Cueva de los Tayos

Cueva de los Tayos

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Cueva de los Tayos is a natural cave
Cave
A cave or cavern is a natural underground space large enough for a human to enter. The term applies to natural cavities some part of which is in total darkness. The word cave also includes smaller spaces like rock shelters, sea caves, and grottos.Speleology is the science of exploration and study...

 located on the eastern slopes of the Andes mountains in the Morona-Santiago province of Ecuador
Ecuador
Ecuador , officially the Republic of Ecuador is a representative democratic republic in South America, bordered by Colombia on the north, Peru on the east and south, and by the Pacific Ocean to the west. It is one of only two countries in South America, along with Chile, that do not have a border...

. It is sometimes called Cueva de los Tayos de Coangos (the Rio Coangos is nearby), presumably to distinguish it from other oilbird-containing caves with similar names.

Description


Located at an elevation of about 800m within thinly-bedded limestone
Limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

 and shale
Shale
Shale is a fine-grained, clastic sedimentary rock composed of mud that is a mix of flakes of clay minerals and tiny fragments of other minerals, especially quartz and calcite. The ratio of clay to other minerals is variable. Shale is characterized by breaks along thin laminae or parallel layering...

, the principal entrance to Cueva de Los Tayos is within rainforest
Rainforest
Rainforests are forests characterized by high rainfall, with definitions based on a minimum normal annual rainfall of 1750-2000 mm...

 at the bottom of a dry valley. The largest of three entrances is a 65 meter deep shaft leading to 4.6 kilometers of spacious passages and a chamber measuring 90 meters by 240 meters. The cave has a vertical range of 201 meters with its lowest point ending in a sump
Sump
A sump is a low space that collects any often-undesirable liquids such as water or chemicals. A sump can also be an infiltration basin used to manage surface runoff water and recharge underground aquifers....

.

The cave has long been used by the native Jivaro Indians who descend into the cave each spring using vine ladders and bamboo torches to collect fledgeling tayos (the nocturnal Steatornis caripensis). Written references to the cave go back as far as 1860 and it is known to have been visited by gold-seekers and military personnel in the 1960s.

The Gold of the Gods


The cave was popularized by Erich von Daniken
Erich von Däniken
Erich Anton Paul von Däniken is a Swiss author best known for his controversial claims about extraterrestrial influences on early human culture, in books such as Chariots of the Gods?, published in 1968...

’s 1973 book The Gold of the Gods, in which he wrote that Juan Moricz had claimed to have explored Cueva de los Tayos in 1969 and discovered mounds of gold, unusual sculptures and a metallic library. These items were said to be located within artificial tunnels that had been created by a lost civilization with help from extraterrestrial beings. Von Däniken had previously stirred public imagination by suggesting that extraterrestrials were involved in ancient civilizations in his popular book Chariots of the Gods?.

The 1976 Expedition


As a result of the claims published in von Däniken’s book, an investigation of Cueva de los Tayos was organized by Stan Hall from Britain in 1976. One of the largest and most expensive cave explorations ever undertaken, the expedition included over a hundred people, including experts in a variety of fields, British and Ecuadorian military personnel, a film crew, and former astronaut Neil Armstrong
Neil Armstrong
Neil Alden Armstrong is an American former astronaut, test pilot, aerospace engineer, university professor, United States Naval Aviator, and the first person to set foot upon the Moon....

. The team also included eight experienced British cavers who thoroughly explored the cave and conducted an accurate survey to produce a detailed map of the cave. There was no evidence of Von Däniken’s more exotic claims, although some physical features of the cave did approximate his descriptions and some items of zoological, botanical and archaeological interest were found.

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