Alepotrypa Cave

Why the Ministry of Culture cut off financing
one of the most significant Neolithic Caves in Europe?

The decision taken by the Ministry of Culture since 2005 to cut off financing the archaeological work in Diros, one decision that was actually published in 2007, during the administration of the Secretary General Mr. Christos Zachopoulos, led as a result to the abolition of the scientific committee and the work separation from the Fund of Credits’ Handling for the Execution of Archaeological tasks.

The touristic function of the Alepotrypa Cave, which was ready from October 2005 but normally it was inaugurated in July 2006, stopped with detrimental effects not only to the work but also to the whole country. Because a country does not trace a political program and then a strategy for tourism; a country does not make innovations in its touristic development when a work begins and after its six-month route, gets abolished.

The Centre of Diros Neolithic Studies and its President as well as Honorary Ephor of Antiquities, Mr. George Papathanassopoulos –supported by his partners- aims to ask for the Unesco auspices and mark Alepotrypa Cave as a protection area of cultural and environmental heritage. It is necessary therefore that the Ministry of Culture reconstitutes the committee in charge as well as it incorporates again Diros Cave in a financing program so that this space is not undeveloped and condemned in disuse. Even the electronic installations, which are no more conserved at the Centre for Diros Neolithic Studies at Pyrgos Dirou in Mani, show one aspect of the problem. The choice about the installation, the function and the activity of this centre placed there and not in Athens nor in any other urban centre of this Prefecture, has a very specific target: to highlight the place as a cradle for cultural events, congresses and exhibitions given the fact that both the centre and Alepotrypa Cave remain open and in use. In that, the founding members of the Centre of Diros Neolithic Studies established a specialized in relevant issues library of 3000 volumes, as well as a lecture room of 100 seats, well-staffed with contemporary audiovisual media, in order to attract in the long-term future both educators and students at Alepotrypa Cave and then the field for a dialogue with the scientific archaeological community opens.

Greece invests on its image and action in the future and at an international level when it finances for its past.

Instead of making this Cave known worldwide, at other European schools, focusing on the impact of Diros Museum which has been there since 1992; instead of organizing a network of cultural exchanges for education and young people, highlighting the value of research and the historic, environmental interest; instead of creating for instance an international program of two weeks accompanied with lectures, workshops and educators’ or students’ visits in Alepotrypa; instead of all this, political factors and in this case Ministry of Culture abolish the appropriations for Diros work and therefore for one of the most significant Neolithic Caves in Europe. And this is sad to happen in a country that soon obtained its Ministry of Tourism. It seems that the physiocratic perception about tourism and the investment on beaches and sun cast shadow on tracing a cultural tourism and innovative proposals in order that new places of action are created in an attempt to link meditation and experience for Greeks and every man eager for learning.

Alepotrypa Cave offers a unique wealth of Neolithic Man remains at the Modern and Final Neolithic Era (approximately 5400-3200 B.C.). It was located in 1958 by speleologists John and Anna Petrocheilou while looking for another entrance of the neighboring cave Vlyfadha or Glyfadha, whose natural mouth coincides with the sea level. The result for the quest of another entrance might be negative; however it led to the location of Alepotrypa Cave, one of the most significant Neolithic European caves according to archaeological studies.

Alepotrypa -with ventilation and stable temperature fixed at 18 degrees- is a long cave of 270 meters in length looking at East-West. It is located at a distance of 50 meters approximately from the coast and its nowadays artificial entrance is in an altitude of 16 meters. Among its Chambers, at the eastern half part of the cave a huge Chamber, the Chamber of Lakes, of maximum length 110 meters, width 48 meters and maximum height 35 meters is observed whilst at the eastern edge of the Chamber the lake - with potable and renewable water of maximum depth 9 meters - is extended. Only the natural characteristics of the cave settle Diros as an ideal location for navigation and commerce, consequently, the economic development of the region turns to be independent from the traditional agricultural and cattle-breeder production.

Interventions for the touristic exploitation of the cave were put forward during the decade of 1960 with rock-blastings and excavations about the shaping of space, the construction of cement grounds and corridors, as well as the creation of cement and iron scales. Also these rock-blastings and excavations regarded the infrastructure in an extended network of electro logical installation. These interventions however led to the destruction and considerable loss of important anthropogenic earth heaps in large width.

Today, notwithstanding the earthmovings and the destructions of 1960, the cave preserves anthropogenic earth movings of large width, which are mostly covered by stalagmites and a layer of dispersed stalagmite material. It is not to be forgotten the geologic fact of 3200 B. C., the earthquake that cut off life at the cave but also it rescued testimonies of Neolithic culture in Greece during the 4th millennium B.C. The destruction caused by the earthquake has been obvious from the bulks and the rubble of rocks that had been collapsed from the roof and the side walls. Just to follow the history, that earthquake prevented Alepotrypa entrance and had as a result the encirclement and death of several residents. Speleologists reached this conclusion after examining the earth heaps’ surface with the dispersed skeletons of unburied death bodies.

After that earthquake Alepotrypa was not again used, so that was the ultimate moment for this Diros Cave. In addition, archaeological research demonstrated that during the past Alepotrypa had acquired various functions: it was used as a shelter, as a residence and spacious storage place but also as a cemetery and worship place for the Gods. Consequently even the multiple roles of Alepotrypa increase the interest – not only that of scientists- about Diros Neolithic community and especially about Alepotrypa cave.

The fiflty year period that Alepotrypa cave completes this year (1958-2008) includes errors too, whose responsibility must be undertaken by official factors, chiefs at the department of Antiquities in Sparti as well as by the Central Direction of the official Ministry chief for the first period 1958-1970. According to Mr. Papathanassopoulos there had been works without written approvals, without presence of any archaeologist, photos and designed surveys and mainly without the observance of any archaeological diary, meaning without documentation. Therefore, the image of the ultimate moment has been lost; the environment as it had been immobilized after the earthquake in 3200 B.C. does not exist any more. It is necessary that the second era (1970-2008) closes more cheerfully with the new opening of Diros Work and its financing by Ministry of Culture so that we can hope for the advent of a substantial tomorrow about nature and civilization. The one day lecture, which was conducted on 31st of March 2008, by the Centre of Diros Neolithic Studies and the Pallakonic Union, about Alepotrypa Cave, brought again this issue into the fore. We just expect for the Ministry of Culture to also realize it by facts.

*translation of the original Greek text published at the issue 919, Anti political and cultural review, 11.04.08


Centre of Diros Neolithic Studies

Matthaiou Liougga 5, 16675 Athens

Tel: +30 210 9648 470, 27330 52150
Fax: +30 210 9648 815, 27330 52160
e-mail: dirosinstitute@yahoo.gr

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