The Theopetra Cave, are just 5 km from Meteora, is one of the most important prehistoric archaeological sites in Greece! Over the past decades, it has made many prehistoric discoveries in various prehistoric times. Porcelain stoneware, burials, animal remains, ancient man-made structures and much more! This unique cave has a great location, excellent access to pristine fresh water, and this unique cave with an observation deck served as a magnet for early residents who could benefit immensely with miles. The early prehistoric settlers used it for much longer period for over 130,000 years.
Its archaeological peculiarity lies in the fact that in one place there are records of two very important cultural transitions. It showed evidence of replacement of Neanderthals with modern humans and move from hunting to farming later, after the last ice age. The cave is a 500 square meter rectangular chamber at the foot of a limestone hill towering northeast of the city of Teopetra, with a huge entrance, 17 meters wide and 3 meters high.
It is located at the foot of the Chasia Mountains, the natural border between the prefectures of Thessaly and Macedonia, and in front of the cave flows the River Lithaios, a tributary of the Pineios River. The small river Lithaios, which literally flows through the cave’s threshold, means that cave dwellers have easy access to fresh, clean water at any time, without having to make long journeys every day.
How Long Did Humans Survived In The Caves?
Systematic excavations have revealed minor geological and anthropogenic deposits of the Pleistocene and Holocene, suggesting that the caves were permanently inhabited during the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic periods.
Samples of charcoal and human bones prove that the cave dates back to around 135,000 BC. It was occupied until 4000 BC. and was temporarily used until 1955 until the Bronze Age and historical period. Even after this, the caves were sometimes used by shepherds to protect the herds before excavations began.
This is the first time that a cave dwelling has been recorded in Thessaly during the Paleolithic period. The most recent discovery of the cave was the lead scientist in charge of the excavation in 2012 and his team, Paleoanthropologist Dr. Ekaterini (Nina) Kyparissi-Apostolika, increased the record time of the cave’s habitation to 135,000 years BC.
Oldest human footprints in Europe
During the excavations, three human footprints were found, approximately 135,000 years old. The results consisted of a series of four fingerprints from a person, presumably children between the ages of 2 and 7. These children must have walked later on the ashes of the petrified fire. So their traces have survived to this day.
The stratigraphic sequence of Theopetra cave covers three cold periods: during the Middle era circa 25,000 BC, during the Upper Palaeolithic, and during the final Upper Palaeolithic period (end of the Pleistocene era).
Items found in the caves included Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic stone tools, as well as Neolithic porcelain, bone and shell objects, and skeletons dating from 15000, 9000 and 8000 BC. In addition, traces of plants and seeds, revealing dietary habits.
The World Oldest Wall
Another interesting find in the Theopetra cave is the remains of a stone wall that once partially blocked the entrance to the cave. These remains were discovered in 2010, and using a relatively new dating method known as optically stimulated luminescence, scientists were able to date this wall around 23,000 years ago. The era of the walls, which coincides with the last ice age, has led researchers to conclude that they were built by cave dwellers to protect them from the external cold. It is known as the oldest man-made structure in Greece and possibly the world.