Σπηλια Θεοπετρα

Spilia Theopetra - Theopetra Cave


Useful Information

The village Theopetra with the table mountain where Theopetra Cave is located.
Location: Theopetra village, Tricala Prefecture.
Open: Cave: closed.
Museum: all year Mon, Wed-Sun 8-20.
[2020]
Fee: Cave: closed.
Museum: .
[2020]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave Upper Cretacious limestone
Light: electric.
Dimension: A=280m asl., Ar=500m². Portal: W=17m, H=3m
Guided tours:
Photography:
Accessibility:
Bibliography: Nina Kiparissi-Apostolika, ed. (2000): Theopetra Cave, Twelve Years of Excavation and Research 1987-1998. Institute for Aegean Prehistory, Athens, 2000.
Y. Facorellis, N. Kyparissi-Apostolika, Y. Maniatis (2001): The cave of Theopetra, Kalambaka, radiocarbon evidence for 50,000 years of human presence, Radiocarbon 43(2B): 1029-1048.
Karkanas, P., Kyparissi-Apostolika, N., Bar-Yosef, O., et al. (1999): Mineral assemblages in Theopetra, Greece, a framework for understanding diagenesis in a prehistoric cave. Journal of Archaeological Science 26 (9): 1171-1180.
Karkanas P. (2001): Site formation processes in Theopetra Cave, a record of climatic change during the late Pleistocene and early Holocene. Geoarchaeology 16 (4): 373-399.
Nina Kiparissi-Apostolika ed. (2000): Theopetra Cave, Twelve Years of Excavation and Research 1987-1998, Institute for Aegean Prehistory, Athens, 2000.
Address: Ephorate of Paleoanthropology – Speleology (Northern Greece Office), Tel: +30-23104-10185.
Theopetra Cave Documentation and Training Center (KTESTH), Tel: +30-24320-72196, Tel: +30-24320-72135.
Tourist Information of Kalambaka, Patriarchou Dim. & Vlachava, 42200 Kalambaka, Tel: +30-24323-50245, Fax +30-24323-50246. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1987 excavations by the scientific research group of the Ephorate of Palaeoanthropology-Speleology, under the direction of Dr. N. Apostolika-Kyparissi.
11-SEP-2009 opened to visitors.
2010 temporarily closed due to new findings.
22-OCT-2010 reopened.
2016 closed due to fears of landslides.
01-OCT-2016 Documentation and Education Center of Theopetra Cave opened to the public.

Description

The location of Theopetra Cave at the foot of the cliff.
The location of Theopetra Cave at the foot of the cliff.

Theopetra Cave is a famous archaeological site. It is the first excavated cave in Thessalia, but its importance is the fact, that its deposits start at the Middle Paleolithic (50,000 BC) and last until the end of the Neolithic period (4,000 BC) without gaps. Theopetra Cave is quite possibly unique in containing, within a single site, the records of two highly significant cultural transitions. First that of the replacement of Neanderthals by modern humans and then the subsequent transition from hunter-gathering to farming, the transition from the Paleolithic to the Neolithic way of life, at the end of the last Ice Age.

The cave is a huge chamber at the foot of a limestone cliff, high up on the hill above the village Theopetra. The entrance portal is very big, 17m wide and three meters high, with a huge chamber behind, almost rectangular with a size of 500m². The cave is reached on a steep single lane gravel road from the village.

The excavations started in 1987 and ended officially in 1998, but the discoveries are still ongoing. At first the visit of the cave was only possible during excavation works. Archaeologists were willing to guide sporadic visitors through the excavation. In 2009 the cave was officially opened to the public, just to be temporarily closed again one year later. In 2010 an important discovery was made in the cave, a wall which was built 23,000 years ago, which means it is the oldest known human-built structure so far.

The cave was well published and well-known but not open to the public. Like always officials and interested visitors were keen to see the cave opened. And as always there are many legal and ethical problems to solve, before a cave can be opened to the public. In this case there was already some infrastructure, but a few archaeologists are less stress for the cave than a bunch of tourists. The cave was developed with an elevated path, which runs around the whole cavern and allows an eagle eyes view on the excavations. The whole project seems to be very competent and quite interesting. Unfortunately it was closed again in 2016 because of the danger of landslides. At the moment further landslides are possible and as long as the situation is not solved the cave will stay closed.

Fortunately there is now the Κέντρου Τεκμηρίωσης και Εκπαίδευσης Σπηλαίου Θεόπετρας (Theopetra Cave Documentation and Education Center). It is located in the village, at the turnoff to the cave. It contains an exhibition of findings from the cave. But as the name Education Center tells, it is also a sort of laboratory and the visitors are the trainees, who learn how an archaeological dig works. The whereabouts of archaeologic works are explained, and what the archaeologists actually find during the digs. There are also several reconstructions, about prehistoric jewelery, of daily lifem of typical food, and of religious beliefs concerning death. Beneath the actual findings, there is archaeological documentation, photographs, and informative texts. There are also interactive touch screens and digital educational applications, as well as a room for showing educational films and conducting educational programs.