Alepotrypa Cave is situated in the deep sheltered Gulf of Diros in western Mani. It has an elongated form (280 meters long) and consists of large chambers with a flat surface, but which succeed each other with a small difference in height.
In the larger chamber (100 x 60 meters) there is a lake with potable water and a maximum depth of 14 meters. The cave was in use at least from the beginning of the Early Neolithic (5300 B.C.) and for a period of approximately 2000 years.
The study of animal bones and charred fruit indicates that animal husbandry, hunting and fishing were the main sources of diet. The practice of farming was limited since the immediate natural environment did not particularly favour its development.
It’s no wonder that Hades, the legendary son of Chronos and ruler of the Underworld, might have been thought to live underneath this cave’s glorious cascade of stalactites and stalagmites.
When Alepotrypa was found in the 1950’s, the cave wasn’t relative to the myth of Hades. It served a purpose to the Greek government as for about 60 years, the cave was used as a tourist attraction. Recently archaeologists found the secrets that the cave may hold, so their efforts are focused on ensuring that tourists do not accidentally destroy anything.
“The legend is that in a village nearby, a guy was hunting for foxes with his dog, and the dog went into the hole and the man went after the dog and discovered the cave,” said Michael Galaty, a research archaeologist based in Mississippi, “The story’s probably apocryphal – depending on who you ask in the village, they all claim it was their grandfather who found the cave.”
According to “live science” the main chamber of the cave is about 200 feet (60 meters) tall and up to about 330 feet( 100 meters) wide. Altogether, the cave is nearly 3,300 feet (1,000 meters) long, large enough to have its own lake, in which famed explorer Jacques Cousteau once scuba-dived.
Excavations that have taken place at Alepotrypa since 1970 uncovered tools, pottery, obsidian and even silver and copper artifacts that date back to the Neolithic or New Stone Age, which in Greece began about 9,000 years ago. “Alepotrypa existed right before the Bronze Age in Mycenaean Greece, so we’re kind of seeing the beginnings of things that produced the age of heroes in Greece” Galaty, researcher, said.
“You have to imagine the place torchlit, filled with people lighting bonfires and burying the dead,” Galaty said. “It was quite like a prehistoric cathedral, a pilgrimage site that attracted people from all over the region and perhaps from further afield.”
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