Is this the real Hell? Incredible cave which experts believe inspired the Greek legend of Hades
Suzannah Hills, The Daily Mail, 29-11-2012
An ancient Greek cave nearly the size of four football pitches and with its own underground lake may be responsible for sparking the age-old myth about the Greek underworld god Hades, archaeologists claim. The cavern name – which means ‘foxhole’ – laid undiscovered for centuries in Diros Bay, Mani, southern Greece, until a man walking his dog found a tiny entrance to the cave in the 1950s. Experts have spent the last few decades excavating the cave and believe hundreds of people lived inside Alepotrypa, making it one the oldest prehistoric villages in Europe, before the cave entrance collapsed burying everyone alive 5,000 years ago.
Archaeologists have now uncovered tools, pottery, obsidian, silver and copper artifacts that date back to the Neolithic Age, which began in Greece began around 9,000 years ago, soon before the Stone Age. But the most important find – that the cave was used as a cemetery and for burial rituals – has led researchers to believe it could have inspired the legend of Hades’ underworld.
The first archaeologist to ever dig inside Alepotrypa, Giorgos Papathanassopoulos, suggests that the Neolithic residents believed the cave was Hades. Researcher Michael Galaty, an archaeologist at Millsaps College in Jackson, Missorri, told LiveScience: ‘You can easily see why Giorgos would make that hypothesis. The cave really does recall the underworld, Hades and the River Styx. ‘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. ‘You have to imagine the place torchlit, filled with people lighting bonfires and burying the dead. ‘The burial sites and rituals that took place really do give the cave an underworld feel. It’s like Hades, complete with its own River Styx.