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The Cave of Theopetra, Kalambaka: Radiocarbon Evidence for 50,000 Years of Human Presence

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 July 2016

Yorgos Facorellis*
Affiliation:
Laboratory of Archaeometry, N.C.S.R. “Demokritos”, 153 10 Ag. Paraskevi, Greece
Nina Kyparissi-Apostolika
Affiliation:
Ephorate of Paleoanthropology and Speleology, Ardittou 34B, 116 36 Athens, Greece
Yannis Maniatis
Affiliation:
Laboratory of Archaeometry, N.C.S.R. “Demokritos”, 153 10 Ag. Paraskevi, Greece
*
Corresponding author. Email: yfacorellis@ims.demokritos.gr.
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Abstract

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The cave of Theopetra is located on the northeast side of a limestone rock formation, 3 km south of Kalambaka (21°40′46′′E, 39°40′51′′N), in Thessaly, central Greece. It is a unique prehistoric site for Greece, as the Middle and Upper Paleolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic periods are present here, bridging the Pleistocene with the Holocene. Several alternations of the climate during the Pleistocene are recognized in its stratigraphy. Among the most striking finds, two human skeletons, one from the Upper Paleolithic period after the Last Glacial Maximum and one from the Mesolithic period, should be emphasized, while in a deep Middle Paleolithic layer, the oldest human footprints, with remains of fire, were uncovered.

During the 13 years of excavation, evidence of human activity suitable for radiocarbon dating was collected, such as charcoal samples from hearths and bones from the two human skeletons. The use of proportional counters for the measurement of 14C in combination with the recent improvement of the calibration curve has enabled the production of high-precision reliable ages. Sixty 14C-dated samples, originating from 19 pits and from depths ranging from 0.10 m to 4.20 m, have already provided an absolute time framework for the use of the cave. The earliest limit of human presence probably exceeds 48,000 BP and the latest reaches World War II. Within these limits the 14C dating of samples from consecutive layers, in combination with the archaeological data, permits the resolution of successive anthropogenic and environmental events.

Type
II. Our ‘Wet’ Environment
Copyright
Copyright © 2001 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona 

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