Cuevas de los murcielagos
The Cueva de los Murciélagos (the Cave of the Bats) is a system of caves situated on the edges of the limestone Sierras Subbéticas Natural Park, 4km from the attractive village of Zuheros. Of the 60 caves registered in the park, the most important one is the Cueva de los Murciélagos, internationally renowned for its schematic and unique rock paintings and significant archaeological remains dating from Neolithic times. Although the first recorded references to the cave was in 1868, it wasn't explored until 1938.
It has spectacular rock formations characteristic of limestone caves, with impressive stalagmites and stalagtites, underground lakes and caverns. It is located in the heart of a 1,000m-high mountain called the Cañada de Malos Vientos. Inside the mountain, the caves extend for 2km, but only 450m of this can be visited. There are a total of 700 steps, which take you 63m below sea level.
Neolithic burial remains discovered in the cave show evidence of human occupation of the caves dating from over 35,000 years ago. Excavations of this site have contributed greatly to the study of the neolithic period, as they have unearthed evidence of this time starting much earlier than previously thought. Through carbon dating, the period can be accurately placed between 4300 BC and 3980 BC. You can find out more about this history, and view some of the finds from the cave, in the archaelogical museum in Zuheros.
Under the patronage of the Ayuntamiento de Zuheros, Profesora Beatriz Gavilan Ceballos undertook major excavations in 1991 lead to a reconstruction of the daily life of the group that inhabited the cave. People lived primarily in the cave entrance, where daylight entered, and they built fires and cooked food here, as well as producing tools from flints and bone, the latter used for cutting leather.
They made clay pots using a red pigment called almagre and necklaces and bracelets of sea shells. Interestingly, some of these items were not available locally, but were from the Malaga area, suggesting that the Neolithic cave dwellers were involved in trading goods.
Archaeological finds related to their diet show that they used wild and domestic animals as a source of food, along with various types of cereals. Once the cereal had been harvested, part of the crop was set aside as seed for next year's planting and the rest was toasted and then grounded in hand mills. The Neolithic era was a time when people changed from being hunter-gatherers to cultivating crops and keeping livestock, but excavations have unearthed remains of wild olives and acorns, showing that these people were still in transition.
Although the cave's most important archaeological finds are from the Neolithic era, there is also evidence of Roman occupation.
The cave has one of the most important bat colonies in Andalucía. There are a two different types of bat here, one of which is protected under an EU directive.
From Cordoba take the A432 south until just past Baena. Take the turn-off for Doña Mencía; the road to Zuheros is opposite this village. To reach the caves from Zuheros leave the village opposite the Museo de Costumbres y Artes Populares, from where the cave is signposted.
The cave can be visited by an hour-long guided tour (in Spanish only), advance booking advisable. Telephone 957 694 545 from Monday to Friday 10am-2.30pm and 5pm-7pm. For visits from Monday to Friday, ring beforehand to find out the time, since tours depend on the number of bookings.
From 1 April to 30 September on Saturday, Sunday and public holidays, visits are at 11am, 12.30 pm, 2pm, 5.00pm and 6.30pm.
From 1 October to 31 March on Saturday, Sunday and public holidays, visits are at 11am, 12.30pm, 2pm, 4pm and 5.30pm.
Visits cost €4.60 for adults and €3.50 for children aged 5-12 years.