Sites & cities that bear the name of Apidima Cave

Apidima Cave

Today in : Greece
First trace of activity : ca. 210,000 B.C.E
Last trace of activity : ca. 170,000 B.C.E
Recorded names : Σπήλαιο Απήδημα, Spilaio Apidima

Description : The Apidima Cave (Greek: Σπήλαιο Απήδημα, Spilaio Apidima) is a complex of four small caves located on the western shore of Mani Peninsula in southern Greece. A systematic investigation of the cave has yielded Neanderthal and Homo sapiens fossils from the Palaeolithic era. One skull fossil, given the name Apidima 1, shows a mixture of modern human and primitive features and has been dated to be more than 210,000 years old, older than a Neanderthal skull ("Apidima 2") found at the cave, which makes Apidima 1 the oldest proof of Homo sapiens living outside Africa, the second oldest being the maxilla from Misliya cave, Mount Carmel, Israel, with a maximum age of about 190,000 years ago. Apidima 1 is more than 150,000 years older than previous H. sapiens finds in Europe. The Apidima Cave complex consists of karstic caves formed in the limestone cliffside on the west shore of the Mani Peninsula in southern Greece. Today the caves open on the face of a large sea cliff and are only accessible by boat, but during the ice ages the sea level went lower by more than 100 m (330 ft), and several seashore caves around the world, today submerged or situated at the wave zone—Apidima Cave belonging to the latter category—rose well above the water surface and were occupied by early people. The complex consists of four small caves, designated "A", "B", "C" and "D". It was formed by erosion within the Middle Triassic to Late Eocene limestone of depth 500 m (1,600 ft), from 4–24 m (13–79 ft) above sea level, in a vertical zone of depth 20 m (66 ft). The development of the caves is due to the vertical strikes of the limestone, while the horizontal opening is made by the sea. Researchers uncovered two significant fossils in Apidima Cave "A" in 1978. The two fossils are now referred to as Apidima 1 and Apidima 2. Stone tools were found in all four caves. Research published in July 2019 indicates that the Apidima 2 skull fragment (designated LAO 1/S2) has Neanderthal morphology, and using uranium-thorium dating, was found to be more than 170,000 years old. The Apidima 1 skull fossil (designated LAO 1/S1) was found to be older, dated—using the same method—to more than 210,000 years old, and presents a mixture of modern human and primitive features. This makes Apidima 1 the oldest evidence of Homo sapiens outside Africa, more than 150,000 years older than previous H. sapiens finds in Europe. The lead researcher, Katerina Harvati, summarized, "Our results suggest that at least two groups of people lived in the Middle Pleistocene in what is now southern Greece: an early Homo sapiens population, followed by a Neanderthal population." Harvati said that the team would attempt to extract ancient DNA from the fossils, but that she was not optimistic about finding any. If sufficient specimens can be obtained, a palaeoproteomic analysis of ancient proteins may also be done on the fossils.

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