Page 1




THE “RED MAMMOTH� PROJECT Started in 2005 to support the speleological exploration at Shulgan-Tash cave Yury Sergeevich Lyakhnitsky from Saint-Petersburg, a Leading Scientific Specialist member at VSEGEI and chairman of Speleology and Karstology Commission of the Russian Geographical Society, acts as Scientific Leader of the Project. The project coordinator is Anton Yushko, journalist and photographer from Saint-Petersburg, secretary of Speleology and Karstology Commission of the Russian Geographical Society, member of the Ukrainian Institute of Speleology and Karstology. Speleologists from SaintPetersburg, Moscow, Ufa, Samara, Nizni Novgorod and other locations in Russia took part in exploration of the cave throughout the years.

UNDER THE PROJECT we have been conducting photography and topographical location of ancient drawings for several years. As a result films and series of professional photos were made public. Most active in this respect were Alexander Baulin, Valery Dmitriev, Mihail Utjansky, Elena Dalezkaya, Oleg Minnikov, Anton Yushko. Underground video and photo are impossible without application of efficient mobile light equipment. It was operated perfectly thanks to constant technical support of Andrey Golikov and perfect help of his son Alexander.

“From the abyss of Chaos, through the sea of fire Into the caves of time a whirl engulfs…” Maximilian Voloshin, a Russian poet


Shulgan-Tash (Kapova) cave is located in the territory of the State Natural Reserve “Shulgan-Tash”. Shulgan-Tash (Kapova) cave is one of the most interesting and precious sites of world’s culture, history and archeology, a beautiful and complex karst cave, one of the largest in the Ural Mountains. Its length, according to the latest measurements and with account of the newly found Andreevsky area, is about 3 kilometers, and vertical amplitude, from chamber-tops to deep siphons, is about 160 meters. Above all, it is the only cave in Russia and Eastern Europe with patterns of ancient Paleolithic drawings of mammoths, woolly rhinoceros, aurochs and horses, that inhabited these cold steppes about 17 000 years ago at the time of the great ice age. Many mysterious abstract hieroglyph-alike signs can also be seen in the cave. This proves a developed Paleolithic culture in the Urals at that remote time which could be compared to the Paleolithic culture in the Pyrenees in Western Europe. This great finding was made by a zoologist of the Bashkirsky national reserve Alexander Vladimirovich Ryumin in 1959. Since then the cave has attracted archeologists, specialists in arts, speleologists and interested tourists that are eager to see the prehistoric drawing, one of the first creations of human genius on our planet. This booklet introduces you into the world of Shulgan-Tash cave.


The cave lies close to the mouth of Shulgan, a hidden but tremendous canyon 200 meters from the bank of the river Agidel. The entrance is in the precipice of the north cliff wall of the canyon. Since old times people have called it a Portal. When looking at it, one recalls the lines of the great Bashkir epic “Akbuzat”, which narrates that the great-grandson of Ural subdued the underground king Shulgan and his demon servants carved in the rock a stable for Akbulat’s magnificent horse. The colossal grotto with its vault falling slantwise into the waters of Shulgan looks really like a work of titanic unnatural forces. In its depths lies Blue Lake. In summer, when the morning light shines into the grotto, the lake turns blue and quick sun beams run above light-gray walls. At the north wall 7 deep meters there is the opening of a strong karst spring, through which the Underground Shulgan feeds Blue Lake, pouring about 500 liters of water per second. First Vladimir Kiselev, a speleologist and diver, and later his younger followers explored Blue Lake and at its bottom dived into a narrow declining passage to the depth of 78 meters. From time to time in the depths of the lake shadows of “cave” fish appear, long weeds that look like the manes of Akbuzat and his mares sway in the current of Shulgan. This magic surrounding makes one stand there for hours, marveling at the glimmer of light on the walls and listening to whispers of the stream, running from the depths out to the sun.


At the east side of the grotto in the greenery and darkness hides Round Lake. It is rather small, about six meters in diameter with a stream flowing out during spring floods. In the south-west part of the grotto under the ceiling one can see the dark triangular opening of a small grotto called Pigeon grotto, as a flock of these birds lives there, nesting right on the floor. In winter a beautiful ice cascade builds up on the east side of the portal, falling into Blue Lake, that never freezes, just as never freezes Shulgan, that flows out from the lake. Even during extreme frosts one can hear the song of a water sparrow that flies over the steaming current and dives into the water looking for fodder at the bottom. Its nest lies here – in a wall crack of the grotto. In winter the vault of the portal is decorated by a dozen of stalactites up to two-three meters long, and the floor is covered with rare ice shells that look like fairy-tale ghosts or mysterious animals.


Eastward from the portal the spacious Main gallery stretches. Forty meters farther it turns north and goes as long as another 87 meters. This grand cavity catches a bit of daylight from the portal. It is up to 20 meters wide and approximately 7 meters high. At first the floor is flat, muddy, overgrown with lichen and rare herbs that are found only here in the chill and half-darkness of the cave. As one goes deeper vegetation disappears; the clay floor is covered by a net of cracks with fragments of limestone that developed as soil froze. In the depths of the gallery the number and size of limestone blocks on the floor grows and at its further end the passage is nearly choked by huge blocks that once fell from the ceiling. Only a small path on the left allows one to climb over and come further. At the moment there is a good excursion path here. The main gallery is large, the feeling of vastness of the inside of the mountain becomes stronger as one looks up and left, seeing another crack-alike vesicle with two steps of terraces, adjacent to the Main gallery. Cavers with their lights climbing up the metal leaders look like small light bugs. The Main gallery looks empty in summer, one looks lost und unfixed in its emptiness. In wintertime it changes dramatically. All the space from the turn of the gallery to large blocks at its end is filled with lots of ice stalactites. From time to time, a crystal tingling can be heard, as unlucky full-grown icicles, too big to survive, fall down, tearing their neighbors with them. Their place is quickly taken by new ones. When it is frosty, milky white microcrystallic sinters grow, and on warmer days they grow as transparent as glass, looking like striped road posts. By their appearance one can judge how the temperature has changed in winter.


The life of ice stalagmites on the whole is quite complex. For instance, during thaw they get at first beaks like pelicans, and then trunks, like elephants. The air jet often weakens the base of a stalagmite, making them look exquisitely, but making them unstable at the same time – which is the main cause of their collapse. Alas, this ice beauty does not last long; it disappears before late April being overwhelmed by the resuscitating warmth of the spring. At the end of the Main gallery on a large block there is a memorial to Valery Nasonov – a speleologist from Ufa, who lost his life in 1964 while attempting to dive into the siphon of Underground Shulgan in the depths of the cave. The exploration of the hidden world of caves was in all times combined with hardship and danger. Quite by chance, close to the point of the memorial in 1760, the first explorer of the cave P.Rychkov found a human skull, embedded into a calcite sinter.

 CHAMBERS OF THE CAVE After a narrow point at the end of the Main gallery the cavity widens abruptly– this is the Stalagmite chamber, named after a massive stalagmite about 50 centimeters high in its center. The chamber itself is round in shape and up to 15 meters high. The highest point is at the north wall, where water leaks left sinter carbonate tuff. The floor here consists mostly of tuff shell. This chamber is warm, even during winter frost the water is dripping from the ceiling to small puddles on the floor. In the Stalagmite chamber for the first time one would notice soot film on sinters. People in the ancient time came inside with torches, so did then medieval visitors and later modern tourists. Water washed the soot from the sealing and spread it all over the cave. It is now forbidden to use torches and the black tarred film begins to fade under a new milk-white cover of calcite sinter, as the cave puts on its snow-white dress. In the Stalagmite chamber the cave branches out. In the west wall under the ceiling there are openings that lead to the first floor of the cave, and in the lower part of the north wall there is a low passage to crawl – the Throat – a continuation of the ground floor. Here is the dew point– the condensation of water steam: the walls are covered by silver spots that consist of drops of condensed moisture. After this point the field of cave microclimate dominates, where seasonal and everyday change of temperature is insignificant. Due to this, constant microclimate the cave has preserved the early drawings. The next chamber of the ground floor is the Dome chamber. Its name speaks for itself – it is nearly round with a high arched sealing. At the south part of the cavity, above the Throat, one can see shining like silvery coverlets some spots of condensate.

The south wall above the Throat the passages shimmers in shine of torch, with like silver spots of steam condensate. In the north wall you can see a gigantic, somewhat inclined arch of the Chamber of Signs opening. The arch is decorated with tuff sinters, that look like bunches of tropical fruit, chimeras or stone lace. On the right from the arch to the Throat stretches a small lake, decorated with calcite corallites and other mineral cave “flowers”. On the chamber walls red spots of ocher glow. These can mainly be seen in a niche in the west wall. On detailed studying, they turn to be drawings much damaged by water and temperature variation. In those ancient times of glaciation the cave was much drier and conditions for preservation of drawings were much better, but as the South Ural climate becomes moister the drawings become more endangered. The way into the depths of the cave through the arch of the Chamber of Signs is closed by a boulder choke, only a small passage leads further, and one can hardly squeeze oneself through. It is highly likely to be a natural congestion of blocks fallen from the ceiling, but also possible, that it was laid out by ancient people who lived in the Chamber of Signs to protect themselves from outer attacks. Besides, this bank prevented the cold air from coming into the cave. The Chamber of Signs is square in shape. On the west and north wall there are many drawings that have hardly survived; the south wall is covered by a layer of carbonate tuff, which forms picturesque cascades, looking like pagodas or steps on pyramid-walls, or ancient dams, with water trickling down and forming magnificent carbonate sinters century after century. To the left from the entrance on the west wall of the chamber there is a drawing of woody bull – aurochs on the north wall there are various abstract figures. Not long ago a small but atmospheric drawing of a young mammoth was found here. And right here, not so far from the caves entrance, archeologist V.E.Shelinsky first found a cultural layer with remaining stone fireplaces, stone artifacts and, of course, animal bones – leftovers of prehistoric dining. The layer remained intact only in the corner of the chamber, where it was not affected by floods, that washed away the entire ancient layer in the center of the passage. In the east part of the chamber the floor suddenly raises with a pile of huge stone blocks. A hill of limestone rests, some of which weight hundreds of tons, builds up here, marking the borders of the Chaos Chamber – one of largest in the cave. A long time ago there was a massive landslide that formed this huge chaotic blockage. In the center of the chamber there is a big crater, the bottom of which is 6 meters lower, as the upper part of blockage. Between the blocks there seem to be cracks and hollows that lead to unknown depths under the blockage. The huge Chaos chamber stretches 50 meters from north to south, and reaches 90 meters counting the North dead-end. The high double sided ceiling of the chamber, like a roof of a house, was formed as limestone blocks fell down along deep cracks. Smooth rounded surfaces of the roof state that giant limestone blocks were moved along it even before the collapse. What is the reason of this catastrophe? The positioning of drawings and placement of the cultural layer show that since human beings came to the cave only slight changes have occurred inside. Prehistoric people, just like us, climbed across slippery blocks to get to their drawings. A prehistoric artist lost his palette in the Chaos chamber – a cup for paints made from green noble serpentinite, which was embedded here in a crack between blocks, until it was found by a reserve forester Sasha Antonov. There are also a few dead ends in the Chaos chamber. Some, at floor level, are


easy to reach, others are in the walls and one passage is up in the roof. This dead end has a separate story. The legend connects it with I.I. Lepehin, who visited the cave in 1770. Then Bashkir guides showed the traveler a whole new area of the cave, that later‌ disappeared, despite a fairly accurate description.


Small passages under the Stalagmite chamber ceiling lead to the second floor of the cave. Now there are steel stairs built in here. One can easily access ledges of the main Gallery west wall. Walking from one ledge to another one can get to the base of the Closer pit. From here there is a good view of the Main gallery, slightly enlightened by the daylight. In winter the peaks of stalagmites, that cover the floor of the gallery, look like glimmering brush. Figures of people with small lights are hardly seen from this height. Our way leads into the depths of the cave – up the sixteen-meter pit. Now the way is easy and safe due to steel stairs with handrails. Prehistoric shamans and artists, most probably, used a tree trunk with knots here. On the wall in the upper part of the pit white calcite cores are seen. All this looks like the figure of a woman, running from us into the depths of the cave. It is only a vision, but one still wants to know who she is and why she is running from us. Walking up the pit we get into the First gallery. It is a high, canyon-like hollow, orientated north. Smooth, water-polished walls of the gallery are inclined to the west, and the gallery itself looks like a giant inclined crack,

cutting the massif. Not far from the pit in the uneven ceiling of the gallery a big round opening is seen. For a long time it has kept its mystery. At last we managed to climb the smooth overhanging walls and reach a round hole. It turned out that above the gallery there is part of an old pressure channel that formed during the first stage of cave development, when it was filled by water. Due to this, all the passages were round and similar in their evolution. Some ten meters further this passage the cavers led back into the gallery, it turned out to be a bridge over the ceiling. Straight, as an arrow, the First gallery leads us to the Crossroads – a big hollow between Great Western End and Vestibule chamber. The End is a big inclined cavity, which opens to the visitor with its great arch. On its floor, rising abruptly to the west, layered calcite cores are clearly seen, that seem to look like tiles. In the further end the passage is considerably smaller; it ends up suddenly and not logically with a vertical wall. It is absolutely unclear, where such an amount of water emerged from, that formed this large hollow and created the layers of stalagmite cores of marmor onix. The smaller Vestibule chamber is significant for its niches and ledges over the ceiling. So to say, it prepares us for a sight more significant and grand.



On passing a slightly inclined arch we enter a spacious chamber, at first its shape is not to follow in the light of headlamps. It awakens and brings an uplifted feeling straight away. Our sense is not mistaken, it is the spiritual center of the cave – the Drawings chamber. Here are the most picturesque and interesting drawings. In this chamber A. V. Ryumin in 1959 for the first time noticed Paleolithic drawing under modern graffiti and a layer of grease. This chamber was prepared by nature itself to be a home of ancient art, altar and museum together. It has a rounded shape, high dome, on the floor in the northern part there is a clay terrace step, and in the southern part lays a huge stone block that is fallen in ancient times and formed a ridge on the floor. On the eastern wall there is the largest and most interesting composition, on the western – another one, which is known as “Mammoth family”. Under the ceiling there are openings, divided by wide columns. After a successful rise Sergei Tkachev found a new passage that stretches north, parallel to the First gallery. After 70 meters it ended with a narrow crack.


To the right of the eastern wall there is a high opening, it is the entrance to the second gallery. The second gallery begins with a deep water hole. This hole creates some difficulties for visitors to enter. Those, that are successful in passing, reach a small round lake; it lies picturesquely in the deep canyon of the gallery. The lake could be passed over stones at the west side. Behind the lake there is a large Second gallery, its ceiling disappears in the darkness. The most powerful beams shed light weakly on its curved walls. It is an underground canyon that was washed out by an ancient river along a massive crack. The gallery stretches northward for more than 50 meters. Sometimes there are calcite curtains on the walls that resemble a horse tail. The Second gallery with it spaciousness brings calmness; one can walk freely without the fear to fall into a pit or to be stuck in a narrowness. At the end of the gallery at the turn there is a large coned stalagmite, broken by cracks and above on the wall – many cascadetuffcurtainsofdifferentshape, stalactites and stalagmites. Behind a turn the gallery widens, coming into the Acoustic chamber. Here one at once wishes to holler a word into the darkness and allow the cave to answer with far mysterious voices. Another 20 meters further to the north-east the ceiling lowers abruptly. The new Oval chamber is not high, but quite interesting with its rounded niches in walls, that resemble big shells or ears of giants. The following chamber – The Temple – is one of the most beautiful in the cave, with its high domed ceiling and pretty white arch. The dome is remarkably built.

It resembles a gigantic stone lace, without any flat surfaces – flat ribs pass over to high chimneys, and in the south side of the dome there is a round opening to the next chamber. The floor and some parts of the Temple chamber are covered with black smoky films, with snow-white sinters, cascades of tuff, pyramids, fantastic forms, that look like animals and giant flowers. On coming under the white arch, we come into the Upper chamber; it lies higher than most hollows of the cave. Here the beauty of calcite and tuff sinters neighbors with severe view of slightly inclined walls, rising into darkness, which formed along a large tectonic crack. The floor is covered with blocks and limestone debris. In the north corner of the chamber white tuff sinters arise, they form a rare dragon with horrible jaws, but as one changes his point of view – a mysterious change turns up. Instead the dragon we see the severe profile of the Master of the cave – his eyebrows, nose, moustache, chin and curly hair. His figure lies clear with white calcite and black cascade sinters in the background. In the Upper chamber a microclimatic anomaly has been surveyed a few times. We decided that there should be new hollows in its ceiling. Speleologists from Ufa with Andrey Kuzmin as team leader came to help. They ascended the vertical wall and discovered a new part of the cave with beautiful sinters. Later Shamil Abdullin and Evgeniy Peters managed to come through a narrow crack in the Andreevsky chamber and found a continuation – the White Giant chamber – as they named it after a large stalagmite. During summer 2007 a group of speleologists headed by Nikolai Lazarev explored the roof of the Upper chamber and found a small round chamber and curious combed sinters.


 THE CALL OF UNDERGROUND SHULGAN At the foot of a pit begins a risky rise over loose clay steps that climb 7 meters up high, where the Mountain King chamber lays. Visitors rarely come to this severe and majestic place. An arched gothic sealing rises to great height, the floor is covered by a rare carpet of “moon milk” – a white mineral substance that is still soft. In these white field lays a small lake. It looks like the famous “milk lake” from Russian fairy tales…All surfaces in the chamber are covered by this “milk”, turned to stone. Further to the north the appearance of the cavity changes, as a new gallery called Inferno begins. Nearly all of its space is filled by a chaos of stone blocks. Some of them are as large as a house. The space between them is full of smaller stones; clay is quite rare here, as during floods the mighty current pours through the stone blockage. Speleologist still can not find the way wide enough for a man to pass in this mighty chaos. We come down a talus into the Abyss chamber. The voice of the stream is getting louder. We pass “White stones”, covered with a layer of sinters with gurrs. A few dozens of meters further the clay floor changes to wet gray sand of the underground beach. We are on the shore of Underground Shulgan. The stream pushes along huge limestone blocks, carrying spots of white foam; the noise of rapids damps our voices. The sharpened limestone ribs look like swards, able to cut our gummy boots and even hands. The Abyss

chamber is huge; its declined floor comes down eastwards to the river. Both ends of the river disappear in siphons – parts of cave flooded by water. The lower siphon is a relatively calm lake with yellow and gray beach stripe. On the beach marks of water levels are clearly seen. During spring flooding the cave river rises dozens of meters upwards and the gigantic chamber turns totally flooded. Down the stream the ceiling lowers and walls come closer, soon there is only a gap of few centimeters between water level and the sealing. Cave divers managed to come another 70 meters further, finding two branches. One of them leads upward, ending with a very narrow crack, and the second branch leads into a quite large chamber. The continuation of this passage is not found yet, but it is known, that its water flows under the known parts of the cave and frees itself from its underground captivity in the grotto Portal at the Blue lake. Upstream the water also forms a siphon, but usually it is open, as there is some air between the water level and the ceiling. At the beginning of the siphon the passage is narrower, turning into a small gallery, then the ceiling nearly touches the water, but further there is a widening behind vertical stone pikes. The walls of the siphon are covered with a thin layer of liquid black clay. The water echoes as it booms the narrow walls. This place is very uncomfortable, it works depressing and worrying. A speleologist from Ufa Valery Nasonov died here in 1964 during high water.


Further the Zasifonniy chamber is located. It is a large hollow about 50 meters long, with the Shulgan flowing in the middle. This chamber also makes a dark impression, as it is full of clay, large blocks fallen from the sealing, dark walls, built by another kind of dark limestone that is not to find in the upper floors of the cave. All this evokes a feeling of tension and alarm. Even white calcite sinters – probably hydrothermal layers – that appear on walls, are not capable to drive the alarming feeling away. In the center of the chamber there is a high band, dividing the chamber into two parts. Behind the arch lays the Far chamber, the last one accessible without diving equipment.


The Far chamber shows some active collapse processes, the floor is covered by a layer of newly fallen limestone blocks, the walls are broken by large cracks, it drips heavily from the sealing on to visitor’s heads. Recently there has been a large collapse that has considerably changed its appearance. The chamber works awesome on a person that dared to come so far into the underworld. What great courage must one have to come through this shivering place and dare to dive the risky siphon of the Underground Shulgan! The first one to dive the siphon was cave diver Vladimir Kiselev. He managed to swim over 50 meters, coming through 2 siphons and reaching a chamber with openings of new passages in the ceiling. Then one more siphon followed with a labyrinth where Vladimir, to his surprise, found many bats sleeping. How did they get here, over many meters of flooded passages? Could be that they have come from the surface, descending down the cracks. Behind the Bat labyrinth lays one of the longest cave siphons in Russia. Kiselev went as far as 317 meters, but reached no ending – the siphon goes further. A while later Andrey Shumeiko also dived into the siphon, but no one managed to come as far as Kiselev. What lies between Ojiganovskaya cave three kilometers to the north, where the Shulgan stream dives into the depths and the known part of the Shulgan-Tash – is unknown. Maybe, some day giant chambers with fantastic stalagmites and stalactites would be discovered, or all passages would turn flooded by water. Maybe theses passages have a significant ancient drawing. For now it is a mystery!

 MESSAGE FROM PALEOLITH The most ancient and picturesque drawings are on the second floor of the cave – right in the heart of the cave, in the Drawing chamber. This high and large rounded chamber was created as a sacred place by nature itself. The most impressive drawings can be seen here. They are present on the opposite walls – eastern and western. The eastern wall holds the most impressive composition. In the center stands a big horse outlined carefully. This was the first drawing, found by A.V. Ryumin in the cave. The drawing is about 1.5 meters big. The horse is stumpy, hairy, with furry mane and tail. It walks calmly to the north, as most of animals on this wall. Her head catches attention with its elegance; the horse is placed in front of all the other drawings, as if leading the whole procession. “The Upper Mammoth” stands behind the horse, somewhat higher. It is a large drawing as well, but roughly outlined, its back part suffered from water; the trunk and tusks are hardly seen. This is the most damaged figure of the composition. Right under, behind the horse, stands the “Great Rhinoceros”. The figure of the giant beast is well outlined; the frontal part of the body is heavily painted; in the center and behind the figure clear vertical lines are drawn. It could be a geometrical sign applied to the figure or lines, showing the shaggy fur of the animal. Beneath, slightly inclined to the left, we can see the horn of a rhinoceros; it is hanging over the back of the “Central Mammoth”. The outlines of this figure are not quite clear. Somewhat lower the “Big Trapezium” lies. At first it looks like a beast or a fish as well, it is very zoo-morph. The figure is large, nearly as large as the rhinoceros. The upper corners of the trapezium are long; the left one is much longer than the right one. The inner inclined ribs are drawn very tight, they are twelve in number. To the right on a rock face, separated from the wall by a crack, there are four smaller drawings. A horse with a narrow head, as if that of a fox or dolphin. Lower there is a mammoth. A computer analysis provided an unexpected result. Right in front of the mammoth there was the profile of a human figure. There is very little space on this flat triangular wall and that’s why the artist slightly squeezed the mammoth figure. The human figure faces the mammoth and stretches out his hand. Both figures are drawn without expression. This doesn’t look like a hunting scene. This looks like a meeting of a giant animal and a man! This picture could prompt us to a new understanding of relationship between the Paleolithic man and surrounding nature. Under the mammoth on a triangular rock there is another mammoth, which could be a mammoth baby of a. It is drawn very schematically.


Large pictures of animals and trapezium compositionally form a triangle, pointed to the left; in front of it stands the only mammoth facing right. Because of its position it was called the “Dissident Mammoth”. This animal is another mystery. Why is its figure drawn inclined and why is it facing the main group? Another mystery is the spots under the “Dissident” that can hardly be seen. A computer analysis showed another mammoth, named “Pale mammoth”. The details of the drawing are hard to read but its main proportions are correct, and this one is walking left, like the others. A few meters away, in front of all the animals, the most outstanding mammoth stands. All its details are carefully outlined, the animal is moving uphill to an objective unknown to us. White calcite lines cross the drawing, which proves the considerable age of this drawing, as it takes thousands and thousands of years for minerals in caves to grow. Looking at this wonderful composition, it seems that these pale drawings carry some idea, a message, and an appeal. One can stare at these pale reddish lines and make guesses about their purpose. Their ancient origin charms calling to follow into the depths of centuries.


(Text and photo by Anton Yushko and Oleg Minnikov “Ex-magazine“ №57


This year 2009 is going to witness the 50 anniversary of the discovery, made by the zoologist Alexander Ryumin, of unique pictures of the Kapova Cave (Shulgan-Tash) that date back to the Paleolithic time. The “Ex-magazine“ has many a times told its readers about the work of a team of the “Red Mammoth” researchers – speleologists. They still have something to share with even today. The winter expedition to the cave was as successful as never before. Good weather helped on the surface and a mild, snowless winter was also of help (last year saw a contrary picture). The water level in the underground Shulgan had dropped last February to a record low. The legendary trap rock in the Bezdna (Abyss) hall opened up. Overcoming it at a high water level cost dearly Valery Nasonov, a speleologist from the City of Ufa in the summer of 1964 – he died as a result. There is a small monument to him in the main cave gallery. We managed to literally squeeze our way quite safely on a little boat into the most remote area of the cave – the area behind the trap rock – and run a number of scientific studies there; we also set the directions of subsequent search for the further areas of the underground system. The Kapova is a unique cave. The archeologists believe that it has been known to people for at least seventeen millennia; however, it still is the source of surprises. Every year, speleologists from different cities

of the country, headed by Saint Petersburg’s scientist Yury Sergeevich Lyakhnitsky, have been making new discoveries there. Over the last years, thanks to application of the state-of-the-art digital equipment, tens of new pictures have been discovered, that are almost invisible for a human eye. Several passages, unknown earlier, have been mapped. Olga Chervyatsova, a speleologist – micro climatologist, has discovered and described some important patterns and anomalies in the cave microclimate. The speleobiologists from Ufa and Nizhny Novgorod hope to find new types of underground troglobiont living species. Various techniques of preservation and protection of the Paleolithic painting against excess moisture have been tried and tested. This moisture has emerged in the recent years in the cave due to the surface climatic changes. Thanks to the effort made by Yury Lyakhnitsky and the “Red Mammoth” project participants the cave has turned in the recent years into a unique natural laboratory. At the near entrance area of Shulgan-Tash there is an excursion route. Tourists are shown exact copies of the pictures, which were safely hidden by ancient people and nature in the depth of the cave. Unfortunately, the fiftieth anniversary of the pictures discovery has its own adverse side. Alexander Vladimirovich Ryumin, who has passed away recently, failed to enjoy any acknowledgement of his achievements during his life time. The image of an incorrigible romantic and eccentric did not let him win a decent place in the scientific community. The recent discoveries have proved many of Ryumin’s conjectures and hypotheses. The cave was really richly painted at certain places by ancient artists. The forty of the pictures, acknowledged by science by the 1960 ies, have been enhanced by now by more than 150 new paintings. The project participants have managed recently to have the new “Treasures of Paleolith” photo album published with the most complete colorful catalogue of pictures and sings of Shulgan-Tash. Its Authors Yury Lyakhnitsky and Anton Yushko gave their tribute to Alexander Vladimirovich Ryumin, the pioneering discoverer of the ancient painting. The anniversary is a good pretext to try to attract the attention of state authorities to the problems the speleologists are facing in this country. Mainly, all the research is run voluntarily, and the “Red Mammoth” project is not an exception. A vast comprehensive program has been implemented by real enthusiasts, at time at the speleologists’ own funds; in the meantime, other European countries generously finance similar projects. However, even the ongoing economic crisis does not stop the speleologists from planning their bright underground life. The July of this year has been planned as the summer stage of the “ShulganTash-2009” large scale speleo expedition of the Russian Geographical Society. Now a storm of the remote area of the cave is being prepared by speleo divers from Moscow. In parallel with that, a report on the research in the Kapova is to be submitted to the participants of the International Speleological Congress in the USA, which has been scheduled for late July in a small Texas town named Kerrville. And in autumn the territory of the State Natural Reserve “ShulganTash“ will host the celebrating conference. The speleologists hope that by that time the cave will have surprised everyone with new discoveries.




Now you are familiar with the Paleolithic drawing of Shulgan-Tash. It is very unique in its own way, interesting and significant for the cultural heritage of the world. Our task is to preserve this precious drawing – a message from our ancient ancestors, an illustration of the first artistic inspiration of the early generations of mankind. We have to understand the information we received and fathom the images that emerged in front of us from the darkness of millennia. Without sufficient knowledge and understanding of the sources of human creativity we have scant chances to understand the present and foresee the future. This task needs a big effort, complex exploration, which would integrate the range of scientific studies – from geology and hydrochemistry and to history of art and psychology. We have to make the conditions in the cave suitable for longtime preservation of the drawing, find the outlines of figures in fuzzy spots. Now, having poor results of mass excursions to the caves with drawings in Western Europe in the 40-ies of the XX century, we know that it leads to their destruction. Warmth, light, vaporous breath of thousands of people destroys cave drawings. Basing on long time survey of the cave regimes we arrived at a conclusion that a closed regime (national park) for the inner part of the cave be established. At the same time, under certain conditions, there is a possibility to organize a small excursion path from the entrance area to the microclimatic barrier. Visitors have a chance to see the great Portal of the cave, the spacious Main gallery with recreated copies of prehistoric drawing, walk up to the breathtaking height of the western wall terrace and thus enjoy the beauty of the significant cave, feel the breath of time and harmony with nature. For the expedition news, best photographs and some publications about our speleological activity visit

A talented young designer from Saint-Petersburg, member of winter expedition “Shulgan-Tash 2006” Yury Baulin created the “Red Mammoth” project logo. It became familiar to cavers due to reports at a number of international forums and festivals. Successful biological exploration was conducted for some years by a scientist of ecological department of Bashkir State University Shamil Abdullin and his students. Evgeniy Peters, zoologist from Ufa, made a contribution into the exploration of the cave’s fauna. During a series of expeditions scientists from Saint Petersburg State University Anna Peters and Galina Ragulina conducted a survey the cave’s microclimate. Lately, a speleologist from Samara Olga Chervyatsova was successful in this matter. Due to her hard work it was possible to conduct all-year microclimatic survey in the cave. She also managed to find a few hardly seen and unknown before drawings. Olga became the first professional speleologist working at State Natural Reserve ”Shulgan-Tash”. Dinar Bayzigitov, a hydrologist of the Reserve ”ShulganTash”, helps actively in her work. Speleologist Nailja Yusupova from Ufa has periodically taken part in caving expeditions. Her outstanding voice helped to find out the sacred acoustic parts of the cave. Her songs are present in a film by Valery Dmitriev from Saint Petersburg “The call of Underground Shulgan”. One of active members of the project Oleg Minnikov proved himself as a talented photographer and constructed a series of technical devices, that allowed to conduct modern exploration. He also edits project’s internet page and deals with computer processing of scientific results of our expeditions. © State Natural Reserve ”Shulgan-Tash” © Y. Lyakhnitsky, text, photo © A.Yushko, text, photo © O. Minnikov, text, photo © M. Mashkov, design © E. Karamasheva, layout © A. Serov, translation © Y. Baulin, project logo All expeditional exploration is lead under scientific supervision of the Russian Geographical Society, Karpinsky Russian Geological Research Institute and State Natural Reserve ”Shulgan-Tash” with support of EMERCOM Russia.

The “Red Mammoth” Project helped present the latest information about the recent exploration in Shulgan-Tash cave at a number of international forums. Some of them are: – 14th International Congress of Speleology in Athens, 2005 – Meetings of Ukrainian Speleological Association in Sevastopol -2005, Bahchisaray-2007 and Odessa-2008 – The Baltic Speleological Congress in Visby, Gotland, Sweden in 2007 – Meeting of Association of Ural Speleologists in Ekaterinburg in 2007 – Crimean Karstological Symposium, Simferopol, 2008 – Speleological Symposium in Kungur, 2008 – The European Speleological Congress, Vercors, France, 2008

– Conference on museum management in underground objects “This extraoridinary underground world” in Pitkaranta, Karelia, Russia, 2008 – Speleological conference in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, 2008 – Karelian geological conference in Sortavala, Karelia, Russia, 2009 – Conference on cave microclimate, Slovenia, 2009 – VI International Conference “Geology and Civilization” in Gerzen University, Saint Petersburg, Russia, 2009 – 15th International Congress of Speleology in Kerrvill, Texas, USA, July, 2009.

Also materials about Shulgan-Tash are being prepared for the 16th International Congress of Speleology in Brno, Czech Republic, which has been scheduled for July, 2013.

The exploration in Shulgan-Tash is regularly being discussed at many meetings of Commissions of Speleology and Karst of the Russian Geographic Society in Saint Petersburg and Moscow.

Films and photographs of Shulgan-Tash cave were winners at different festivals: – Festival “Hundred routes” in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010, Saint Petersburg. – Festival of Speleological Films in 2007 and 2009, Saint Petersburg. – Festival “Pulkovskiy Meridian” of Russian Geographical Society in 2010. During an exhibition “Man draws mammoth” at Darwin museum in Moscow (October, 2008) a long awaited presentation of documentary by A. Sokolov and A. Saranduk “Birth of art (From Pyrenees to Ural)” took place. “Red mammoth” project members also actively supported the underground work of filming crew. “Red Mammoth” is a social project funded by its members. We are open for every kind of help and support!

At the moment the team is making a paper version of the “Catalogue of drawing and signs of Shulgan-Tash cave (Kapova cave). Expedition news, unique virtual “Catalogue of drawing and signs of Shulgan-Tash cave (Kapova cave)”, best photographs and many publications about our speleological activity are at and In 2007 we began our cooperation with NIKON. The famous photo producer became interested in underground photography of project members using NIKON cameras and devices.

Red Mammoth project  

the speleological exploration at Shulgan-Tash (Kapova) cave. Chief of the project Anton Yushko.

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you