For many years I’ve been fascinated with caves. My husband and I, along with our children, have toured many caves in the U.S., and even had the chance, recently, to explore on our own inside a raw cave in our city. We tiptoed on rocks through a watery cave floor, guided only by our tiny flashlights, and the flashlights of another family ahead of us. No one was brave enough to go very far inside, especially after I clunked my head on a low spot in the cave’s ceiling.
Another interesting cave adventure happened in March of this year. My husband and I were on a tour of a commercialized cave with my cousin and her husband, and we saw bats flying around. The unexpected sighting was thrilling, though we would probably have been less thrilled if that had happened on the unguided tour in the raw cave.
I’ve toured Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, and numerous caves in the Black Hills of South Dakota, but my interest in caves includes caves in other parts of the world, too, and especially those that have developed into troglodyte cave dwellings, which I learned about several years ago. Dwellings such as these can be found in many places: New Zealand, Austria, and France, to name a few. As I researched them, I knew I would one day write a book set in a troglodyte village. Some of the books in my new mystery novel series, The Outsiders, are set in a fictionalized troglodyte village.
Troglodyte dwellings, known in France as troglos, are carved out of the soft limestone, or tufa, of the banks of rivers in Central France. For centuries, these troglos have been used as makeshift homes for people who were nicknamed troglodytes because they were seen as ignorant half-human savages. Even as recently as the mid-to-late 1800’s, thousands of people lived in unsanitary conditions in these cliff faces or in caves and chalk pits.
Over the years these caves also served as refuges in times of war, and produced building materials for houses and businesses. Today, many of these cave dwellings, which have been modernized, are used as full-time homes, vacation homes, inns, wine cellars, or museums.
For anyone who is interested, I’ve included a link to a video about troglodyte dwellings: