Students will learn to understand the diverse uses of a cavern.
Throughout history mankind has utilized caverns for numerous purposes. The dark, hidden, even-temperatured spaces have had their practical uses. In addition, the mysterious subterranean chambers have inspired numerous myths and legends. Walking slowly into the unknown and inhospitable, haunted by eerily echoing dripping water, visitors have always had strong emotional reactions to caverns. It is not hard to understand why primitive people believed caverns to be places where evil creatures lurked, or magical events transpired.
Listed below are ways that people have used caverns:
PRACTICAL & EVERYDAY USES
At Sierra Nevada Recreation Corporation, our caverns were used in many ways before they became show caves:
Boyden Cavern is located at the bottom of Kings Canyon, Sequoia National Forest. The entrance is an opening in the side of the giant “King’s Gate” marble mountain next to the Kings River. While there are no artifacts to prove it, it is quite possible that the cavern could have been used as temporary shelter by local native Americans.
The first visitors to Moaning Cavern were most likely people who fell in accidentally. Over one hundred human skeletons as well as animal skeletons have been found at the bottom of the main chamber. Testing shows that the skeletons are over ten thousand years old – possibly the oldest human remains in North America. In the 1850’s gold miners searched the cavern in the hopes of striking it rich. There was little gold to be found and thankfully the cavern was not destroyed in their search. Artifacts from both the primitive people and the miners are on display at the visitor center.
California Cavern also had ancient visitors. Human skeletons were found in the cavern in the fetal position with no clothing, tools or signs of fires. This leads scientists to believe that they were put into the cavern alive, possibly as prisoners. In October 1850 the cavern was discovered by a miner from a nearby mining encampment. Soon the cavern was open to the public for tours (California Cavern was the state’s first show cavern). The mining town that grew next to it was named Cave City. The townsfolk used the cavern as a cool place to hold socials, church meetings and weddings.
Primitive people who lived in caverns created the first tools and utensils. If possible, take the class outside, away from any structure, to set the atmosphere. Have the students imagine living in a cavern without any of the modern conveniences they are used to. Discuss day-to-day activities that require tools or utensils (for example, gathering food, then preparing and eating meals, writing, washing clothes, etc.) and discuss how to go about doing these activities without our modern tools. Encourage the students to invent tools. Ask them what materials they would use and how their inventions could be created without modern tools to help.
Have the students write a story creating a legend that includes a cavern.
Research why a cavern is not a good fallout shelter.
Research how caverns are helpful to geologists in studying the earth’s history.