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Verteba Pestera

Useful Information

Location: Near Bilche-Zolote village. Borchshiv district, Khmelnitski region.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave SpeleologyGypsum cave.
Light: none
Dimension: L=8,000 m.
Guided tours:
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3500 BC used by the Trypillian proto-civilization as a cemetery.
1942 a group of Jewish families fled from the Third Reich into the cave.
1993 Christos Nicola, an American caver, discovered the remnants of their refuge 2003.


Verteba Pestera is famous for remains from the Neolithic age. At this time the Trypillian proto-civilization lived in this area, built cities and used the cave for a cemetery. The Trypillian proto-civilization existed from the 6th to the end of 4th millennium BC. At this time the basics of civilization, such as the creation of reproductive economies, handicrafts, first bridges, and written language were developed.

A Trypillian settlement of the Late period is located close to the cave and was excavated during the 19th and 20th century by A. Kirkor, G. Ossovski, V. Demetrykevich, O. Kandyba, I. Sveshnikov, and M. Sokhatskij. The archaeologists found a bone plate from about 3,500 BC inside the cave, which has the punctuated silhouette of a goddess. This goddess became the symbol of Trypillia. The main collection of Trypillian painted pottery from Bilche, which are more than 300 vessels and figurines, are nowadays on display in the Krakow archaeological museum (Poland). Only a part of the findings are kept in Lviv Historical Museum and in Borschiv district museum.

Another part of the history of Verteba Pestera happened during World War II. In 1942 the Nazis invaded Ukraine and thus several Jewish families, 32 people including seniors and children used the cave as a hideout. They stayed for six months, but they could not find enough water and suffered from the toxic build-up of their cooking fire smoke. So in May 1943 they relocated to Popowa Yama (Priest's Grotto), an unexplored cave located beneath land owned by a local parish priest. All together they stayed underground for nearly two years.

The remains of their underground camp were discovered by Christos Nicola, an American caver, on an expedition in 1993. He spent ten years researching the story and found some living members of this groups. The whole story is published in the June/July 2004 issue of Adventure, a magazine of the National Geographic Society.