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Classification of Artificial Cavities


Mario Parise 1-2, Carla Galeazzi 1-3, Roberto Bixio 1-4, Martin Dixon 1-5

1 UIS Commission on Artificial Cavities

2 CNR, Istituto di Ricerca per la Protezione Idrogeologica, Bari, Italy; m.parise@ba.irpi.cnr.it

3 Egeria Centro Ricerche Sotterranee, Rome, Italy

4 Centro Studi Sotterranei, Genova, Italy

5 Subterranea Britannica, United Kingdom

The article representes a contribution by the Commission on Artificial Cavities of the Internationa Union of Speleology (UIS) aimed at defining a general classification of artificial cavities. The amount and variety of cavities realized underground by man is extremely high, and cover with variable peculiarities many areas of the world.

Nevertheless, it is important to perform an attempt in classifying such great variety, through a classification comprising at least the main categories of observed situations. Starting from the work carried out in past years by the Italian Speleological Society, it is here presented a classification of artificial cavities based upon time and modality of realization, and organized through a typological tree where seven main categories are defined, each one of them in turn subdivided into sub-types. We hope that, referring in the next future to this classification, it will be possible to better organize and describe the works and researches on artificial cavities, and compare the situations present in different areas of the world.

In several occasions, attempts have been made to develop a classification of artificial cavities, as a common base to describe the underground cavities produced by man’s activities over time, and to share the related knowledge and great amount of researches done, that embrace many different fields of science (from geology and geomorphology, to archaeology, anthropology, history, and so on). In the past, more than one classification has been proposed. In most of the cases, the main drawback of these attempts relied in their strong dependence on the country of provenance of the authors (with, in turn, a stronger attention paid upon the most typical cavities of that country).

In very few occasions the proposed classifications derived from the work of an international group where different countries were effectively represented. Nevertheless, some attempts have been done to put together international teams, with outcomes such as the lexicon of terms dealing with underground works presented at the International Symposium on Underground Quarries in Naples (Capuano et al., 1991).

In Italy, a strong effort was produced during the last decades to put together the cavers and researchers interested in the topic of artificial cavities, by creating a dedicated Commission within the framework of the Italian Speleological Society (SSI). The Commission started its works in 1981, focusing on the issues of producing a preliminary classification of artificial cavities and, at the same time, preparing a form to be filled for inclusion of each artificial cave in the Italian register, managed by the SSI Commission itself. In the years, many meetings and discussions were the object of the matter, until in the late 1990s a preliminary classification was proposed.

Following the last International Congress of Speleology, held in Kerrville (Texas, USA) in 2009, and the re-start of the activity of the new UIS Commission on Artificial Cavities, the issue of producing a general classification of artificial cavities became again matter of discussion. At this aim, a specific workshop was organized in May 2011, and held in Turin (Italy), with the outcomes presented in a special issue of the journal Opera Ipogea, published by SSI (Parise, 2013). On that occasion, starting from the Italian classification, some adjustments were produced, both in the organization of the structure, and as linguistic improvements; further, inclusion of new typologies was also considered, which brought to the present classification, that will be described in detail in the following.

Download the PDF of contribution presented to the IC of Speleology Brno 2013 International classification of Artificial Cavities

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