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Academician Mirko Malez – a pioneer of Croatian speleoarcheology

Željko Tomičić   ORCID icon ; Institut za arheologiju, Zagreb, Hrvatska

Puni tekst: hrvatski, pdf (2 MB) str. 107-136 preuzimanja: 608* citiraj
APA 6th Edition
Tomičić, Ž. (2011). Akademik Mirko Malez – pionir hrvatske speleoarheologije. Radovi Zavoda za znanstveni rad Varaždin, (22), 107-136. Preuzeto s
MLA 8th Edition
Tomičić, Željko. "Akademik Mirko Malez – pionir hrvatske speleoarheologije." Radovi Zavoda za znanstveni rad Varaždin, vol. , br. 22, 2011, str. 107-136. Citirano 27.01.2020.
Chicago 17th Edition
Tomičić, Željko. "Akademik Mirko Malez – pionir hrvatske speleoarheologije." Radovi Zavoda za znanstveni rad Varaždin , br. 22 (2011): 107-136.
Tomičić, Ž. (2011). 'Akademik Mirko Malez – pionir hrvatske speleoarheologije', Radovi Zavoda za znanstveni rad Varaždin, (22), str. 107-136. Preuzeto s: (Datum pristupa: 27.01.2020.)
Tomičić Ž. Akademik Mirko Malez – pionir hrvatske speleoarheologije. Radovi Zavoda za znanstveni rad Varaždin [Internet]. 2011 [pristupljeno 27.01.2020.];(22):107-136. Dostupno na:
Ž. Tomičić, "Akademik Mirko Malez – pionir hrvatske speleoarheologije", Radovi Zavoda za znanstveni rad Varaždin, vol., br. 22, str. 107-136, 2011. [Online]. Dostupno na: [Citirano: 27.01.2020.]

In the paper’s title, the term speleoarchaeology stands out, clearly pointing to the interconnection between speleology, i.e. the scientific study of the physical, geological and biological aspects of caves and grottos, and archaeology, which aims to study the material remains of past populations and reconstruct their way of life. This interdisciplinary scientific linking, along with applying and considering numerous and various archaeometric and other analyses, particularly from the field of the natural sciences, is nevertheless a characteristic of more recent times. However, we should by no means ignore people such as Ivan Kukuljević-Sakcinski, Dragutin Hirc, B. de Lengyel and Dragutin Gorjanović-Kramberger, or the lover of antiquities Count Wurmbrandt Gundaker-Stupač, and others, who all left behind precious records of the existence of archaeological finds, in particular from the Holocene layers of the cave areas which they investigated all over Istria and other karst areas of Croatia. A separate place, outside the above-mentioned category of explorers, is most certainly reserved for Stjepan Vuković, who as early as 1928 showed an interest in the cave at Vindija near Ivanec, and from 1934 until 1969 uncovered archaeological finds in its Holocene layers. A modern scientific interdisciplinary and systematic approach to the exploration of the phenomenon of caves in the Croatian karst from the eastern Adriatic coast (Istria, Dalmatia, Primorje) to Lika and Hrvatsko Zagorje, particularly the surroundings of Ivanec and Varaždin, did not take place until Academician Mirko Malez (Map 1). What is more, as illustrated by numerous examples from Malez’s usual work methodology, he employed a team approach in his research, in which archaeology had its due place, enjoying a completely equal status. Prominent Croatian archaeologists are known to have been part of his team of explorers, particularly in Lika. In this way, Academician Malez reintroduced Croatian archaeology to its homeland. As a result, on the basis of his superb stratigraphic, palaeontological, palaeoanthropological, palaeoclimatic, and of course archaeological documentation, archaeology significantly contributed to the understanding of certain aspects of ways of life from the Old Stone Age until, for example the Early Middle Ages. This investigation of the depths of the Croatian karst bore many fruits. It brought about an understanding of the lengthy timeline of the continuous use of caves as outstanding shelters for different populations in the course of numerous climate changes (glaciation, drought, etc.), turbulent periods and dangers, but also as the seasonal dwelling places of many nomadic groups (e.g. Palaeolithic hunters, the herders of the Retz-Gayari cultures, the Litzen culture), and also as spiritual places and finally as places of eternal rest (Bezdanjača). Thanks to Academician Malez, from the cave areas we have found out about changes in the ecosystem (fauna, flora), types of climatic periods, and the first groups of fossil people, i.e. their material culture, raw materials, daily activities (hunting, gathering, lithic artefact manufacturing) and spiritual culture. Certain instances of continuous settlement indicate that sometimes caves were selected as more permanent dwelling places. The Vindija and Velika Pećina speleological sites in the Ravna Gora mountain range, a karst area in north-western Croatia, are paradigmatic examples of this. The Ravna Gora mountain range is situated on the spot where the large geotectonic complexes of the Alps, Dinarides and Pannonian Basin meet. The archaeological and palaeontological chronostratigraphies recognised in cave sites, especially Vindija and Velika Pećina, represent unique paradigmatic examples in the European context, and the research done by Stjepan Vuković and in particular Academician Mirko Malez brought them international recognition. In the remaining part of the paper, the author points to the most significant speleoarchaeological sites in Croatia within the scope of interest of Academician Mirko Malez. These sites, which are particularly significant in terms of speleoarchaeology, are shown on a thematic map (Map 1). Malez’s life’s work is a thick book with extraordinary contents which leads us through our karst-covered homeland, revealing original contents and knowledge about our deep roots. The empty spaces in this book call upon us to persist in our hard research and to continue filling in the gaps with new facts and expand upon the text that has placed us all under an obligation in such a special way. Caves as original habitats have always been the focus of interest of amateurs and scientists alike, and it is impossible to imagine that the knowledge gained through their exploration would not be naturally linked with man. As such, they represent a priority area of research for speleoarchaeologists. As we leaf through and read Malez’s book, we become aware of the original value of a work for which we are permanently grateful and which has allowed us to proudly participate on the greater global stage of science. Generations that grew up with a mentor such as Academician Mirko Malez have already raised and undoubtedly sensibilised another generation which, in turn, through new, exclusively interdisciplinary knowledge and increasingly sophisticated methods will continue to obtain fresh scientific facts and thus fill in the gaps that remained in ’his book. In this way, the extraordinarily high standard of Academician Mirko Malez’s life’s work, in which speleoarchaeology occupies a very special position, will be permanently maintained.

Ključne riječi
Speleoarchaeology; karst; caves; chronostratigraphy; Istria; Hrvatsko Zagorje; Ravna Gora; Medvednica; Lika; Academician Mirko Malez; Croatia; speleology

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