The cave Ajdovska jama can be considered as:
- a den of the cave bear from the end of the Upper Palaeolithic period;
- a refuge from the end of the Neolithic period and throughout the Copper Age with traces of temporary shelter all the way up to the High Middle Ages;
- a burial ground with the oldest graves discovered in Slovenia up to now, which can be dated to the end of the Neolithic period and in the Copper Age (second half of the 5th millennium BC);
- a place of worship, used to honour the memory of the dead and afterlife;
- a geomorphological phenomenon – the isolated karst;
- a natural heritage protection area, preserving the original habitat for bats and other endangered species.
The valley Kartušev dol, together with the cave Ajdovska jama, represents a natural phenomenon – a karstic world in miniature, containing typical karst features, such as the cave within a karst field, the subterranean river, sinkholes and ponors. Kartušev dol lies in the region of Krško hills, which formed in the Late Cretaceous period and are situated between the Sava River and the Krško Plain. The region of Krško hills can be described as a specific type of karst — fluvio-karst, which is characterised by all typical karstic phenomena, both on surface and underground. The karst field in front of the cave was formed by tectonic processes, while the area around the former spring was additionally transformed through erosion and corrosion. The field lies directly beneath the village Nemška Vas, on the tributary side of the Kartušev dol, which measures approximately two hectares. A stream flows across this area and disappears into the underground at the ponor, located in the lowest part of the karst field. During the heavy rainfalls, the ponor cannot take all the water, which thus overflows the river banks and floods the bottom of the field. Approximately three meters beneath the lower (i.e. the right) entrance to the cave there is an intermitting karst spring, which discharges water during the heavy rainfalls, pouring it into the field.
The archaeological site in the karst cave is a unique combination of natural and cultural heritage, of mystical and real world, of the lands of the dead and the living. In regard to the number, the quality and the scientific relevance of the archaeological finds, the cave represents one of the most important cultural monuments in Slovenia.
The oldest presence of humans in the cave, together with the remains of the cave bear, is attested already in the Palaeolithic or the Old Stone Age period (70.000 to 20.000 years before present). In the Neolithic or the New Stone Age period and in the Copper Age, the cave was used as a burial ground and as a place of worship. From then on, it functioned as a refuge in times of trouble all the way up to the end of the Middle Ages.
The relevance of the Ajdovska jama goes beyond regional context mainly due to the discovery of the burial ground, which represents a true rarity not only in Slovenia, but in Europe as well. The excavated burials, which can be dated to the Neolithic and Copper Age periods are for now the oldest known burials in Slovenia.
The Neolithic and Copper Age period remains in the Ajdovska jama point to the exposure of the deceased (i.e. the corpses) in the right corridor of the cave in order to decompose while being exposed to the elements and the subsequent burial of cleaned and selected bones in the common graves of their ancestors, located in the various parts of the left corridor and in the central hall of the cave. The final burial of deceased into the common graves of their ancestors marked the end of the grieving period, when the living relatives had been re-accepted into their community and the spirit of the dead had found its path to the otherworld. During these stages various offerings were performed to secure the safe passage of the deceased to the afterlife. Pots, filled with food, such as grains and butchered wild or domestic animals, comprised part of the farewell rites. Various grave-goods had been placed alongside human bone remains, such as jewellery – bracelets, pendants or necklaces – in the case of female burials and weapons and tolls – stone axes and arrows – in the case of male burials.
On the basis of these exceptional findings, the cave Ajdovska jama and its surroundings have been declared as a cultural and historical monument on the 22nd of June 1992.
Ajdovska jama represents also one of the most important summer shelters for endangered species of bats, what led to its listing as a Natura 2000 site. According to some estimations, the bats have been using the cave as a shelter and hunting area for at least 5000 years already.