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The Theopetra cave in Kalampaka

Theopetra caveOn the Trikala-Kalampaka road, 3 kilometers before Meteora, a rocky limestone mass rises above the village of Theopetra, on the northeast side of which is the cave of the same name. It is the westernmost prehistoric site of the Thessalian plain, located at the foot of the Hasia mountain range, which is also the natural border between Thessaly and Epirus. the cave is located at an altitude of about 100 meters from the surface of the plain and 280 meters from the surface of the sea. in front of the cave, the river Litheos flows, a tributary of Pinios.

The entrance of the cave has dimensions of 17×3 meters, while its main chamber, roughly square with small side alcoves, has an area of ​​500 square meters.

The scientific importance of the cave is considered very important for the prehistory of the entire Greek area as, as archaeologists note, it is one of the few caves in Greece with such a large area of ​​deposits that cover the evolution of man in a period very decisive for his evolution, his transition, i.e. from Neuterdal to Homo sapiens.

In the undisturbed layers of these embankments, archaeologists today get the messages of a multi-human civilization. the anthropological remains are also very important – two skeletons, one from the Upper Paleolithic and a normal burial from the Mesolithic era – as well as the skeletal remains of animals that vary according to the time.

Particularly important for scientists is the skeleton of the Mesolithic era (dated to around 8000 BC). Although the habitation of the Greek area at this time is known, skeletal finds are rare. Another skeleton from this period has been found in Fragthi of Argolis.
A particular interest is also three layers of hard sediments that intervene in the fillings of the cave and which, according to archaeologists, probably represent ice ages in Thessaly. Did the humans who looked for safety in the protected space of the earth’s hollows become a separate race? Archaeologists believe that the caves functioned as shelters for certain social groups which, however, had the same culture as the people who lived outside the caves, in the open plains. Science has not yet clarified whether the caves functioned as permanent or temporary dwellings.

The footprints are perhaps one of the most impressive finds of the excavators in the cave because it is a living testimony of its habitation in times so far away that it defies the imagination. Two footprints were found which, as shown by scientific measurements and analyses, belong to two children. The following element is also interesting: the prints were made from left feet. How is this explained? There is probably no documented interpretation at the moment. Only assumptions can be made. Perhaps the clay floor of the cave and the circumstances helped to capture only the specific traces.

We are walking in the footsteps of others, the director of paleoanthropology-speleology, Dr. Vivi Vassilopoulou mentioned to her speech to the meeting for the Theopetra cave some years ago. “Today- she emphasized – where money is the measure of people’s above all, Theopetra, from itself, brings us back to the forgotten measure of money man”.

The Theopetra cave in KalampakaThe systematic excavation research recorded Pleistocene and Holocene geological embankments on the one hand, and man-made embankments on the other, with a total thickness of approximately 6 meters. These confirm the continuous use of the cave during the Middle and Upper Paleolithic, the Mesolithic and the Neolithic season. Samples (e.g. charcoal, human bones) from the embankments, which were dated using the methods of natural scientists, attest to the habitation of the cave from approximately 50,000 to 4000 BC. its use continued periodically during the bronze age, but also during historical times, until 1995.
It is the first time that in Thessaly cave dwellings during the Paleolithic era have been documented, since most of the known finds of this era come from rural sites. In addition, the cave of Theopetra is the only, at least until now, cave in Greece, where both the transition from the Upper Palaeolithic to the Mesolithic and the transition from the Mesolithic to the Neolithic can be studied and dated.
Three cold periods were distinguished in the stratigraphic sequence of Theopetra: one during the Middle Paleolithic, one during the Upper Paleolithic and one during the final Upper Paleolithic, i.e. at the end of the Pleistocene.

In 1990/1, the remains of two skeletons were found in Theopetra. The first is a Mesolithic female skeleton (7,500-8,500 years old), while the second is an Upper Paleolithic male skeleton (14,500 years old), whose only cranial vault was saved, unfortunately.

The systematic excavation research and study of the material of Theopetra has been carried out since 1987 by an interdisciplinary team of researchers of the Department of Paleoanthropology-Spelaiology, under the supervision of N. Apostolika-Kyparissi.