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by Archaeology Newsroom

Paleoanthropologic research οn the site “Apidima”, mesa (inner) Mani II

Ιn September 1978 traces of paleolithic inhabitation and petrified human bones were located in a small cave by the sea west of Areopolis. Α series of scientific processes took place for the study of these finds. Detachment of the cranial bones, survey of relevant data, graphic representation, photography, measuring in situ and geologic observations. Certain other observations were also made concerning the effect of the Pleistocene fluctuations of the Mediterranean on the topographic-­geomorphologic conditions of the cave, the adjacent area and the major geographic space of the finds.

The systematic research and survey of the cave materialized in the last two years due to the support and collaboration of the Ephoria of Paleoanthropology and Speleology of the Ministry of Culture and Science. Tentative excavations were tried on four different levels and all of them produced a significant number of stone and bone tools, numerous paleontological finds, traces of fire and food remnants (deer and wild goats, bones of smaller animals as well as fragments of sea shells).

Paleolithic burial. The middle finger of a hand from a female skeleton was the first find, located at a small depth at the present entrance to the hollow area Γ. Almost the entire female skeleton lay half a meter apart and forty to fifty centimeters deeper than the ground surface. The scattered finger bones as well as the absence of various small bones may be due to animal activities. The dead had been laid vertically to the axis of the hollow,lay οn the east side and faced the outer area of the cave. The legs had the knees strongly folded and the upper part of the torso was leaning downwards. The skeleton indicated a robust. fully grown-up human of twenty to twenty five years of age. The formation of pelvis determined the sex of the dead who was spontaneously named “Kanella” by the excavating team. The anatomic arrangement of the skeleton, the burial site and the enviroment conditions leave nο doubt that the dead was burried according to a certain ritual. Shoulders and head had been overlaid οn a slab measuring 42x34x10 cms. Α disk shaped stone, of 25 cms diameter and 5 cms thickness was placed in front of the skeleton.

Seven stone tools were arranged under the slab, that may be considered as personal belongings of the dead, along with an intact fawn’s calf probably indicating a food offering. The essential absence of the skull – only three small fragmengs of the lower jaw and seven independent teeth were found – was a striking peculiarity.

The dating. We consider necessary the employment of geophisic methods of absolute dating for the chronology of the finds. Relevant experiments have been made by G. Maniatis, G. Lyritzis and Ν. Andronikos under the ESR method οn stalagmitic and bone samples from Apidima without, however, final conclusions. Α chronologic approach to the finds was also employed utilizing the known retrogressive movements of the Mediterranean, caused by the climatic alternation of warm and cold Pleistocene periods. The Mediterranean offers an ideal example for the study of sea flunctuations since its daily tide remains under the thirty cms. Thus, the traces left by older sea levels οn the formation of coastal areas have often been used for dating coastal paleolithic sites and for the formation of chronologic systems; these systems can be also applied to mainland paleolithic sites as regards their dating.