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Hušnjakovo: A walk in the footsteps of the Krapina prehistoric man

Hušnjakovo is the most important fossil man site in Croatia located in a semi-cave on a hill near Krapina. This extremely important site was discovered at the beginning of the twentieth century by Dragutin Gorjanović-Kramberger, about whom every Croatian student learns in school. On Hušnjakovo, Kramberger discovered the remains of dozens of Pleistocene people of the Neanderthal type who lived in the Middle Paleolithic. However, it is especially interesting that not only the bones of people were found, but also of numerous animals of that time – rhinos, mammoths, bears. In addition, many stone and bone tools and hearths were found. 

Hušnjakovo
Hušnjakovo
Source: ana.1609.m

On this occasion, we took a walk along the paths that prehistoric people walked approximately 130,000 years ago, and we had the opportunity to see sculptures that faithfully depict their appearance and way of life. The trail we passed is protected as a paleontological monument of nature.

Krapina prehistoric man

Krapina’s prehistoric man is actually the name for the entire collection of remains of Neanderthal man from the area of ​​the Croatian town of Krapina located in northwestern Croatia. Considering that this is one of the largest collections of Neanderthal man remains in general, it is not surprising that Hušnjakovo and Krapina attract a large number of tourists from Croatia every year, but also foreigners eager to see historical attractions. What will certainly intrigue every history fan is the fact that the collection contains almost 900 bones of about seventy individuals (people aged between 3 and 27).

Bones in Hušnjakovo
Bones in Hušnjakovo

Almost all parts of the skeletons were found, but the bones were broken. There are no systematically buried individuals, completely preserved skulls, or entire long bones. This fact, as well as traces of scraping and cutting on individual bones, led early researchers to assume that the Krapina prehistoric man was a cannibal. Recent research has shown that such damage can also occur as a result of natural processes during fossilization, but the issue of cannibalism is still the subject of scientific debate. We have to admit that this finding really shocked us!

Hušnjakovo, a walk along the path of prehistoric man

Now that we have introduced you to the story and served you some unavoidable historical facts, it is time for you to go with us for a walk along the path of the Krapina Neanderthal. The trail is located next to the Museum of Krapina Neanderthals, about which you will soon find out everything that interests you. At the very beginning, we have to say that there is a parking lot near the track where we could leave the car so we didn’t have to worry about whether we would bother anyone or get a fine.

At the very beginning of the trail we saw a bust of a man with a mustache. We couldn’t help but find out if we were right when we thought it must be a monument to Dragutin Gorjanović-Kramberger. We were not wrong! The bust truly depicts our esteemed scientist responsible for the discovery of the remains in Hušnjakovo, and it was made by the academic sculptor Ivan Grošinić. Our view quickly fell on numerous wooden sculptures that one by one began to appear in front of us as we increasingly followed the gravel path. It is a sculpture park called “Forma Prima”.

Bust of Dragutin Gorjanović-Kramberger
Bust of Dragutin Gorjanović-Kramberger
Forma Prima
Forma Prima

Wooden oak sculptures exhibited in the woods themselves along the trail vary in size and shape. Some of them are completely abstract and each of us saw something different in them, while some are a clear depiction of stylized animals and people. We continued to walk to reach the steep stone steps that led us to the hill, ie the path of the Krapina prehistoric man, for which we headed. Although it is a hill and the stairs are a bit steeper, we can not say that it is too much physical effort, so we would recommend this trip to those who want to go somewhere in the company of their children.

Forma Prima 2
Forma Prima

Sculptures of prehistoric people

After only a few minutes of walking up the stairs, we came across the first sculptures of Krapina’s prehistoric man. The first reconstruction of the life of Neanderthals from this area shows two men, one of whom holds a large stone above his head that could be used to build a house or as a weapon to crush prey, and the other has a piece of wood in his hands that can best be compared to today’s baseball bats. We were immediately aware that it was probably a broken piece of wood that served as a weapon. We also noticed that the men were not shown naked but clothed in items made of animal skins that they made themselves.

Prehistoric men in Hušnjakovo
Prehistoric men in Hušnjakovo

The next reconstruction shows a mother with two children who looks like she is lighting a fire or trying to maintain an existing embers. She holds a stick in her hand, which touches the ground. Her two children watch her, holding a tree branches in their hands. Unlike a mother who is dressed in animal skin, children are shown naked. In addition to this family scene, we could also notice the remains of animal skulls and bones on the cave floor.

Family
Family

Sculptures of animals whose remains were found on Hušnjakovo

After carefully examining the mentioned human reconstructions, we continued walking and after a few steps we noticed a plaque on which we could see description of the soil of the whole hill and a brief description of the excavation led by Dragutin Grojanović-Kramberger. We realized that the trail would now lead us down the stairs so we had a fantastic view of everything that awaits us down below – sculptures of different animals. The first animal we had a chance to see was a bear. After that, we saw a wolf that didn’t look threatening at all, but instead looked like a dog – of course, we had to take a photo next to him! After that we had a chance to see a sculpture of a big cat resting carefree on a tree to finally meet the sweet beavers.

Sculpture of bear
Sculpture of bear
Sculpture of beavers
Sculpture of beavers

What we must not forget to mention is certainly the fantastic view of the town of Krapina, which stretches from the hill Hušnjakovo. Depending on how high you are, you can see the city from a different perspective. In any case, you will not regret it if you climb Hušnjakovo!

Your CTC Team, A. M.

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