Location: Laganisi, Oprtalj
Entrance Orientation: SSE
Entrance Altitude: 395m asl
Cave Formation: Horizontal
Main Research Years: 2004-2006 test pit. 2006 Survey vertical cave.
Occupation Eras and Years: Middle Neolithic - Late Neolithic, Copper Age, Bronze Age, Roman
Komso, D. 2008. Laganisi Cave: a place of life and a place of death. Pula: Arheološki muzej Istre.
Cave Description: In a small karst valley 1.65km NE from Oprtalj, 350m SE of Laganisi village. The site is situated at the edge of a plateau whose peaks do not exceed a height of 500 m above sea level. The plateau is bordered by the rivers Mirna to the south, Bračana to the east, and Dragonja to the north. The central area of the plateau lies from Cape Savudrija in the west to Zrenj in the east. It is 35 km long and 4 km wide. The valley is 29m long and 12m wide and runs north-south. Cave system consists of adjoining caves located in a small karst valley, one of which has a vertical entrance. The archaeological site of Laganiši cave consists of a cave located in a small karst valley, and a nearby cave with a vertical entrance. The two caves form a single cave system, at present divided by a closed passage which might have been passable in prehistory. From the point of view of their use, the two caves can be distinguished as a place of life and a place of death. The pothole, vertical entrance, has probably been created due to subsidence of the ceiling since antiquity.
Cave is at maximum dimensions 22m long X 12m wide X 8m high.
The sinkhole, that is, a cave with a vertical entrance, has two small openings. The dimensions of the first are 1 m x 1 m, and the dimensions of the second are 30 cm x 40 cm. In order to reach the cave, you need to use the bigger opening, climb down vertically on a rope for 7 metres, then over a 5 metre tall stone slide, down to the cave room. The cave room lies in a southeast to southwest direction and is 25 m long, 10 m wide, and 7 m high at its highest point. The room is filled with moist clayish sediment. There are several other cave rooms located around this one. There is a small, low and dripstone covered channel on the south side of the room. The channel is 7 m long and 4 m wide, rising steeply upwards to the south. There is a room filled with moist clayish sediment to the west. The room measures 11 m x 6 m and is 4 m high. It is separated from the entrance room by a low ceiling and a drystone wall covered in dripstone. There is a large room to the northwest. The room is 16 m long, 16 m wide and 12 m high, with the smaller of the above-mentioned openings in its ceiling. There is a heap of stones in its centre which were thrown through the opening. The heap is 4 m tall and covers almost all of the room. To the east of the room there is a blocked passage, located only 3 m from the west wall of the cave situated in the valley. In the southeastern part, there is a channel covered with dripstone with a large amount of surface water. The channel is separated from the room by a low ceiling. It is 11 m long, 4 m wide and 4 m tall. The overall surface of the cave is 370 m2. There are numerous graffiti in the cave. They were mostly done by pen and pencil, while some were also incised in the dripstone. The oldest graffiti are from the end of the 19th century AD.
Research Chronicles and Data: Much destruction had occurred particularly to the south area of the cave where 12m2 had be dug to a depth of 60cm with bronze age pottery fragments visible in the sections. Large pottery fragments and human bone fragments were found in cave with vertical entrance.
Test trench excavated 2004-2006 was 12.75 m2 in size and consisted of two parts (3 m x 2 m, and 4.5 m x 1.5 m) in the shape of the letter L. The greatest relative depth of the trench was 4.05 m.
Among the rich archaeological finds, pottery is the most common. In addition, flint-stone and bone tools, animal and fish bones, and mollusc shells were also recovered. Traces of a large number of open fireplaces were observed in all layers, and different archaeological features were also seen. No traces of human activity were found in layers prior to the Neolithic. However, we cannot exclude human traces in the older layers, because the research has not been concluded, and the bedrock has not been reached in the studied area.
Neolithic: Numerous finds were recovered 3.20 m under the present cave floor level. Remarkable among them are pottery items with typical traits of the transitional period between the Middle and Late Neolithic. Several flint-stone tools were also recovered. Pottery items are very heterogeneous and exhibit rich decorations such as incised spirals, meanders and zigzag lines. Incisions are often filled with a red colour produced from ochre. Very remarkable is a perforated funnel-shaped vessel. The vessel was used as part of the equipment for producing dairy products, which indicates that milk production took place at the very site. Flint-stone tools were brought to the cave as finished goods. They were made entirely of high quality raw material originating in areas more than 100 km away from the site. The remains of animal and fish bones, as well as mollusc shells, are indications of the heterogeneous diet of the Neolithic inhabitants of Laganiši. Traces of several open fireplaces were also recorded. The recovered finds tell us that a herding community used the cave, most probably during summer, in the transitional period from the Middle to Late Neolithic, about 5,000 BC. Dairy products were also made at the site.
Copper Age: Thick Copper Age layers were found above the Neolithic layers and yielded a somewhat smaller number of archaeological finds. Different pottery fragments were recovered from these layers. The most important among them are several fragments with distinct traits of the Ljubljana culture, a fragment of a ceramic loom weight, probably used as part of a loom or distaff, and some fauna remains.
A few features and traces of several open fireplaces should also be mentioned. A smallcavity should also be singled out. It is 25 cm in diameter and has burned edges. It was located in the very vicinity of an open fireplace and was interpreted as a place where one or more meals were prepared. Archaeological finds from this historical period are roughly dated at the end of the Copper Age. They indicate that people repeatedly used the cave for habitation, even though less frequently than during the previous Neolithic period and the subsequent Bronze Age period.
Bronze Age: The Bronze Age layers are the layers with the highest number of archaeological finds of all recorded in Laganiši cave.
Vertical Cave: Detailed survey carried out in 2006 and resulted in finds of Bronze arrow, axe and dagger.
Test-pit 2m X 1.5m in west room next to drystone wall. Late Middle - Late Bronze Age finds of unburied human remains and Bronze artefacts.
Cave Uses: Agropastoral (A.a) - Neolithic: Production of dairy products. Herding. Seasonal (summer) Bronze Age: Necropolis