Neolithic Cave Might Have Inspired Myth of Hades

Giant cathedral-like Greek cave entices scientists for decades

A giant cave named Alepotrypa (meaning “foxhole), discovered in South of Greece in 1958 is believed to have inspired the underworld in the ancient Greek myth of Hades.

“The legend is that in a village nearby, a guy was hunting for foxes with his dog, and the dog went into the hole and the man went after the dog and discovered the cave,” explained Michael Galaty, archaeologist from Millsaps College, Jackson.

“The story's probably apocryphal — depending on who you ask in the village, they all claim it was their grandfather who found the cave.”

The digging process is a continuous one, having started in 1970. Numerous artifacts dating in the Neolithic or New Stone Age were unearthed, including pottery, different tools, silver and copper objects, Live Science reports.

“Alepotrypa existed right before the Bronze Age in Mycenaean Greece, so we're kind of seeing the beginnings of things that produced the age of heroes in Greece,” said Galaty.

The findings reveal that early European world might have been much more elaborated that we used to believe.

The entire cave has a length of about 1,000 m (3,300 feet) with the principal hall being 60 m (200 feet) tall and 100 m (3,300 feet) wide. It has the aspect of a cathedral.

“If you've ever seen The Lord of the Rings, this might make you recall the mines of Moria — the cave is really that impressive,” said Galaty.

Research revealed that besides being a house, the cave was also a cemetery for its inhabitants.

“You have to imagine the place torchlit, filled with people lighting bonfires and burying the dead,” Galaty declared.

“It was quite like a prehistoric cathedral, a pilgrimage site that attracted people from all over the region and perhaps from further afield.”

Despite the over 40 years of research, many facts are still to be discovered about the cave's origins, its use and the lifestyle of its residents. However, it is one of the most spectacular caves ever found in Greece.

“Giorgos Papathanassopoulos has always argued this pottery was not local to the site, but came from elsewhere — that the cave was a kind of pilgrimage site where important people were buried, leading to the fanciful idea that this was the original entrance to Hades, that it was the source of the Greek fascination with the underworld,” Galaty concluded.

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