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Greek cave may have inspire the mythic Hades

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 2nd, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Hades, the world of the undead found in Greek mythology presided over Pluto and his three-headed dog Cerebus, was a ghostly netherworld where souls went after death. Archaeologists now believe they've found the cave that was the inspiration for Hades. Researchers say a prehistoric cave in Greece - where everyone perished after a massive cave-in, is likely to be the real-life inspiration for the mythic netherworld.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The discovery implies that prehistoric Europe may have been much more complex than previously thought. Located in southern Greece and discovered in 1958, the cave is called Alepotrypa, which means "foxhole."

"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," researcher Michael Galaty, an archaeologist at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi says. "The story's probably apocryphal - depending on who you ask in the village, they all claim it was their grandfather who found the cave."

Greek officials wanted to use the cave as a tourism site, but researchers, fearing that the wealth of historical detail it may have contained, convinced them to the leave the area alone for further study.

The main chamber of the cave is about 200 feet tall and up to about 330 feet wide. Altogether, the cave is nearly 3,300 feet long, large enough to have its own lake, in which famed explorer Jacques Cousteau once scuba-dived.

"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," Galaty says.

Tools, pottery, obsidian and even silver and copper artifacts that date back to the Neolithic or New Stone Age has been found there since excavations began in the Seventies.

Greece, as it is now known, began about 9,000 years ago. "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," Galaty says.

The cavern was used by cave people as a shelter, as well as a cemetery and place of ritual.

"You have to imagine the place torch-lit, filled with people lighting bonfires and burying the dead," Galaty said. "It was quite like a prehistoric cathedral, a pilgrimage site that attracted people from all over the region and perhaps from further afield."

The cave has seen a lot of inhabitants come and go. "Alepotrypa was at a perfect place to intercept sea trade from Africa all the way to the eastern Mediterranean, being right at the southern tip of Greece," Galaty said.

The use of the cave as a shelter ended when its entrance collapsed about 5,000 years ago, burying everyone inside alive.

"It is and was an amazing place, the closest thing we have to a Neolithic Pompeii," Galaty said.

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