Kasimir Doratsch, cave explorer, 1907-1943

Kasimir Doratsch was born in Gaisberg in 1907. He was the seventh of eleven children of a farmer’s family. He was of no use in the fieldwork, due to his feeble health during his infancy. For that reason he could devote himself entirely to his intellectual inclinations. Kasimir Doratsch was exceptionally gifted youth and with only 26, he graduated in natural sciences with the help of several scholarships from the Lyceum in Mühldorf.  Henceforth he taught at the high school of Winbachau, but his true passion was the mountains. In his spare time he climbed the Karawanks, the Julian Alps, the Kamnik-Savinja Alps, the Carnic Alps and parts of the Tauern. Doratsch made many significant first ascents, in a time when mountains were stilled shunned, because they were considered the home of enchanted souls and witches.

On many of his venturesome mountain tours, he was accompanied by Reinhold Elbritz. The two explored countless caves and collected interesting fossils, some of which form part of the Kaiserliches Naturalienkabinett (Imperial collection of natural history specimens). In 1936 Elbritz lost his life during the descent from the Drei Zinnen. However the following year, Doratsch set out to climb the peaks of the Drei Zinnen once again, only this time he took the route on the north face and made the greatest discovery of his life. In a dripstone cave just below the peak of the Kleine Zinne, he discovered cave paintings and fossilised footprints. Many of the paintings of this cave represent chimeras (hibrid creatures) between humans and birds.*

After his discovery Doratsch was obsessed with the idea, that he had come across a previously unknown human ancestor who could walk as well as fly. He tried to prove his theory at countless institutions and universities, having assembled a vast amount of documentation. He even constructed a portable flying machine to illustrate his idea in three dimensions. But in his fellow men he only found rejection and disbelief, which finally even turned him into a social outcast. In 1941 all the material he had collected was confiscated by the Nazis. The few photographs and drawings that have survived we owe to Doratsch’s roommate Karl Utter, who hid them away in a cookie box. The last two years of his life Doratsch spent as a vagabond. In 1943 he died in Hinterstein from the consequences of a fall from a rooftop.

*According to current knowledge Doratsch’s findings were analyzed by means of a radiocarbon method (C14),which showed they date back to 35.000 and 32.000 years before present, belonging to the culture-epoch of the Aurignacian.

The exhibits were shown as part of Archelogía prohibida at Conde Duque Madrid

curator: Rafa Suñén