Should I go to Petralona?
The Petralona Cave is a thrilling excursion marrying the eeriness of a cave, an exciting pre-historic skull, and a few short hiking trails to viewpoints. Top it with a stop for food in a traditional tavern.
Where is Petralona?
It is in Halkidiki, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) southeast of Thessaloniki. The cave is west of Katsika hill, literally “the Goat Hill”
What is the Petralona cave?
Everything started on a sunny day in 1959 when Philippos, a shepherd, took his goat herd out for grazing on Katsika hill. Looking for a water spring, he chanced on a rock fissure big enough to get a person through
When two brave ones got inside, the discovery of a cave full of stalagmites and stalactites and other wonders had just started.
What is the Petralona skull?
A year later, a team of volunteers led by an anthropologist discovered a skull that soon became famous across Greece and the world as the Archanthropus of Petralona.
Since then, paleoanthropologists have been trying to estimate its age. The excavation Head always retained that the Petralona skull’s age is 700,000 years old, and it belongs to a Homo erectus. Other scientists classified it as homo heidelbergensis or a Neanderthal, but most agree that it is a heidelbergensis. Further recent research dated it to 240,000 to 160,000 years of age.
The cave turned out to be a natural history treasury. Among the findings are large grazing mammals like bison and horses and troglobites (cave-living creatures), including dozens of birds, bats, and rodents.
Further excavations revealed remnants of lions and panthers, hyenas, elephants, rhinos, and megaceros, a now-extinct type of gigantic deer. Evidently, Greece had a more enthralling fauna in those days.
Where is the Petralona skull?
To see the skull, you have to visit the Archeological Museum of Thessaloniki. There is a replica in the cave at the spot where it was discovered.
What else is there to do in Petralona?
If weather allows, you go for a short hike on Goat Hill, Katsika. It is a 300 meter (about 900 ft) hill, but you don’t need to go all the way up to gain a panoramic view.
Before you go
Check that the site is open. It was closed throughout the pandemic so far. Note that you can enter only with a guide, usually as part of a group, except if you arrange otherwise.