From new forms of human life to ancient corpses, some of the most baffling scientific discoveries lie within the depths of ancient caves. But while you already may know that most caves are dark and bat-filled, there's actually much more to the eye. Brace yourself, your mind is about to be blown by some of the most amazing mysteries found in earth's caves.
An Unexpected Discovery
In a cave in Naica, Mexico, scientists came upon a discovery that was completely unanticipated. As they navigated through the typical giant crystals within the cave, they made an unforeseen finding: a new sign of life believed to be around 50,000 years old.
In order for this new form of life to flourish, the bacteria and other microbes digested minerals like iron and magnesium from the crystal formations. By making this discovery, scientists have more evidence and materials to look into life living in extreme conditions on another planet!
But while unpredictable discoveries lie within caves, there has to be some under them, right?
While exploring an underwater cave in Madagascar, divers made a discovery that sent chills racing down their spine: giant lemur bones. When we say giant, we mean giant. Some of these lemurs may have been the size of a gorilla! While it's unclear how these bones wound up underwater, scientists suspect that they might've been dragged there by currents.
Giant lemurs may sound terrifying, but in the world before humans, these animals were just one of many that were giant in size. From giant deer to giant dragonflies, these frightening creatures truly show the impact and power of evolution.
But if we dig deeper into the depths of the many unique caves of the world, it only gets creepier...
The Haunting Hellfire Caves
While most caves are already hair-raising by themselves, this next set of caves takes it up to a whole new level. In the West Wycombe Caves of southeast England, caves contain carvings that are hard to forget.
Nicknamed the Hellfire Caves from their devil-like statues, the caves are definitely some to avoid if you want to keep your sanity.
A Trip With No End
If you happen to lurk through the vast and unsettling Ellison's Cave, you might want to proceed with caution if you want to avoid the cave's 586-foot deep drop. That's right: this cave located in Georgia is the 12th deepest in all of North America. After finding your way through the dark and dangerous depths of the cave, it takes 12 miles to reach the daunting drop.
That's enough nerve-wracking caves for now; this next cave is awe-inspiring sight to see!
A Starry Night
If you're a fan of stargazing, you might want to consider adding this dazzling cave to your bucket list. In Waitomo, New Zealand, a cave consumed by dangling orbs serves as a popular attraction to its visitors. Imitating a starlit night, the orbs cover the walls of the cave and aim to catch their next meal—flying insects. Formed 30 million years ago, this cave frequently runs kayaking tours and is at your disposal if you dream of it.
But while this gleaming cave is a beautiful sight to see, this next discovery is one you might want to brace yourself for...
Once upon a time in a cave in Tabasco, Mexico, a gooey, mucous-filled substance was discovered. It's called snottite. This stringy matter is an arrangement of bacterial mats arranged so they drip and dangle from a cave's ceilings. Consisting of mostly mucus, the bacteria is extremophilic, meaning it thrives in physically or geochemically extreme conditions that are destructive to most life on Earth.
While you might not have known about this gut-wrenching substance that hangs out in cave ceilings, you might be familiar with this next organism that does the same...
Bats and caves go hand in hand. But for this cave in Barangay Tambo, Samal Island, there's bats, bats, and more bats! In this cave, it houses the Monfort Bat Sanctuary and it only extends about 245 feet deep. But, bats are truly known for loving the cafe life.
They use their echolocation to adjust to the darkness and use the delays of the reflected waves to ascertain distances and speeds of their surrounding environment. So if you're afraid of these tiny, flight-powered animals, you might want to stay clear of this cave for good.
Deep within this next cave lies something much more frightening than these night-loving mammals...
Human Sacrifice Horrors
You can probably guess why this next set of caves was given the nickname "Caves of Death." Long ago, scientists found bones that indicate human sacrifice within the depths of these blood-curling caves. In their venture they found heads on pikes, bodies in pits, and I'll spare you the gory details of the rest. Based on this, it's obvious that sometimes the world presents us with terrifying things.
This next discovery backs that up quite nicely...
The Crone Statue, a.k.a Nightmare Fuel
In 2016, a mysterious, frightening statue nicknamed the "Crone Statue" was discovered in the Catskill Mountains by local hikers. The statue appeared to be a voodoo doll-looking figure with nails as eyes and a rope around its neck. Not like that's not insanely creepy or anything.
The hikers submitted the statue on a Reddit subthread to see if anyone had the details on it, but they said even being in the presence of the figure was unsettling as it gave off a strong supernatural feeling.
If you're feeling uneasy after that, no worries. Our next scientific discovery is strangely beautiful and will bring you back down to Earth.
The Friendly Cave Monster
The Olm salamander lives in the vast cave waters of Slovenia and Croatia. It's blind, breeds in water, uses electro-sensation to understand its surroundings, and is unique among its family of salamanders. This little guy can also live past 100 years, and it maintains its original gills until its death!
But while this friendly salamander lives unbothered in the caves of Slovenia and Croatia, much more harmful creatures lie within the depths of this next Romanian cave...
A Cave to Avoid
In Constanța, a city near the Black Sea, there's poisonous caves that have remained untouched for nearly 5.5 million years. But while it's survived unmarked by humans, other forms of life have adapted to its eerie inhospitable environment.
From scorpions to spiders, these poisonous caves are an arachnophobe's worst nightmare. In one cave specifically, Movile Cave, an unpleasant lake lies inside, smelling of rotten eggs and burnt sulfur. Even worse, when touched, it emits a poisonous gas called hydrogen sulfide. I think it's safe to say that these caves will remain untouched for a few more billion years!
A Cave to Avoid: Part Two
While these poisonous caves seem like they'd be ones to avoid, scientists must brave them for the sake of science. Entering and exploring the cave isn't easy, though. In order to venture through the caves, scientists must navigate through their poisonous waters.
Since the cave has a lower amount of oxygen than normal (by about half), explorers must have some sort of breathing apparatus to avoid becoming hypoxic and dying. But, because our bodies try to avoid environments like this at all cost, you can only stay in the cave for a couple of hours.
Just wait, there's more...
A Cave to Avoid: Part Three
Across all of planet Earth, species obtain their carbon dioxide from sunlight. But for this poisonous cave, that is not the case. Known as the only place on Earth for this to happen, bacteria in the cave break down chemicals in the air to function.
But not all caves are this bad, trust me. In fact, our next cave reveals captivating evidence about ancient civilizations...
Cave Wall Masterpieces
It's pretty well known that ancient civilizations once covered cave walls with art. But in one Argentinean cave, paintings of handprints expressed in red chalk powder have been found to be around 9,500 to 13,000 years old!
In this next cave, it shows how ancient civilizations got crafty in more ways than just cave paintings...
A Neanderthal Society?
In a cave in France, there's evidence that Neanderthals put stalagmites and stalactites to work. In order to practice their ritual-like gatherings, Neanderthals built structures in the cave with over 400 stalagmites and stalactites. We're not 100% certain what these structures were solely used for, but we do know it's a glimpse into their culture that we haven't discovered before.
Fear Snakes? Shield Your Eyes!
At a staggering length of 33 feet, the largest snake of all time was found in a cave in Altamira, Pará in northern Brazil. This frighteningly long snake was discovered by construction workers digging deep into the cave. It's unlikely that they expected this surprising finding when they clocked in that morning! In this next cave, a much more tame and beautiful discovery was found...
More Neanderthal Discoveries
Consisting of painted shells and other aquatic post-life, jewelry made by Neanderthals was discovered by scientists in a cave in the Cueva de Los Avinones. The jewelry dates back to be around 115,000 years old and was created around 20,000 years before modern humans arrived in Europe from Africa!
Brace yourself, this next discovery will shock you.
A New Species of Human
In an Indonesian cave called Liang Bua, a new species of human was discovered. These three-foot-tall humans were given the name Homo floresiensis. The name derives from their island name, Flores. The species died out 50,000 years prior to Neanderthals and new research paints them to be around 100,000 to 60,000 years old!
The Jeffrey Dahmer of Caves
Yes, you read that title right. In a Spanish cave, scientists discovered evidence of Neanderthal-induced cannibalism. At least 30 bones, thought to be around 10,000 years old, were found that were damaged in a way that suggested cannibalism.
If that doesn't make you cringe, then maybe the following will. These bones have been both sawed through and chewed on. Gross, right? Even worse, the Neanderthals weren't gnawing on the bones of others for nutrients, but as an intimidation tactic against other competing groups! If there's one thing I know, it is that this tactic would work on me, that's for sure.
An Unknown Human
In an African cave, the largest discovery of skeletal bones has been found, and they're not of any known species of modern human. The bones were of a previously undiscovered ancient human, and given the name Homo naledi.
Scientists believe the species thrived around three million years ago, and the uniqueness of the shape of its skull made the species quite distinguishable. With its smaller brain cavity and pronounced brow ridge, this discovery was one for the books.
In China, there's a beautiful 500,000-year-old cave called the Karst Cave. With its reflected, blended colors of purple and blue, this cave was created by an ancient river. But what makes this cave extremely unique is that it was used as a bomb shelter during WWII! With its high accessibility, hiding from raining bombs and gunfire was made easy in this large cave.
As the old saying goes, "diamonds are a girl's best friend." In this case, pearls are this cave's best friend. While these "cave pearls" are not as valuable as real pears, the circular, smooth rocks look just as neat. Formed by the dripping of calcite-heavy water onto dirt, the smooth clumps of dirt are formed into a glossy, new version of themselves after enough time.
The Bahamas have the highest amount of underwater caves in the world, typically called blue holes for the way the look from a bird's-eye view. Usually, the water has a darker shade of blue than its surrounding environment. This is because their entrances trap light, causing the nearby water to reflect a dark shade of blue. If you're looking for an adventure that you won't forget, exploring these blue holes will do just the trick!
On a darker note, this next discovery will be sure to spook you.
An Unsettling Bird Claw
While this unnerving claw looks like something straight out of a sci-fi movie, it's actually the claw of an ancient bird called a moa. This now-extinct bird used to live in New Zealand where it preyed on humans. Because of this, the moa is considered one of the most horrifying birds of all time!
In a Greek island, a cave called the Melissani contains an entire lake. With its clear and beautiful waters, tourists from all over the world visit to explore the cave via canoe and kayak. If you're looking for a pleasant, non-weird-discovery-filled cave experience, be sure to add this entry to your upcoming trip!
Stalactites hang from the ceilings of caves and are formed by sediment-heavy water, dripping from little rock formations. The longest stalactites are found in the Jeita Grotto in Lebanon, measuring at 27 feet in length! But stalactites aren't the only things hanging on the insides of caves...
Stalagmites get their mineral deposits dripped onto them, while stalactites get their mineral deposits dripped off of them. The longest one that exists currently is found in the Doolin Cave in Clare, Ireland, measuring around 21 feet!
Discovering Dead Sea Scrolls
The Dead Sea Scrolls are ancient Jewish manuscripts from the Qumran Caves in the Judaean Desert. Initial discoveries were made in 1946-1947, with a new cave discovered in 2017. Unfortunately, this latest discovery didn't yield any religious manuscripts as it was likely looted in the 1950s. But overall, these caves and their contents are incredible discoveries that have inspired generations of curious archaeologists and scientists.
But in some caves, discoveries are yet to be found...
A Bottomless Cave
In the Krubera Cave in the Republic of Georgia, scientists have traveled downward 6,824 feet... and still haven't found the bottom. Known as one of the deepest caves of all time, this place is seemingly depth-less and leaves scientists baffled. If you're feeling up for the challenge, exploring the never-ending bounds of this cave can make for a time-consuming adventure.
But wait, there's more!
A Bottomless Cave: Part Two
In order to explore this boundless cave, it takes quite the amount of time. People sleep in tents, work for 20 hours days, and spend weeks inside of it. From hiking through freezing cold lakes to squeezing through narrow tunnels, adventuring through this cave is definitely not an easy ask. But if done right, you will walk out with some of the coolest bragging rights.
Red Fish, Blue Fish, Blind Fish, New Fish
Many species adapt to cave conditions, and these fish are an extreme example of this adaptability. Due to the harsh environment of cave life, the fish have lost their eyes to the evolutionary process. But, luckily for them, the fish can sense vibrations or pressure changes using their lateral lines to understand their surroundings.
In the Cave of Crystals in Naica, Mexico, the crystals are giant, to say the least. But while these 55-ton, 36-foot-long crystals are a beautiful sight, not many actually see them. In the 118-degree, 90-percent humidity-filled cave, the hostile environment is enough to kill a human in 30 minutes without proper protection.
Caves and Their Mysterious Nature
So far, we've learned a lot about caves. From fish with no eyes to haunting, spine-chilling statues, mysterious and awe-inspiring discoveries come from caves all of the time. We learn more and more about caves as time goes on and science expands.
But we're not done learning yet.
This next discovery involves an intricate system that will rock your world, no pun intended.
A Cave Connection
In Salzburg, Austria, a Polish expedition connected two caves: Vogelshacht and Lamprechtsofen. Extending 5,354 feet deep, this cave system has the potential to be the world's deepest. While it's typical for caves to be explored with the use of explosives, this particular expedition has yet to make use of them. This well-thought-out expedition continues to explore the depths of the cave.
Some discoveries remain a mystery...
The Royston Cave in England contains several mysterious carvings that remain unexplained to this day. While there are no theories confirmed, several of them cover Freemasons and Templars as well as the possibility that the cave was a prison.
But this cave isn't the only one with mysteries within it...
The Mysterious Panxian Cave
Located in a small valley about 5,348 feet above sea level in southern China, this Panxian Cave is quite the sight to see. But besides its beautiful appearance, this cave has a history that might surprise you.
For instance, human species as well as gigantic forms of early man were sighted at the cave about 300,000 years ago. But what's truly baffling is how these ancient animals could reach a mountain cave located so far above sea level.
Most likely, animals climbed there, but it's hard to know for sure...
Curious Caves of Cornwall
Caves that date back to 500 B.C. are located in Cornwall, England. Those who have visited the caves say they witnessed a strange light phenomenon, heard unusual sounds, and even experienced extraordinary visions inside of it.
Knowing the power of Earth's energy, our ancestors built sacred monuments on power spots. These spots contain so much power within them that they cause various physical reactions, which could be the explanation of the effect the cave has on their visitors. If you're looked to be both spooked and wowed at the same time, this cave is your dream destination!
While Transylvania is mainly famous for the legend of Count Dracula, it's also known for the location of over 400 ancient footprints discovered in a Carpathian Mountain cave. After research, scientists discovered that these footprints are over 36,500 years old, but what happened to the mysterious people who once roamed the cave is still a mystery!