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Living In The 'Bowels Of The Earth'
Athens News ^ | 6-3-2008- | HEINRICH HALL

Posted on 06/04/2008 2:18:43 PM PDT by blam

Living in the 'bowels of the earth'

In caves all over Greece, archaeologists reveal the secrets of the past


The mythical birthplace of Zeus: the Idaean Cave, central Crete

AT SOME point between AD575 and 600, at least 33 men, women and children entered a cave near modern Andritsa, southwest of Argolid, in the eastern Peloponnese. They carried a Christian cross, some money and food supplies, perhaps intending to hide from some temporary threat. They were never to see the light of day again. One by one, they died from starvation, unable or unwilling to escape the cave. Fourteen centuries later, Greek archaeologists discovered the remains of this early Byzantine community and its tragic and mysterious end.

Andritsa cave, excavated in 2004-05, is just one example of dozens of new archaeological discoveries made in Greek caves in recent years. Traditionally, the general public associates caves with damp and darkness, long-extinct animals and primitive humans. But in reality caves form a distinctive type of archaeological site as they have been used by humans for a variety of purposes throughout history and have played their own role in the development of human civilisation. The long history of human cave-use may be a global phenomenon, but it is well-represented here in Greece and has been the focus of much study lately.

Not surprisingly for a country largely composed of limestone, the mainland and islands of Greece abound in caves - nobody will ever count how many of these natural openings, passages, rooms and halls, usually formed by water action, exist but they must number in the tens of thousands. Some are small and shallow, others vast. Some have not been entered by humans until recently, perhaps just providing shelter for bats or wild goats; others have been the location of human activities for hundreds, thousands, tens or even hundreds of thousands of years.

Many caves were used for different reasons at different times. Since caves are usually immune to the effects of erosion and other forms of natural or manmade degradation, remains like bones, stone tools, pottery and metal objects are often found preserved inside them.

Humans have used caves for entirely practical reasons. Caves provide natural shelter, and they do not need to be constructed or maintained. For these reasons, they were often used as habitations, especially by individuals or societies that were mobile, nomadic or unable to invest in artificial shelters, be they tents, huts or houses.

Mysterious and evocative: limestone formations in Agia Sophia Cave, western Crete

The famous cave of Franchthi in the Argolid, inhabited from 20,000 to circa 3,500BC, is an example of one such cave. Caves have very stable climates, making them useful places for storing perishable food: Homer's Odyssey describes cheese being stored in the cave of the Cyclops Polyphemus. Other caves are hard to find or easy to defend, lending themselves to use as temporary places of refuge or defence, as appears to have been the case at Andritsa.

But people have also been attracted to caves for less rational reasons. Caves can be evocative and mysterious places, both frightening and beautiful. They have often been associated with divine, supernatural or spiritual powers. In the late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age (3500 to 2500 BC), caves were sometimes used as burial places, such as the famous example at Diros, in the Mani peninsula. In Minoan Crete, ritual feasts and other forms of worship took place in caves, eg at Skoteino near Milatos. But also in classical Greece religious activities often focused on caves, some of them linked to major mythological events, like the Dyktaian and Idaean caves in Crete, both associated with the birth and upbringing of Zeus himself, or the Corycian Cave above Delphi. Others are more modest in scope, like the innumerable caves dedicated to Pan and the nymphs throughout ancient Greece. Even in Christian times, chapels were often built in or over caves.

At present, the care for, and study of, archaeological remains in the caves of Crete is entrusted to two branches of the Hellenic ministry of culture, the Ephoreia for Palaeoanthropology-Speleology for Southern Greece, based in Athens, and its counterpart for northern Greece, in Thessaloniki. Together with Greek institutions and scholars from the foreign archaeological institutes in Greece, they are engaged in numerous innovative projects in caves all over the country. In fact, there has probably never been a more active period in the archaeology of Greek caves than the present.

*The author is an archaeologist and assistant director of the Irish Institute of Hellenic Studies at Athens

TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: 536ad; ad536; archaeology; bowels; catastrophism; darkages; earth; godsgravesglyphs; greeks; middleages

1 posted on 06/04/2008 2:18:44 PM PDT by blam
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To: SunkenCiv

GGG Ping.

2 posted on 06/04/2008 2:19:12 PM PDT by blam
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To: blam

The time frame 575-600 would coincide with the near collapse of the Byzantine Empire post-Justinian and the conquest of most of the Balkans by the Slavs. A difficult time for Greek Christians.

3 posted on 06/04/2008 2:29:33 PM PDT by colorado tanker (Number nine, number nine, number nine . . .)
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To: colorado tanker

Probably still in the Dark Ages too.

4 posted on 06/04/2008 4:24:45 PM PDT by blam
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To: blam

Yep, the near collapse of the Byzantine Empire at that time and invasion of the Balkans by the Slavs and Anatolia by the Persians was the darkest of the Dark Ages for that part of the world.

5 posted on 06/04/2008 4:34:52 PM PDT by colorado tanker (Number nine, number nine, number nine . . .)
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To: blam; StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach; 1ofmanyfree; 21twelve; 24Karet; 3AngelaD; 49th; ...

· join list or digest · view topics · view or post blog · bookmark · post a topic ·

Thanks Blam.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.
GGG managers are Blam, StayAt HomeMother, and Ernest_at_the_Beach

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6 posted on 06/04/2008 9:54:31 PM PDT by SunkenCiv ( updated Friday, May 30, 2008)
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To: blam
Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of Modern Civilization by David Keyes

In Keys's startling thesis, a global climatic catastrophe in A.D. 535-536--a massive volcanic eruption sundering Java from Sumatra--was the decisive factor that transformed the ancient world into the medieval, or as Keys prefers to call it, the "proto-modern" era. Ancient chroniclers record a disaster in that year that blotted out the sun for months, causing famine, droughts, floods, storms and bubonic plague. Keys, archeology correspondent for the London Independent, uses tree-ring samples, analysis of lake deposits and ice cores, as well as contemporaneous documents to bolster his highly speculative thesis. In his scenario, the ensuing disasters precipitated the disintegration of the Roman Empire, beset by Slav, Mongol and Persian invaders propelled from their disrupted homelands. The sixth-century collapse of Arabian civilization under pressure from floods and crop failure created an apocalyptic atmosphere that set the stage for Islam's emergence. In Mexico, Keys claims, the cataclysm triggered the collapse of a Mesoamerican empire; in Anatolia, it helped the Turks establish what eventually became the Ottoman Empire; while in China, the ensuing half-century of political and social chaos led to a reunified nation. Huge claims call for big proof, yet Keys reassembles history to fit his thesis, relentlessly overworking its explanatory power in a manner reminiscent of Velikovsky's theory that a comet collided with the earth in 1500 B.C. Readers anxious about future cataclysms will take note of Keys's roundup of trouble spots that could conceivably wreak planetary havoc.

7 posted on 06/06/2008 7:34:24 PM PDT by happygrl
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To: happygrl
The Dark Ages: Were They Darker Than We Imagined?
8 posted on 06/06/2008 8:07:11 PM PDT by blam
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Note: this topic is from 6/04/2008. Thanks blam.

9 posted on 07/25/2012 5:08:56 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (
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