical formula . It is widely mined and is used as a fertilizer and as the main constituent in many forms of plaster, blackboard or sidewalk chalk, and ...
. Rock is dissolved by natural acid in groundwater that seeps through bedding planes, faults, joints, and comparable features. Over time cracks enlarge to become caves and cave systems. The largest and most abundant solutional caves are located in limestone. Limestone dissolves under the action of rainwater and groundwater charged with H2CO3 ( carbonic acid) and naturally occurring
organic acid An organic acid is an organic compound with acidic properties. The most common organic acids are the carboxylic acids, whose acidity is associated with their carboxyl group –COOH. Sulfonic acids, containing the group –SO2OH, are rel ...
s. The dissolution process produces a distinctive landform known as ''
karst Karst is a topography formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone, Dolomite (rock), dolomite, and gypsum. It is characterized by underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves. It has also been documented for more weathe ...
'', characterized by
sinkhole A sinkhole is a depression or hole in the ground caused by some form of collapse of the surface layer. The term is sometimes used to refer to doline, enclosed depressions that are locally also known as ''vrtače'' and shakeholes, and to openi ...
s and underground drainage. Limestone caves are often adorned with
calcium carbonate Calcium carbonate is a chemical compound with the Chemical formula, formula . It is a common substance found in Rock (geology), rocks as the minerals calcite and aragonite (most notably as limestone, which is a type of sedimentary rock consisti ...
formations produced through slow precipitation. These include
flowstone Flowstones are sheetlike deposits of calcite or other carbonate minerals, formed where water flows down the walls or along the floors of a cave. They are typically found in "solution caves", in limestone, where they are the most common speleothe ...
s,
stalactite A stalactite (, ; from the Greek language, Greek 'stalaktos' ('dripping') via ''stalassein'' ('to drip') is a mineral formation that hangs from the ceiling of caves, hot springs, or man-made structures such as bridges and mines. Any material th ...
s,
stalagmite A stalagmite (, ; from the Greek language, Greek , from , "dropping, trickling") is a type of rock formation that rises from the floor of a cave due to the accumulation of material Deposition (geology), deposited on the floor from ceiling dr ...
s,
helictite A helictite is a speleothem (cave-formed mineral) found in a Solution cave, limestone cave that changes its axis from the vertical at one or more stages during its growth. Helictites have a curving or angular form that looks as if they were gro ...
s,
soda straw A soda straw (or simply straw) is a speleothem in the form of a hollow mineral cylinder (geometry), cylindrical tube. They are also known as tubular stalactites. Soda straws grow in places where water leaches slowly through cracks in rock, such a ...
s and columns. These secondary mineral deposits in caves are called ''
speleothem A speleothem (; ) is a geological formation by mineral deposition (geology), deposits that accumulate over time in natural caves. Speleothems most commonly form in calcareous caves due to carbonate dissolution reactions. They can take a variety ...
s''. The portions of a solutional cave that are below the
water table The water table is the upper surface of the Phreatic zone, zone of saturation. The zone of saturation is where the pores and fractures of the ground are saturated with water. It can also be simply explained as the depth below which the ground is ...
or the local level of the groundwater will be flooded.
Lechuguilla Cave At , Lechuguilla Cave is the longest cave, eighth-longest explored cave in the world and the second deepest () in the continental United States. It is most famous for its unusual geology, rare speleothem, formations, and pristine condition. The c ...
in
New Mexico ) , population_demonym = New Mexican ( es, Neomexicano, Neomejicano, Nuevo Mexicano) , seat = Santa Fe, New Mexico, Santa Fe , LargestCity = Albuquerque, New Mexico, Albuquerque , LargestMetro = Albuquerque metropolitan area, Tiguex , Offi ...
and nearby Carlsbad Cavern are now believed to be examples of another type of solutional cave. They were formed by H2S (
hydrogen sulfide Hydrogen sulfide is a chemical compound with the chemical formula, formula . It is a colorless Chalcogen hydride, chalcogen-hydride gas, and is poisonous, corrosive, and flammable, with trace amounts in ambient atmosphere having a characteristic ...
) gas rising from below, where reservoirs of oil give off sulfurous fumes. This gas mixes with groundwater and forms H2SO4 (
sulfuric acid Sulfuric acid (American spelling and the preferred IUPAC name) or sulphuric acid (English in the Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth spelling), known in antiquity as oil of vitriol, is a mineral acid composed of the elements sulfur, oxygen ...
). The acid then dissolves the limestone from below, rather than from above, by acidic water percolating from the surface.


Primary

Caves formed at the same time as the surrounding rock are called primary caves.
Lava tube A lava tube, or pyroduct, is a natural conduit formed by flowing lava from a volcano, volcanic vent that moves beneath the hardened surface of a lava flow. If lava in the tube empties, it will leave a cave. Formation A lava tube is a type o ...
s are formed through
volcanic A volcano is a rupture in the Crust (geology), crust of a Planet#Planetary-mass objects, planetary-mass object, such as Earth, that allows hot lava, volcanic ash, and volcanic gas, gases to escape from a magma chamber below the surface. On Ear ...
activity and are the most common primary caves. As
lava Lava is molten or partially molten rock (magma) that has been expelled from the interior of a terrestrial planet (such as Earth) or a Natural satellite, moon onto its surface. Lava may be erupted at a volcano or through a Fissure vent, fract ...
flows downhill, its surface cools and solidifies. Hot liquid lava continues to flow under that crust, and if most of it flows out, a hollow tube remains. Such caves can be found in the
Canary Islands The Canary Islands (; es, Canarias, ), also known informally as the Canaries, are a Spanish autonomous community and archipelago An archipelago ( ), sometimes called an island group or island chain, is a chain, cluster, or collecti ...
, Jeju-do, the basaltic plains of Eastern Idaho, and in other places.
Kazumura Cave Kazumura Cave is a lava tube and has been surveyed at 40.7 miles (65.5 km) long and 3,614 feet (1,102 m) deep making it the longest and deepest lava tube in the world. The cave is located on the island of Hawaii (island), Hawaiʻi on the easte ...
near
Hilo Hilo () is a census-designated place (CDP) and the largest settlement in Hawaii County, Hawaii, Hawaii County, Hawaii, United States, which encompasses the Hawaii (island), Island of Hawaii. The population was 44,186 according to the 2020 United ...
,
Hawaii Hawaii ( ; haw, Hawaii or ) is a U.S. state, state in the Western United States, Western United States, located in the Pacific Ocean about from the U.S. mainland. It is the only U.S. state outside North America, the only state that is ...
is a remarkably long and deep lava tube; it is . Lava caves include but are not limited to lava tubes. Other caves formed through volcanic activity include rifts, lava molds, open vertical conduits, inflationary, blisters, among others.


Sea or littoral

Sea caves are found along coasts around the world. A special case is littoral caves, which are formed by wave action in zones of weakness in sea cliffs. Often these weaknesses are faults, but they may also be dykes or bedding-plane contacts. Some wave-cut caves are now above sea level because of later uplift. Elsewhere, in places such as Thailand's Phang Nga Bay, solutional caves have been flooded by the sea and are now subject to littoral erosion. Sea caves are generally around in length, but may exceed .


Corrasional or erosional

Corrasional or erosional caves are those that form entirely by erosion by flowing streams carrying rocks and other sediments. These can form in any type of rock, including hard rocks such as granite. Generally there must be some zone of weakness to guide the water, such as a fault or joint. A subtype of the erosional cave is the wind or aeolian cave, carved by wind-born sediments. Many caves formed initially by solutional processes often undergo a subsequent phase of erosional or vadose enlargement where active streams or rivers pass through them.


Glacier

Glacier caves are formed by melting ice and flowing water within and under glaciers. The cavities are influenced by the very slow flow of the ice, which tends to collapse the caves again. Glacier caves are sometimes misidentified as " ice caves", though this latter term is properly reserved for bedrock caves that contain year-round ice formations.


Fracture

Fracture caves are formed when layers of more soluble minerals, such as gypsum, dissolve out from between layers of less soluble rock. These rocks fracture and collapse in blocks of stone.


Talus

Talus caves are formed by the openings among large boulders that have fallen down into a random heap, often at the bases of cliffs. These unstable deposits are called talus or
scree Scree is a collection of broken Rock (geology), rock fragments at the base of a cliff or other steep rocky mass that has accumulated through periodic rockfall. Landforms associated with these materials are often called talus deposits. Talus depos ...
, and may be subject to frequent rockfalls and
landslide Landslides, also known as landslips, are several forms of mass wasting that may include a wide range of ground movements, such as rockfalls, deep-seated grade (slope), slope failures, mudflows, and debris flows. Landslides occur in a variety of ...
s.


Anchialine

Anchialine caves are caves, usually coastal, containing a mixture of freshwater and saline water (usually sea water). They occur in many parts of the world, and often contain highly specialized and endemic fauna.


Physical patterns

*''Branchwork caves'' resemble surface dendritic stream patterns; they are made up of passages that join downstream as tributaries. Branchwork caves are the most common of cave patterns and are formed near
sinkhole A sinkhole is a depression or hole in the ground caused by some form of collapse of the surface layer. The term is sometimes used to refer to doline, enclosed depressions that are locally also known as ''vrtače'' and shakeholes, and to openi ...
s where
groundwater recharge Groundwater recharge or deep drainage or deep percolation is a hydrologic process, where water Water (chemical formula ) is an Inorganic compound, inorganic, transparent, tasteless, odorless, and Color of water, nearly colorless chemical ...
occurs. Each passage or branch is fed by a separate recharge source and converges into other higher order branches downstream.Easterbrook, Don, 1999, ''Surface Processes and Landforms nd edition', New Jersey, Prentice Hall, p. 207 *''Angular network caves'' form from intersecting fissures of carbonate rock that have had fractures widened by chemical erosion. These fractures form high, narrow, straight passages that persist in widespread closed loops. *''Anastomotic caves'' largely resemble surface braided streams with their passages separating and then meeting further down drainage. They usually form along one bed or structure, and only rarely cross into upper or lower beds. *''Spongework caves'' are formed when solution cavities are joined by mixing of chemically diverse water. The cavities form a pattern that is three-dimensional and random, resembling a sponge. *''Ramiform caves'' form as irregular large rooms, galleries, and passages. These randomized three-dimensional rooms form from a rising water table that erodes the carbonate rock with hydrogen-sulfide enriched water. *'' Pit caves'' (vertical caves, potholes, or simply "pits") consist of a vertical shaft rather than a horizontal cave passage. They may or may not be associated with one of the above structural patterns.


Geographic distribution

Caves are found throughout the world, although the distribution of documented cave system is heavily skewed towards those countries where caving has been popular for many years (such as France, Italy, Australia, the UK, the United States, etc.). As a result, explored caves are found widely in Europe, Asia, North America and Oceania, but are sparse in South America, Africa, and Antarctica. This is a rough generalization, as large expanses of North America and Asia contain no documented caves, whereas areas such as the
Madagascar dry deciduous forests The Madagascar dry deciduous forests represent a tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf forests, tropical dry forest ecoregion situated in the western and northern part of Madagascar. The area has high numbers of Endemism, endemic plant and anima ...
and parts of
Brazil Brazil ( pt, Brasil; ), officially the Federative Republic of Brazil (Portuguese: ), is the largest country in both South America South America is a continent entirely in the Western Hemisphere and mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, ...
contain many documented caves. As the world's expanses of soluble bedrock are researched by cavers, the distribution of documented caves is likely to shift. For example, China, despite containing around half the world's exposed limestone—more than —has relatively few documented caves.


Records and superlatives

*The cave system with the ''greatest total length'' of surveyed passage is Mammoth Cave in
Kentucky Kentucky ( , ), officially the Commonwealth of Kentucky, is a U.S. state, state in the Southeastern United States, Southeastern region of the United States and one of the states of the Upper South. It borders Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio to ...
, US, at . *The longest surveyed ''underwater cave'', and second longest overall, is
Sistema Sac Actun Sistema Sac Actun (from Spanish language, Spanish and Yucatec Maya meaning "White Cave System") is an underwater cave system situated along the Caribbean coast of the Yucatán Peninsula with passages to the north and west of the city of Tulum, Qui ...
in Yucatán, Mexico at . *The ''deepest known cave'' — measured from its highest entrance to its lowest point — is Veryovkina Cave in
Abkhazia Abkhazia, ka, აფხაზეთი, tr, , xmf, აბჟუა, abzhua, or ( or ), officially the Republic of Abkhazia, is a partially recognised State (polity), state in the South Caucasus, International recognition of Abkhazia and ...
, Georgia, with a depth of . This was the first cave to be explored to a depth of more than . (The first cave to be descended below was Gouffre Berger in France.) The Sarma and Illyuzia-Mezhonnogo-Snezhnaya caves in Georgia, (, and respectively) are the current second- and third-deepest caves. The deepest outside Georgia is Lamprechtsofen Vogelschacht Weg Schacht in Austria, which is deep. *The ''deepest vertical shaft'' in a cave is in Vrtoglavica Cave in
Slovenia Slovenia ( ; sl, Slovenija ), officially the Republic of Slovenia (Slovene: , Abbreviation, abbr.: ''RS''), is a country in Central Europe. It is bordered by Italy to the west, Austria to the north, Hungary to the northeast, Croatia to the s ...
. The second deepest is Ghar-e-Ghala at in the Parau massif near
Kermanshah Kermanshah ( fa, کرمانشاه, Kermânšâh ), also known as Kermashan (; romanized: Kirmaşan), is the capital of Kermanshah Province, located from Tehran in the western part of Iran. According to the 2016 census, its population is 946,681 ...
in
Iran Iran, officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, and also called Persia, is a country located in Western Asia. It is bordered by Iraq and Turkey to the west, by Azerbaijan and Armenia to the northwest, by the Caspian Sea and Turkmeni ...
. * The deepest ''underwater cave'' bottomed by a
remotely operated underwater vehicle A remotely operated underwater vehicle (technically ROUV or just ROV) is a tethered underwater mobile device, commonly called ''underwater robot''. Definition This meaning is different from remote control vehicles operating on land or in the ai ...
at , is the Hranice Abyss in the
Czech Republic The Czech Republic, or simply Czechia, is a landlocked country in Central Europe. Historically known as Bohemia, it is bordered by Austria to the south, Germany to the west, Poland to the northeast, and Slovakia to the southeast. The Cz ...
. *The ''largest known room'' is Sarawak Chamber, in the Gunung Mulu National Park (
Miri ) , subdivision_type = Country , subdivision_name = , subdivision_type1 = States and federal territories of Malaysia, State , subdivision_name1 = , subdivision_type2 ...
,
Sarawak Sarawak (; ) is a States and federal territories of Malaysia, state of Malaysia. The largest among the 13 states, with an area almost equal to that of Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak is located in northwest Borneo Island, and is bordered by the M ...
,
Borneo Borneo (; id, Kalimantan) is the List of islands by area, third-largest island in the world and the largest in Asia. At the geographic centre of Maritime Southeast Asia, in relation to major Indonesian islands, it is located north of Java Isl ...
,
Malaysia Malaysia ( ; ) is a country in Southeast Asia. The federation, federal constitutional monarchy consists of States and federal territories of Malaysia, thirteen states and three federal territories, separated by the South China Sea into two r ...
), a sloping, boulder strewn chamber with an area of approximately and a height of . The nearby Clearwater Cave System is believed to be the world's ''largest cave by volume'', with a calculated volume of . The largest room in a
show cave A show cave—also called tourist cave, public cave, and, in the United States, commercial cave—is a cave which has been made accessible to the public for guided visits. Definition A show cave is a cave that has been made accessible to ...
is the salle de La Verna in the French
Pyrenees The Pyrenees (; es, Pirineos ; french: Pyrénées ; ca, Pirineu ; eu, Pirinioak ; oc, Pirenèus ; an, Pirineus) is a mountain range straddling the border of France and Spain. It extends nearly from its union with the Cantabrian Mountains to C ...
. *The ''largest passage'' ever discovered is in the Son Doong Cave in Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park in Quảng Bình Province,
Vietnam Vietnam or Viet Nam ( vi, Việt Nam, ), officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,., group="n" is a country in Southeast Asia, at the eastern edge of mainland Southeast Asia, with an area of and population of 96 million, making it ...
. It is in length, high and wide over most of its length, but over high and wide for part of its length.


Five longest surveyed

# Mammoth Cave,
Kentucky Kentucky ( , ), officially the Commonwealth of Kentucky, is a U.S. state, state in the Southeastern United States, Southeastern region of the United States and one of the states of the Upper South. It borders Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio to ...
, US #
Sistema Sac Actun Sistema Sac Actun (from Spanish language, Spanish and Yucatec Maya meaning "White Cave System") is an underwater cave system situated along the Caribbean coast of the Yucatán Peninsula with passages to the north and west of the city of Tulum, Qui ...
/
Sistema Dos Ojos Dos Ojos (from Spanish language, Spanish meaning "Two Eyes"; officially Sistema Dos Ojos) is part of a flooded cave system located north of Tulum, on the Caribbean coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. The explorat ...
, Mexico # Jewel Cave,
South Dakota South Dakota (; Sioux language, Sioux: , ) is a U.S. state in the West North Central states, North Central region of the United States. It is also part of the Great Plains. South Dakota is named after the Lakota people, Lakota and Dakota peo ...
, US #
Sistema Ox Bel Ha Sistema Ox Bel Ha (from Yucatec Maya language, Mayan meaning "Three Paths of Water"; short Ox Bel Ha) is a cave system in Quintana Roo, Mexico. It is the 2nd longest explored underwater cave in the world and ranks fourth including dry caves. As o ...
, Mexico # Shuanghedong Cave Network,
China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the world's List of countries and dependencies by population, most populous country, with a Population of China, population exceeding 1.4 billion, slig ...


Ecology

Cave-inhabiting animals are often categorized as troglobites (cave-limited species), troglophiles (species that can live their entire lives in caves, but also occur in other environments),
trogloxene Trogloxenes or subtroglophiles, also called cave guests, are animal species which periodically live in underground habitats such as caves or at the very entrance, but cannot live exclusively in such habitats."Cave Plants and Animals". 9 December Am ...
s (species that use caves, but cannot complete their life cycle fully in caves) and accidentals (animals not in one of the previous categories). Some authors use separate terminology for aquatic forms (for example, stygobites, stygophiles, and stygoxenes). Of these animals, the troglobites are perhaps the most unusual organisms. Troglobitic species often show a number of characteristics, termed troglomorphic, associated with their adaptation to subterranean life. These characteristics may include a loss of pigment (often resulting in a pale or white coloration), a loss of eyes (or at least of optical functionality), an elongation of appendages, and an enhancement of other senses (such as the ability to sense vibrations in water). Aquatic troglobites (or stygobites), such as the endangered Alabama cave shrimp, live in bodies of water found in caves and get nutrients from detritus washed into their caves and from the feces of bats and other cave inhabitants. Other aquatic troglobites include cave fish, and cave salamanders such as the olm and the Texas blind salamander. Cave insects such as Oligaphorura (formerly Archaphorura) schoetti are troglophiles, reaching in length. They have extensive distribution and have been studied fairly widely. Most specimens are female, but a male specimen was collected from St Cuthberts Swallet in 1969.
Bat Bats are mammal Mammals () are a group of vertebrate animals constituting the class Mammalia (), characterized by the presence of mammary glands which in females produce milk for feeding (nursing) their young, a neocortex (a ...
s, such as the gray bat and
Mexican free-tailed bat The Mexican free-tailed bat or Brazilian free-tailed bat (''Tadarida brasiliensis'') is a medium-sized bat native to the Americas, so named because its tail can be almost half its total length and is not attached to its uropatagium. It has been ...
, are trogloxenes and are often found in caves; they forage outside of the caves. Some species of cave crickets are classified as trogloxenes, because they roost in caves by day and forage above ground at night. Because of the fragility of cave ecosystems, and the fact that cave regions tend to be isolated from one another, caves harbor a number of endangered species, such as the Tooth cave spider, liphistius trapdoor spider, and the gray bat. Caves are visited by many surface-living animals, including humans. These are usually relatively short-lived incursions, due to the lack of light and sustenance. Cave entrances often have typical florae. For instance, in the eastern temperate United States, cave entrances are most frequently (and often densely) populated by the bulblet fern, '' Cystopteris bulbifera''.


Archaeological and cultural importance

Throughout history, primitive peoples have made use of caves. The earliest human
fossil A fossil (from Classical Latin , ) is any preserved remains, impression, or trace of any once-living thing from a past geological age. Examples include bones, shells, exoskeletons, stone imprints of animals or microbes, objects preserved ...
s found in caves come from a series of caves near Krugersdorp and Mokopane in South Africa. The cave sites of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans,
Kromdraai Kromdraai Conservancy is a protected conservation park located to the south-west of Gauteng province in north-east South Africa. It is in the Muldersdrift area not far from Krugersdorp. Etymology Its name is derived from Afrikaans meaning "Croo ...
B,
Drimolen The Drimolen Palaeocave System consists of a series of terminal Pliocene to early Pleistocene hominin-bearing palaeocave fills located around north of Johannesburg, South Africa, and about north of Sterkfontein in the UNESCO World Heritage Site ...
,
Malapa Malapa is a fossil-bearing cave located about northeast of the well known South African hominid-bearing sites of Sterkfontein and Swartkrans and about north-northwest of Johannesburg, South Africa. It is situated within the Cradle of Humanki ...
, Cooper's D, Gladysvale, Gondolin and Makapansgat have yielded a range of early human species dating back to between three and one million years ago, including ''
Australopithecus africanus ''Australopithecus africanus'' is an extinct species of australopithecine which lived between about 3.3 and 2.1 million years ago in the Late Pliocene to Early Pleistocene of South Africa. The species has been recovered from Taung, Sterkfontein, ...
'', ''
Australopithecus sediba ''Australopithecus sediba'' is an extinct species of australopithecine recovered from Malapa Fossil Site, Cradle of Humankind, Malapa Cave, Cradle of Humankind, South Africa. It is known from a partial juvenile skeleton, the holotype MH1, and a ...
'' and ''
Paranthropus robustus ''Paranthropus robustus'' is a species of robustness (morphology), robust australopithecine from the Early Pleistocene, Early and possibly Middle Pleistocene, Middle Pleistocene of the Cradle of Humankind, South Africa, about 2.27 to 0.87 (or, mo ...
''. However, it is not generally thought that these early humans were living in the caves, but that they were brought into the caves by carnivores that had killed them. The first early hominid ever found in Africa, the
Taung Child The Taung Child (or Taung Baby) is the fossilised skull of a young ''Australopithecus africanus''. It was discovered in 1924 by quarrymen working for the Northern Lime Company in Taung, South Africa. Raymond Dart described it as a new species i ...
in 1924, was also thought for many years to come from a cave, where it had been deposited after being predated on by an eagle. However, this is now debated (Hopley et al., 2013; Am. J. Phys. Anthrop.). Caves do form in the dolomite of the Ghaap Plateau, including the Early, Middle and Later Stone Age site of
Wonderwerk Cave Wonderwerk Cave is an archaeological site, formed originally as an ancient solution cavity in dolomite rocks of the Kuruman Hills, situated between Danielskuil and Kuruman in the Northern Cape Province, South Africa. It is a National Heritag ...
; however, the caves that form along the escarpment's edge, like that hypothesised for the Taung Child, are formed within a secondary limestone deposit called
tufa Tufa is a variety of limestone formed when carbonate minerals precipitation (chemistry), precipitate out of water in ambient temperature, unheated rivers or lakes. hot spring, Geothermally heated hot springs sometimes produce similar (but less ...
. There is numerous evidence for other early human species inhabiting caves from at least one million years ago in different parts of the world, including ''
Homo erectus ''Homo erectus'' (; meaning ":wikt:erectus, upright man") is an extinct species of archaic human from the Pleistocene, with its earliest occurrence about 2 million years ago. Several human species, such as ''H. heidelbergensis'' and ''H. ...
'' in China at Zhoukoudian, '' Homo rhodesiensis'' in South Africa at the Cave of Hearths ( Makapansgat), ''
Homo neanderthalensis Neanderthals (, also ''Homo neanderthalensis'' and erroneously ''Homo sapiens neanderthalensis''), also written as Neandertals, are an Extinction, extinct species or subspecies of archaic humans who lived in Eurasia until about 40,000 years ag ...
'' and ''
Homo heidelbergensis ''Homo heidelbergensis'' (also ''H. sapiens heidelbergensis''), sometimes called Heidelbergs, is an extinct species or subspecies of archaic human which existed during the Middle Pleistocene. It was subsumed as a subspecies of ''H. erectus'' in 1 ...
'' in Europe at Archaeological Site of Atapuerca, ''
Homo floresiensis ''Homo floresiensis'' also known as "Flores Man"; nicknamed "Hobbit") is an Extinction, extinct species of small archaic human that inhabited the island of Flores, Indonesia, until the arrival of Homo sapiens, modern humans about 50,000 years ...
'' in Indonesia, and the Denisovans in southern Siberia. In southern Africa, early modern humans regularly used sea caves as shelter starting about 180,000 years ago when they learned to exploit the sea for the first time. The oldest known site is PP13B at Pinnacle Point. This may have allowed rapid expansion of humans out of Africa and colonization of areas of the world such as Australia by 60–50,000 years ago. Throughout southern Africa, Australia, and Europe, early modern humans used caves and rock shelters as sites for rock art, such as those at Giant's Castle. Caves such as the yaodong in China were used for shelter; other caves were used for burials (such as
rock-cut tombs A rock-cut tomb is a burial chamber that is cut into an existing, naturally occurring rock formation, so a type of rock-cut architecture. They are usually cut into a cliff or sloping rock face, but may go downward in fairly flat ground. It was a ...
), or as religious sites (such as Buddhist caves). Among the known sacred caves are China's Cave of a Thousand Buddhas and the sacred caves of Crete.


Caves and acoustics

The importance of sound in caves predates a modern understanding of acoustics. Archaeologists have uncovered relationships between paintings of dots and lines, in specific areas of resonance, within the caves of Spain and France, as well as instruments depicting paleolithic motifs, indicators of musical events and rituals. Clusters of paintings were often founds in areas with notable acoustics, sometimes even replicating the sounds of the animals depicted on the walls. The human voice was also theorized to be used as an echolocation device to navigate darker areas of the caves where torches were less useful. Dots of red ochre are often found in spaces with the highest resonance, where the production of paintings was too difficult. Caves continue to provide usage for modern-day explorers of acoustics. Today Cumberland Caverns provides one of the best examples for modern musical usages of caves. Not only are caves utilized for the reverberations, but for the dampening qualities of their abnormal faces as well. The irregularities in the walls of the Cumberland Caverns diffuse sounds bouncing off the walls and give the space and almost recording studio-like quality. During the 20th century musicians began to explore the possibility of using caves as locations as clubs and concert halls, including the likes of
Dinah Shore Dinah Shore (born Frances Rose Shore; February 29, 1916 – February 24, 1994) was an American singer, actress, and television personality, and the top-charting female vocalist of the 1940s. She rose to prominence as a recording artist during ...
,
Roy Acuff Roy Claxton Acuff (September 15, 1903 – November 23, 1992) was an American country music singer, fiddler, and promoter. Known as the "King of Country Music", Acuff is often credited with moving the genre from its early string band and "hoedown ...
, and Benny Goodman. Unlike today, these early performances were typically held in the mouths of the caves, as the lack of technology made depths of the interior inaccessible with musical equipment. In Luray Caverns, Virginia, a functioning
organ Organ may refer to: Biology * Organ (biology), a part of an organism Musical instruments * Organ (music), a family of keyboard musical instruments characterized by sustained tone ** Electronic organ, an electronic keyboard instrument ** Hammond ...
has been developed that generates sound by mallets striking stalactites, each with a different pitch.


See also

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References

{{Authority control Erosion landforms Fluvial landforms