The Cave of Theopetra, just 4 km away from Meteora, is indeed a very unique archeological site, mainly because it has revealed many of our early history secrets, like the finding of the oldest known man-made structure on earth.
This unique cave with its great location, its superb access to fresh clean water and its vantage point, served like a magnet for early inhabitants who could recognize from miles away such key advantages. So those early human settlers used it continuously for more than 130.000 years.
Its uniqueness from an archeological perspective is that in contains, within a single site, the records of two greatly significant cultural transitions: The replacement of Neanderthals by modern humans, and the later transition from hunter-gathering to farming after the end of the last Ice Age. The cave consists of an immense 500 square meter rectangular chamber at the foot of a limestone hill, which rises to the northeast above the village of Theopetra, with a very big entrance 17m wide by three metres high.
It lies at the foot of the Chasia mountain range, which forms the natural boundary between Thessaly and Macedonia prefectures, while the Lithaios River, a tributary of the Pineios River, flows in front of the cave. The small Lithaios River flowing literally on the doorsteps of the cave meant that cave dwellers had always easy access to fresh, clean water without the need to cover daily long distances to find it.
The latest cave findings published in 2012 by the lead scientist and its team responsible for the excavations, Paleoanthropologist Dr. Ekaterini (Nina) Kyparissi-Apostolika, has raised the time records of cave’s dwelling up to 135.000 BC.
In 2010 it was announced that according to an optical dating test known as Optically Stimulated Luminescence, that performed to date a recently excavated stonewall and applied on quartz grains nested within the stones, it surprisingly revealed the oldest known man-made structure. The 23,000 year old stone wall in front of Theopetra cave probably built to protect its residents from cold winds at the height of the last ice age, is the oldest known example of a man made structure!
The Theopetra Cave documentation and Education Center
Near the cave you can find the documentation and training center of the cave, which host the finds from the excavations that took place in the cave from 1987 to 2008. The purpose of the Center is to promote the cultural wealth of the cave and to give visitors the opportunity to familiarize with the notions of archaeology and prehistory.
Through the course of the exhibition visitors will see:
- what is the archaeological trench and how the deposits of a site are being formed
- how the actions of the prehistoric inhabitants of the cave were imprinted in the soil
- which species of humans lived in prehistoric Theopetra and what sort of materials they used to produce their material culture
- how did the first prehistoric jeewels look like
- how our ancestors perceived the passage from life to death
- which soecies of plants and animals composed the prehistoric environment of the cave
- how did a Neolithic household look like
At the specially built educational applications room visitors of various ages will be able to get information about Greek prehistory and Theopetra cave, through interactive applications that were designed to combine knowledge and fun.
The educational trench, specially designed for our younger visitors, will give children the ability to experience a real excavation and to comprehend the stages of the archaeological process.
Don’t forget to read the post about the Cave of Theopetra from our blog.
Visiting Hours and Days
The cave is permanently closed until further notice.