Today, it is the most important of Greece’s 12,000 caves, thanks to its wealth of fossils (one of the richest collections in Europe) and to the discovery of a human scull that dates back approximately 700.000 years!
The Cave of Petralona was accidentally discovered in 1959 by a villager. They named it "Red stones" (Kokkines Petres) because of the red earth which coloured the stalagmites and stalactites. It covers an area of 10.000 m2. "The cave is part of an extensive cavern system in calcareous Mesozoic deposits containing large quantities of fossil mammalian bones including horse, cave bear, lion and others,"Encyclopedia Britannica says. In 1960 Dr Aris Poulianos found a complete skull and part of the skeleton of an erect hominid. It belonged to a woman between 25-35 years old. The skull is dated as being 700.000 years old and the traces of fire found next to it, around 1.000.000 years old. It is considered one of the earliest human findings in Europe.
The cave provides a breathtaking spectacle of geology beauty. In the part named "cemetery of Giants", 14 different types of animal bones were found.
The "Great Hall" has huge stalagmites in white coral-like. The "Hall of Roots" has fine roots above the cave having pierced the roof and formed a net. There is a Museum near the cave which contains many of the archaeological findings of the cave. The authentic skull is in the paleontological collection of the Aristotelian Museum of Thessaloniki, but there is a replica inside the cave, where it was found.
Official website: www.petralona-cave.gr
NOTE: Petralona cave and museum is closed to the public from 1/1/2019 due to restoration works.