The significant Libyan sacrifice of Svētupe / Day

Celebrating the year of the Libyan heritage, the Society of Latvian Archaeologists has chosen the Libyan sacrifice of Svētupe as the archaeological monument of 2023. This place is special not only in the cultural space of the Libyan people in Vidzeme, but also for researchers – this exposed sandstone outcrop can be considered the first sign rocks discovered in the Baltic.

Coins, bones and feathers

Although, looking back in the distant past, it is known that the Latvians were pagans with their characteristic customs of sacrificing to idols, so far in Latvia, researchers have found sacrifices only in the territories inhabited by Libyans – on the banks of the Svētupe, Salaca, Gauja and Īgis rivers. On the banks of Svētupe, Libiešu upurala is the only known cave. Therefore, it can be considered a unique testimony that reveals the features of ancient sacrality directly in the Libyan cultural space in Vidzeme.

Svētupe upural has written its name in the chronicles of Latvian cave research, as it was here that the methodology of surveying Latvian caves was born. This is the place where the naturalist Guntis Eniņš once, in 1971, began a systematic study of Latvian caves, surveying the cave and developing plans for the branches that had not caved in. In addition, it was that year in Svētupes upural for the first time in the Baltic States that researchers discovered ancient signs scratched on the surface of sandstone – rock patterns, called by different names, including petroglyphs, ancient letters, ancient writings. Thus, the sacrifice of Svētupes was the beginning of a new group of cultural-historical monuments – sign rocks – not only in Latvia, but even in the Baltics. In Latvia, this cave is still considered to be the place with the largest number of signs carved into the walls of the XVII-XVIII century.

After a year, geologist Viktors Grāvītis joined Guntis Eniņas in the efforts to clean the cave entrance hall: then, with the help of a fire pump, tons of sand were washed into Svētupė, thus opening up a rich field of work for archaeologists. The year 2023 is notable not only for honoring the Libyan heritage in the UN International Decade of Indigenous Languages ​​(2022-2032), but also for another important fact. The archaeological research of Svētupe victim under the guidance of archaeologist Jura Urtāns was carried out exactly fifty years ago – in 1973 – as the first systematic excavations in the cave of Latvia, which culminated in a rich range of finds.

More than six hundred coins of different times (even fake ones), also bronze rings and brooches, clothing clasps, buttons and small buttons, iron nails, fragments of white clay pipes, bone needle, pieces of beeswax were found here. Archaeologists have also found evidence of animals and food donated in the cave – bones of rabbits, sheep, cod and chickens, and eggshells. The dates of the findings go back to the XIV century. Juris Urtāns states that the researchers of animal bones have confirmed that all the found bird bones belong to fowls, which also agrees with the information found in the written sources about the sacrifice of roosters in the cave, while the bones of mammals belong to piglets, lambs, foals or immature animals.

A group of archaeologists returned to this place ten years ago – in 2013 – for the purpose of archaeological research. That year, the researcher Sandis Laime documented all the signs of the Svētupe sacrifice and also recorded the inscriptions left by tourists of the 17th century visible in the cave, the like of which had only been seen in Gūtmaniala until then. It is the tourist inscriptions that tell us in which times the cave was available to curious guests, and in which times it fell silent. Among the ancient signs are various crosses, including oblique crosses and circle crosses, also some yumja signs and even a Lithuanian cross: both signs of protection and signs of fertility.

Deleted time records

The shrine of Svētupe, embedded in a ten-meter-high sandstone outcrop, is located ten kilometers from Salacgrīva, on the bank of Svētupe near the houses of Kuiķuli. It was once formed when water gradually washed its way into the sandstone rock of the Devonian period. Since 2001, the national cultural monument Svētupe Libyan Sacrifice – cult place has also been included in the list of protected geological and geomorphological natural monuments.

Sandis Laime points out that the Libyan victim is currently experiencing the old age of its “cave life”, therefore the unique place needs to be preserved even more. Sandstone, with its soft “character”, is an unstable sedimentary rock, and the sediment has changed shape over time. Looking at the nearly two-century-old drawing by Fridrich Kruze, professor of history at the University of Turbat, which is considered to be the oldest picture of the cave, it can be concluded that the cave still had one common entrance in the nineteenth century.

In the harshest winters, the entrance to Svētupe Upurala is often covered by even an icefall, becoming a photo wall created by nature. However, as it melts, the entrance is washed away with sand along with the waters. In winter, sandstone caves in Latvia are wintering places for bats, which are protected animals. By rousing bats from hibernation, humans pose a threat to their survival.

In order to protect the unique cultural-historical place from human influence and further deterioration, the cave researchers have provided an opportunity to visit it virtually – by going on a digital exploration through a 3D model. For those who want to look into the history of the cave, the book written by researchers Sanda Laime and Jura Urtān, published in 2016, will be a valuable insight into the Svētupe Libyan Sacrifice.

Source: by

*The article has been translated based on the content of by If there is any problem regarding the content, copyright, please leave a report below the article. We will try to process as quickly as possible to protect the rights of the author. Thank you very much!

*We just want readers to access information more quickly and easily with other multilingual content, instead of information only available in a certain language.

*We always respect the copyright of the content of the author and always include the original link of the source article.If the author disagrees, just leave the report below the article, the article will be edited or deleted at the request of the author. Thanks very much! Best regards!