Coliboaia Cave

Coliboaia Cave (Romanian: Peștera Coliboaia, pronounced [koliˈbo̯aja]) is located in Apuseni Natural Park, Câmpani, Bihor County, Romania. It contains the oldest known cave paintings of Central Europe,[1] radiocarbon dated to 32,000 and 35,000 years BP,[2][3] corresponding to the Aurignacian and Gravettian cultures of the Paleolithic period.[4]

Coliboaia Cave
Peștera Coliboaia
Coliboaia Cave, Apuseni Mountains, Romania
location in Romania
LocationApuseni Natural Park, Bihor County, Romania
Coordinates46°31′51″N 22°35′44″Eyes
Depth560 m
Length750 m

Research history

The Coliboaia Cave was first mentioned in literature before 1900, but only in 1981 was it extensively investigated by Gabor Halasi. The cave was not widely known until September 2009, when prehistoric parietal cave paintings were discovered. It was quickly put under protection by the Romanian Federation of Speleology.[5]

Location and access

Situated on a western slope of the Sigheştel Valley, the cave sits at an altitude of 560 m (1,840 ft). It has a medium-sized entrance and a portal that is oriented from east to west. To access the so-called Art Gallery, cave divers must pass a great chamber, natural lake, and main gallery. The Art Gallery itself is seven meters above ground.


The drawings in the Art Gallery are representations of animals, done in black and likely with charcoal. Some of the animals depicted include bison, bears, and rhinoceros, while the subject of other drawings remains unknown. The images are on both walls of the cave and do not appear to have any type of symmetrical pattern.[6]

On the right wall, there is a drawing of a bison. The picture is 1.43 to 2.02 m (4.69 to 6.63 ft) above the ground and executed in bluish-gray lines. On the left side, an illustration of a rhinoceros head is 58 to 89 cm (22.8 to 35.0 in) above the floor. A consistent element to these drawings is that they only represent the heads of animals.[7]


The age of the pictures is being debated. Archaeologists’ estimates vary from the Early to the Middle Upper Paleolithic, in between 29,000 and 23,000 years ago, which corresponds to the Aurignacian culture (35,000 to 29,000 years ago) and the Gravettian culture (29,000 to 22,000 years ago). However, the fact that cave bears and rhinos were scarce during those two time periods, makes this dating controversial. Furthermore, the drawings do not appear to be completely uniform. This suggests they were not all done at the same time. [1]

See also


  1. "An Exceptional Archaeological Discovery-The Art Gallery in Coliboaia Cave Apuseni Mountains Romania". Academia. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  2. "Central Europe's oldest cave paintings discovered at Coliboaia Cave".
  3. "Drawing Paleolithic Romania".
  4. "Romanian Cave May Boast Central Europe's Oldest Cave Art".
  5. Harald Floss, European Upper Paleolithic art: a cultural heritage of Outstanding Universal Value. In De Sanz, Nuria, Human origin sites and the World Heritage Convention in Eurasia, UNESCO Publishing, 2015, p.103
  6. Andrew J. Lawson, Painted Caves: Palaeolithic Rock Art in Western Europe, OUP Oxford, 2012, ISBN 0199698228, 9780199698226, p. 195
  7. Andrew J. Lawson, Painted Caves: Palaeolithic Rock Art in Western Europe, OUP Oxford, 2012, ISBN 0199698228, 9780199698226, p. 195
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