Шульган-Таш (Капова) пещера

Kapoca Pestera - Kapova Cave - Shulgantash Cave - Shulgan-Tash Cave - Capova Cave


Useful Information

Location: At the White River, 1 km from Kapova.
Shulgan-Tash Preserve, Burzyansky Region. 400 km from Ufa.
(53.043719, 57.065215)
Open: All year daily 11.
[2021]
Fee: Sacred Land/Waiting For A Miracle: MAY to JUN Mon-Fri RUB 300, Sat, Sun, Hol RUB 400.
JUL to AUG Mon-Fri RUB 300, Sat, Sun, Hol RUB 500.
SEP to OCT Mon-Fri RUB 300, Sat, Sun, Hol RUB 400.
NOV to APR daily RUB 240.
Long Tour: MAY to OCT Mon-Fri RUB 5,000.
NOV to APR daily RUB 4,500.
Adults full price, Children (8-15) 50%, Children (0-7) free, Disabled 50%, Seniors 50%.
Locals may get reductions, depending on address.
[2021]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave ArchaeologyPainted Cave
Light: headlamps provided
Dimension: L=3,300 m, AR=20,200 m², V=105,000 m³. Portal: H=30m.
Guided tours: Sacred Land: L=2,200 m, D=3 h, Max=25.
Waiting For A Miracle: L=1,700 m, D=2 h, Max=25.
Long Tour: D=4 h, Max=10.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: S.R. Rabdullin, M.Y. Sharipova (2004): Studies of algae in the Shulgan-Tash (Kapova) Cave, South Ural, Russia, Cave and Karst Science, Vol 31 (2) pp 83-86, January 2004. researchgate
O.Ya. Chervyatsova, S.S. Potapov, S.A. Sadykov, Yu.V. Dublyansky, I.I. Musabirov, A. Demeny (2018): On The Genesis of Subaerial Gypsum Sediments in Shulgan-Tash Cave, Izvestia Ufimskogo Nauchnogo Tsentra RAN. 58-65. 10.31040/2222-8349-2018-0-1-58-65. researchgate
Address: Cave Shulgan-Tash (Kapova), Gadelgareevo, Republic of Bashkortostan, 453588, Tel: +7-347-553-35-00.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1760 described by P. I. Rychkov in one of his historic-geographical works about Priuralje.
1922 Bashkir Nature Preserve established.
1948 area around Kapova selected for a nature reserve
1948 Bashkir Nature Preserve reorganized.
1951 Bashkir Reserve abandoned.
1957 Bashkir Reserve restored.
1958 Pribelsky branch of the Bashkir Reserve established to protect the Burzyan bee on its territory.
1959 first paintings discovered by the zoologist of the reserve A. V. Ryumin.
1960-1974 excavations by Отто Николаевич Бадер (Otto Nikolaevich Bader), together with the Ural geologists В.А. Лидер (V.A. Lider) and Г.А. Цибулькиным (G.A. Tsibulkin).
1986 branch becomes the independent reserve "Shulgan-Tash".
1995 development of the museum and excursion complex.
2003 replicas of engravings created in the entrance hall.
2017 image of a two-humped camel discovered.
2019 new complex of images discovered.

Description

photography
Shulgan-Tash (Kapova) Cave, Bashkortostan, Russia. Replica in the Brno museum Anthropos. Public Domain.

Капова пещера (Kapova Cave) is a famous russian paleolithic cave, one of the most famous sites with Paleolithic parietal art in Europe. It has painted woolly mammoths, woolly rhinos, horses and a bison on its walls. Figures of fish and a single zooanthropomorphic figure are of special interest. They were dated by O. N. Bader to be from the end of the Upper Palaeolithic, about 17,000 to 19,000 BP. The most common paintings are spots of red pigment, finger-painted lines, fingerprints and others which are thought to be prints of the lower part of the palm.

The cave has three levels, the paintings are mainly in the upper level at some distance from the entrance. This fact is typical for palaeolithic paintings and a source for fantastic speculations about the meaning of the paintings. Excavations revealed a layer with human remains, debris from the wall paintings, animal bones and charcoal. The charcoal was dated with the C14 method to be 14,680 ±150 years old. Among the animal bones were cave bear bones. The excavations were made by one of the most famous russian archaeologists, Отто Николаевич Бадер (Otto Nikolaevich Bader), together with the Ural geologists В.А. Лидер (V.A. Lider) and Г.А. Цибулькиным (G.A. Tsibulkin). However, Bader is more famous for his excavations in Wolf Cave, also in the Ural, and his new theory on the Bronze Age in the Ural.

Quite exceptional is the image of a two-humped camel estimated to be between 14,500 and 37,700 BP. The numbers were determined by uranium-thorium dating of the calcite deposits on which the image is painted, and those which cover it. At this time, there were no camels living in the Southern Urals. In other words, this discovery confirms the theory that artists in the Upper Paleolithic could migrate over long distances. The unique discovery was made by Eudald Guillamet, a famous restaurator from Andorra. He was invited by the State Office of Protection of Cultural Heritage of Bashkiria to clean the cave of much younger graffiti and natural dirt. During his work he discovered the painting by removing the thin calcite cover on the painting. It is located on the horse panel, and as only the end was visible before the flowstone was removed, it was thought to be another horse.

Shulgan-Tash (Kapova) Cave is a complex cave system with multiple chambers connected by passages on four levels. The walls of the cave are rich in calcite deposits of all kinds of forms and sizes. An underground river named река Шульганка (Shulganka river) is flowing out of the cave and forms the голубое озеро (Blue Lake) at its entrance. It is named after the blue colour of the water, caused by the high amount of limestone. It is best seen on sunny days around midday, when sunlight shines into the cave and on the surface of the lake. The river is a tributary of the nearby Река Белая (Belaya River, White River) and only 150 m long. The hydrological system is quite complicated, with an upper level which is mostly dry and fossil, a nearby valley which is partly the gorge of the river and partly a dry valley. The river sinks about 100 m from the cave entrance and reappears in the Blue Lake. There is also a lower cave level which is mostly, but not completely, water filled. The cave portal is 30 m high and the first 200 m of the cave form a huge entrance chamber, which is mostly in the twilight.

After decades of scientific explorations and archaeological excavations, today the cave is a part of the Nature Reserve Шульган-Таш (Shulgan-Tash). So it is generally listed under this name. The cave is known under the names Kapova Cave, after the nearby village, and Shulgan-Tash Cave, after the Nature Reserve. The small village Kapova is the center of the park and the end of the road. Here is the музейно-экскурсионный комплекс (МЭК, museum and excursion complex), which was created a few years ago. There is a new Visitor Center and also a Museum of the History of Beekeeping. The reason is simple: the reserve was established to protect the Burzyan bee, before the paintings were discovered. There is also the Kolodnaya Apiary, an exhibition Tea Drinking in a Bashkir yurt and an Ancestors' Camp. Halfway to the cave is the Музей Каповой пещеры (Kapova Cave Museum) with exhibits on the cave, the archaeological findings, and life-size reconstructions of extinct fauna. They are open during the scheduled tours, and during summer they are open the whole day.

The normal tour is called Земля Заповедная (Sacred Land) and is a 3 h walk through the preserve to the cave and back. Participants walk unaccompanied - but video surveilled - from the checkpoint to the cave, guides meet them at the IEC facility. For the cave the visitors are equipped with helmets with headlamps, as the cave has no electric light. The cave was not developed as a normal show cave, but to protect the cave paintings and the cultural layer there are wooden trails which are elevated and must not be left. Some parts in the cave were fenced off with so-called security grids. A visit of the cave without guides or helmet is strictly forbidden.

The В Ожидании Чуда (Waiting For A Miracle) tours is actually the same tour, but it is shorter, because it starts at the jetty at the Cave Museum. As the Cave Museum is close to the cave, the walk from the parking lot is skipped. However, museum, exhibitions, and the guided tour through the cave are the same. It seems a lot of visitors arrive by boat on the Река Белая (Belaya River, White River).

There is also a Long Tour which is restricted to small groups of 10 persons, where two guides accompany the group the whole time. They explain end demonstrate all exhibits. The tour takes longer and is far more expensive for obvious reasons. It is also only offered during summer.

Like in all caves with important paintings, the original paintings are massively protected. The reserve has a 24-hour security guard which makes sure there are no trespassers, violators are fined massively. Also, the paintings and engravings are protected by the lack of electric light, by restricting visitors to wooden trails with railings and outlook platforms, and by the reduction of visitor numbers. The elevated trails also protect the cultural layer in the entrance part of the cave. In 2003 replicas of the engravings were created in the entrance hall, the originals are not shown anymore. Even the scientific visitors and speleologists, which are allowed to visit the original engravings and paintings, have special regulations. A spiral staircase and ladders to the upper tiers were commissioned to improve the research route. Beneath the video surveillance, long-term monitoring of the microclimate was installed. Experiments have been completed to develop the possibility of LED route lighting.