Thursday, 8 March 2012

The 'Fox's Earth.

Location: The Mani.
The middle of three peninsulas pointing south, on the Peloponnese.

The Alepotrypa cave system was found to have been in use between 5000 to 3200 BC; it contained approximately one hundred and sixty one burials, many placed in stone boxes, some scattered in the cave. The lake contains fresh drinking water,  and an amphitheater-sized final chamber.

The burials are secondary, collections of bones rather than a single corpse. And there are bones from all ages and both sexes, many children died before reaching adolescence. The remains show signs of poor nutrition: cribra orbitalia and porotic hyperostosis, or of having such a bad parasitic infestation that they become anaemic.

Many had healed, depressed fractures of the skull indicating that they had been hit about the head and lived.

The cave is covered with a layer of greasy soot and ash from fires.A lot of burning happened inside the chambers. Sacrificed animals became 'burnt offerings' for ritual feasts, there is plenty of smashed pottery, silver and flint.

The people probably lived in a village close by, and when a strong earthquake occurred, some were trapped inside.

The caves remained sealed until they were found by Mr. and Mrs. Petrocheilos in 1958.

The Homeric version of the Underworld follows the Mesopotamian depiction; the Underworld is a dismal place of ash. The fortunate dead are those whose memory is preserved by the living; thus Achilles chose a short life and fame.

This contrasted with the Cretan story of the great light coming from the Dionysian cave; the origins of mankind.

One story describes a scene of ash, darkness and smoke...
Another of light, and life from ash...and the blood of a god.

Memories preserved in myth perhaps?

The Alepotrypa Cave (meaning the fox's earth) has several large chambers and a lake. This image comes from the Baedeker travel guide, and gives a list of poetically named areas within the cave.

The Alepotrypa cave is one of the Dyros (Diros) caves

(1) Entrance and exit
(2) Hall of Crystal Rain
(3) Skulls with stalagmites
(4) Gallery
(5) Rock Hall
(6) Cult site
(7) Chasm
(8) Royal Box
(9) Great Hall
(10) Small Lake
(11) Prehistoric rock paintings.