The Petralona Cave
The bejewelled with stalagmites and stalactites Petralona Cave has been developed on the western side of the limestone Katsika mountain (~700 m height) and 300 m above sea level. The Cave was spotted in 1959 by the inhabitant of the Petralona village Philippos Chatzaridis and it became internationally known when the fossilized skull of Petralona man was found by a group of six men (three of them scientists), guided by another villager, Christos Sariannidis.
The systematic excavations in the Cave started in 1965 by the founder of the Anthropological Association of Greece Ph.D. professor of anthropology Aris Poulianos. His research proved that Petralona Archanthropus (i.e. an archaic Homo sapiens) has an age of about 700.000 years ago, which is the oldest known Europeoid man. This chronology is based on the detail analysis of the Cave stratigraphy (until today 34 geological layers have been excavated). Also, it is based on the study of the Palaeolithic tools, as well as the exact diagnosis of the Palaeofauna species, which have been discovered in almost all layers.
Few words about the Cave of the Petralonian Archanthropinae
The bejewelled with stalagmites and stalactites Petralona Cave is formed about 300 m above sea level. The Cave was spotted in 1959 by the inhabitant of the Petralona village Philippos Chatzaridis from an ovoid (0,7 m long) diaklasis (fracture) of the limestone Kalavros Mountain (~ 700 m high), which is created in Jurassic era (~150 million years) by undersea sediments that emerged in various phases during next periods. Most probably during Mio-Pleiocene, about 5 million years ago, the Cave’s main compartments were formed. Internationally it became known when the famous fossilized skull of Petralona man was found by another villager, Christos Sariannidis, along with five other men (three of whom scientists).
The systematic excavations of the Cave started in 1965 by the founder of the Anthropological Association of Greece Ph.D. professor of anthropology Aris N. Poulianos. His research proved that Petralona Archanthropus (i.e. an archaic Homo sapiens) has an age of about 700.000 years ago, that is the oldest known Europeoid man. This chronology is based on the detail analysis of the Cave stratigraphy (until today 34 geological layers have been unearthed), as well as on the study of the Palaeolithic tools and the Palaeofauna species that have been discovered in almost all layers. Among the fossils of the extinct species found in the Cave lions, hyenas, bears, panthers, elephants, rhinos, megacerines, bisons, and various species of dears and equids (horse like) are included, as well as 25 species of birds, 16 species of rodents and 17 species of bats.
A considerable aid in reconfirming the age of the Petralona Archanthropus is the contribution of Archaeometry (with methods advanced by Nuclear Physics). The materials used for such a purpose are bones, argil, stalagmites and traces of fire (ashes, burned bones) – the earliest ever lightened by human hands on earth (~800.000 years ago).
Thousands of fossils and other findings are deposited in the adjacent to the Cave Anthropological Museum, many of which you may visit here in a separate virtual web sight-seeing.
Not convinced already?
The discovery of the Petralona Cave
The Cave was spotted by the shepherd of the region Philippos Chatzaridis (1880 – 1984), who, as the rest of the Petralona inhabitants, was an emigrant from Asia Minor, after the 1922 catastrophe.
Philippos had noticed that among the limestone rocks of the Kalavros cliffs an oval fissure (~0.7 m long), full of stones and sands, presented the following peculiarities: During winter around the crack the snow was melting earlier than in other spots of the Mountain and that the air there was wormer than that of the atmosphere. In the summer contrarly the temperature there was lower than the surrounding area. In addition, a smooth sound from the fissure was sometimes heard, like a breadth. So, Philippos supposed that beneath the crack underground water current was passing, keeping the air temperature steady above it, also creating the puff like sound.
Although a water spring could be very useful to the villagers, for several years they did not pay any attention to Philippos’ claims. After many abetments, it was the spring of 1959, when a group of Petralona inhabitants went to the place and dug up the soil from the crack and saw that it was leading to a narrow underground vertical passage. Two young villagers, Vassilis Giannakopoulos and Christos Sariannidis, managed to descent vertically about 7 – 10 m using ropes and lighters. To their surprise they faced a cave instead of a source of water.
The same year the villagers found out that the southern cave wall was not made of stone, but cemented soil (conglomerates). Thus, they dug out an opening of about two meters in diameter, creating the first artificial entrance. Although this entrance eased the exploration of the new underground cavity, it also attracted the attention of treasure hunters and collectors of fossils, stalagmites and stalactites, damaging an environment which had remained untouched for hundreds of thousands years. However, the halls around this entrance are more affected than the inner and more beautiful chambers, probably because the narrow passages leading to them present difficult access.
In spite of the great palaeoanthropological importance of the cave, it was only in 1968, by the intervention of Dr. Aris Poulianos, that this entrance was protected by a security door.
source: Anthropological Association of Greece (A.A.G.)