Krapina Špilja

Krapina Cave

Useful Information

Location: Hrvatsko Zagorje. 30 km from Zagreb.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Dimension: A=160 m asl.
Guided tours:
Bibliography: Jim Ahern (1999): New perspectives on the Krapina frontal sample and supraorbital change in late Pleistocene south-central Europe. Presented at Krapina: 1899-1999, Zagreb, Croatia.
Address: Krapina Cave, Krapina, Hrvatsko Zagorje.
Museum of Early Man, Krapina, Hrvatsko Zagorje, Tel: +385-49-371-491.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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23-AUG-1899 palaeontologist Dragutin Gorjanovic-Kramberger visits the cave.
1999 Alan Mann and Janet Monge discovered signs of a bone tumour in one of the Neanderthals bones.


Krapina Špilja (Krapina Cave) is of extraordiary importance for archaeology. In this cave the Croatian paleoanthropologist Dragutin Gorjanovic-Kramberger discovered numerous bones of Neanderthals. The bones at Krapina were dated to be 100,000 years old, and the type of hominide found here is called Homo krapiniensis after the cave. A collection of artifacts and bones can be seen at the Museum of Early Man in Krapina.

Gorjanovic-Kramberger visited the cave first on 23-AUG-1899. He was alerted by a local schoolteacher. He soon found chipped stone tools, some animal bones and a single human molar. This convinced him to make further excavations, and so he and his colleagues found a huge collection of fossilised remains of early hominids during the next six years.

These hominids belonged to the Neanderthals (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis), named after the Neanderthal valley in Germany where the first bone ever was found. They were very similar to humans, have the same predecessors, but newest genetic research tells us that we are not related. Neanderthals became extinct about 30,000 years ago.

Krapina cave is among the most valuable Neanderthal locations in the world. The bones became famous, not only because of the number, quality and age of the bones. Traces on the bones were interpreted as remains of cannibalism. Recent research on the health of the Neanderthals were rather astonishing, as they revealed an extraordinary well health, which was not expected. Alan Mann and Janet Monge, two American researchers, studied X-rays of 884 bones. The few exceptions were a bone tumour, osteoarthritis, and a hand which was surgically amputated. The latter would even suggest some medical knowledge, which definitely challenges the cliche of a stupid cave man.