35 km from Thessaloniki you will find the village of Petralona. Petralona is a small settlement in Halkidiki and it is famous for the impressive Petralona Cave, which is located 1 km away from the eponymous village. In fact, Petralona Cave is the most important among all caves in Greece, because there was discovered one of the earliest European humanoids.
The cave is located at the foot of Mount Katsika at an altitude of 300 meters from the level of the sea and is considered as one of the richest collections in Europe, while the discovery of the human skull, is one of the oldest European Homo Erectus samples which have been discovered so far.
History & Excavations
What is of great importance, is that the cave was found in 1959 by an inhabitant of Petralona named Mr Philippos Hatzaridis and it became known around the world in 1960, when another resident of the village, Mr Christos Sariyiannidis, accidentally discovered the fossilized skull of Archanthropus, dated to more than 700,000 years.
Actually, the systematic excavations started in 1965 by the PhD professor of anthropology Aris Poulianos, who is also the founder of the Anthropological Association of Greece (GNI) and carried out by himself from 1974 until 1988. Additionally, the cave has been open to the public since 1979.
Regarding his findings of Petralona Cave, all are really important but unfortunately, they are not able to give us a clear picture. Anthropologically, the fossilized skull is certainly an important finding, but the experts are not capable to date it. After being excavated more than 30 geological layers as well as based on the study of the Palaeolithic tools including the diagnosis of the Palaeofauna species, most of the scientists agreed that the skull belongs to a person who lived some 700,000 years ago today and at about 200,000 years ago today.
The cave of Petralona is one of the most impressive caves in Europe with spectacular findings. The cave also nicknamed “the red-rock cave” due to the colour that the bauxite deposits give to the stone, in other words, the stalagmites and stalactites. Furthermore, the cave covers an area of 10.000 m2 in total and it consists of a series of arcades, chambers, high ceilings and pools, full of stalactites, stalagmites, curtains and shields, columns and other formations.
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.
The cave still has not been fully explored. Nevertheless, there is an artificial tunnel that allows visitors easy access, so they can admire the ornate formations and two samples of cave art.
Both, the cave and the Anthropological Museum are located two km from the village of Petralona. Specifically, The Archaeological Museum of Petralona was built and financed in 1978 by the Anthropological Association of Greece (GNI). It opened and operated for the first time in 1979 and includes a conference room, geological and paleontological conservation laboratories, and a library. The museum aims to exhibit the findings of the cave and the prehistoric Greek culture to the whole world since the findings represent all the paleontological area of Greece.
At the museum, you will have the opportunity to admire copies of the mausoleum of Archanthropus European Petralona, the oldest traces of fire ever found (from the 24th geological level Petralona Cave, which dates back more than 1 million years), the first stone and bone tools which were discovered in Nea Triglia of Halkidiki (11 million years) and findings from open spaces before the age of caves in New Triglia, the island of Evia, in Ptolemaida Halkdiikis, the Aegean Sea, in other parts of Greece as well as in Africa. Keep in mind that, the famous human skull is on display at Aristotle University’s Geology-Paleontology Museum.
Not miss the chance to explore the Petralona Cave, a breathtaking spectacle of geology beauty!
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