Petralona Cave

Coordinates: 40°22′11″N 23°09′33″E / 40.369697°N 23.159151°E / 40.369697; 23.159151
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Petralona Cave
Cave of the Red Stones
Petralona skull covered by stalagmite
Map showing the location of Petralona Cave
Map showing the location of Petralona Cave
Central Makedonia
LocationGreece, Chalcidice
Coordinates40°22′11″N 23°09′33″E / 40.369697°N 23.159151°E / 40.369697; 23.159151
Length2 kilometres (1 mi)
Elevation300 m (984 ft)
GeologyMesozoic Karst
AccessThe Petralona Cave and Anthropological Museum

The Petralona Cave (Greek: Σπήλαιο Πετραλώνων) also Cave of the Red Stones (Greek: Σπήλαιο " Κόκκινες Πέτρες "), a karst formation, is located at 300 m (984 ft) above sea-level on the western foot of Mount Katsika, about 1 km (0.62 mi) east of the village of Petralona, about 35 km (22 mi) south-east of Thessaloniki city on the Chalkidiki peninsula, Greece. The site came to public attention when in 1960 a fossilized archaic human skull was found. The cave had been discovered accidentally only a year earlier (1959) after erosion had left clefts in the rock. "Bejeweled" with impressive stalactite and stalagmite formations and holding an abundance of fossils, the cave soon attracted geologists and paleontologists. After decades of excavations the cave is open to the public and scientific work is documented and presented in an adjacent archaeological museum.[1]

The cave's most prominent fossil specimen, since known among paleoanthropologists as the "Petralona Skull".

The on-site Anthropological Museum of Petralona displayed a selection of the objects that have been found in the cave.

In 2011 the show cave and museum were taken over by the Greek Archeological Service, a government agency. With the end of 2018 the cave and museum were closed.[2] Currently a reopening seems unlikely.


Petralona Cave entrance
Petralona Cave tourist path
Petralona Cave formations

The cave was discovered accidentally in 1959 by Fillipos Chatzaridis, a local shepherd who was looking for a spring. In his effort to find a water source he found a small cleft on the slopes of Mount Katsika. Two men were lowered down and later described a large number of chambers and corridors, totaling 8 to 10 meters high with rich and beautiful formations of speleothems (stalactites and stalagmites).

The cave developed during the Mesozoic (Jurassic) limestone, its sediments are divided into several stratigraphic levels.[3] "The rock formations resemble giant cactus, pink pearls, sturdy columns or delicate curtains, and in several places water ponds are fed by stalactite material. Covering an area of 10,400 m2 (112,000 sq ft), the length of the corridors is about 2,000 m (6,562 ft) and the temperature throughout the year remains stable at 17 °C (± 1 °C)."[4] The first research of 1959 was undertaken by the Greek speleologist Ioannis Petrocheilos. He found numerous bones of animals, many of them covered with cave coral.[5]

Poulianos complained that excavations on the site were delayed and/or had to be discontinued several times, first in 1967 and the following years in relation to the Greek coup d'état, and again in 1983, when the Ministry of Culture declined to re-issue the excavation concession until "in 1997 the Anthropological Association of Greece, after 15 years of trials, was justified by the Supreme Court and was ordered the continuation of its works in the cave."[6] Poulianos repeatedly accused the Greek government of conspiring to suppress his discoveries, as in 2012 excavation rights were revoked again.[7]

The Anthropological Association of Greece has continued to announce new findings in the cave, such as 4 isolated teeth,[8] then two 800,000 year old archaic human skeletons,[9][10] and a great number of fossils of various species.

Petralona skull[edit]

According to Aris Poulianos, head of the excavation team since 1965, the Petralona skull was found by a villager, Christos Sariannidis, in 1960. It was sticking to the cave wall in a small cavern of the cave, called "Layer 10" by Poulianos, about 30 cm (12 in) above ground, held by sinter.[citation needed] Its lower jaw is missing and it was "encrusted by brown calcite soon after the death of the individual"

Poulianos (1981) dated the skull to an estimated age of around 700,000 years.[11][12] Today, most academics who have analyzed the Petralona remains classify the hominid as Homo erectus.[13] However, the Archanthropus of Petralona has also been classified as a Homo heidelbergensis,[14] Neanderthal (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) and as an early generic class of Homo sapiens. A. Poulianos, on the other hand, believes that the Petralona cranium is derived from an independent class of hominids unrelated to Homo erectus.

Fossil fauna[edit]

Animal fossils of numerous species were found in the cave:[15]


  • indeterminate species


Testudo graeca


Fulica atra
Strix aluco


Sorex minutus




  • Archanthropus europaeus petraloniensis or Homo Heidelbergensis Α. Poulianos
Rhinolophus mehelyi
Savi's pipistrelle

Chiroptera (bats)[edit]


Hystrix (porcupine)


  • Urocitellus primigenius daphnae Kretzoi (extinct species of Urocitellus or ground squirrel)
  • Hystrix sp. (a genus of porcupines)
  • Gliridae indet. (a genus of dormouse)
  • Dryomimus eliomyoides arisi Kretzoi
  • Parasminthus brevidens Kretzoi
  • Spalax chalkidikae Kretzoi
  • Apodemus mystacinus crescendus Kretzoi
  • Mus synanthropus (Mus (Budamys) synanthropus) Kretzoi (a subspecies of Mus)
  • Allocricetus bursae simplex Kretzoi (a subspecies of hamsters – see Allocricetulus)
  • Lagurus transiens Janossy (a species of Lagurus – voles, lemmings, and related species)
  • Eolagurus argyropuloi zazhighini Ν. Poulianos (a genus of rodents)
  • Arvicola cantiana Heinrich (a species of vole)
  • Microtus praeguentheri Kretzoi (a species of vole)
Skull of Ursus deningeri
Mounted skeleton of Homotherium




Bison schoetensacki



  1. ^ "Petralona Cave". πήλαιο Πετραλώνων. Retrieved December 14, 2015.
  2. ^ "Petralona Cave". Ministry of Culture and Sports. Retrieved May 23, 2023.
  3. ^ "New analysis of the Pleistocene carnivores from Petralona Cave (Macedonia, Greece) based on the Collection of the Thessaloniki Aristotle University". academia edu. Retrieved December 22, 2015.
  4. ^ "Petralona Cave". GNTO. Retrieved December 14, 2015.
  5. ^ "Spilaio Archantropon Petralona – Spilaio Petralona – Petralona Cave – Kókkines Pétres – Cave of the Red Stones". showcaves com. Retrieved December 14, 2015.
  6. ^ "THE 40th ANNIVERSARY SINCE THE DISCOVERY OF THE PETRALONA ARCHANTHROPUS' SKULL = By Dr. Nickos A. Poulianos, President of the Anthropological Association of Greece". ANTHROPOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION OF GREECE. Retrieved December 14, 2015.
  7. ^ "Greek Archaeologist: Government Suppressing Truth, Destroying Evidence Europeans Evolved Separately". Jason Colavito. February 20, 2014. Retrieved December 14, 2015.
  8. ^ Signals of Evolution in the Territory of Greece. Paleoanthropological Findings. By Christos Valsamis. In Intensive course in biological anthropology of the European Anthropological Association, 16–30 June 2007.
  9. ^ Catling, H. W. (3 October 2012). "Archaeology in Greece, 1981–82". Archaeological Reports. 28: 3–62. doi:10.1017/S0570608400001769.
  10. ^ Poulianos, Aris N. (July 1984). "Once more on the age and stratigraphy of the petralonian man" (PDF). Journal of Human Evolution. 13 (5): 465–467. doi:10.1016/S0047-2484(84)80059-7.
  11. ^ Aris N. Poulianos. Pre-Sapiens Man in Greece. In Current Anthropology, Vol. 22, No. 3, pp. 287–288. June 1981.
  12. ^ Francis Spencer. History of Physical Anthropology: An Encyclopedia. Taylor & Francis, p. 454. 1997. ISBN 0-8153-0490-0.
  13. ^ Francis Spencer. History of Physical Anthropology: An Encyclopedia. Taylor & Francis, p. 454. 1997. ISBN 0-8153-0490-0.
  14. ^ "EARLY HOMINIDS IN THE BALKANS" (PDF). University Of Crete. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 4, 2016. Retrieved December 22, 2015.
  15. ^ The species of the fossilized fauna from Petralona Cave Archived 2013-01-15 at
  16. ^ Baryshnikov, Gennady F.; Tsoukala, Evangelia (July 2010). "New analysis of the Pleistocene carnivores from Petralona Cave (Macedonia, Greece) based on the Collection of the Thessaloniki Aristotle University" (PDF). Geobios. 43 (4): 389–402. doi:10.1016/j.geobios.2010.01.003.

External links[edit]