Franchthi Cave was used for around 35,000 years, and is one of the thoroughly studied sites from southeast Europe.

Last occupied around 3,000 BC (or, final neolithic), a major archaeological site overlooking Kiladha Bay, in the Argolic Gulf, opposite the village of Kiladha is in southeastern Argolis, in Greece.

Humans first occupied the cave during the paleolithic era. Appearing around 38,000 BC (and possibly earlier.) Groups continued to live in, or seasonally visit the cave. Throughout the Mesolithic and Neolithic eras. With occasionally apparent short episodes of abandonment.

Formal excavation history
In 1967, T. W. Jacobsen, a professor of classical archaeology and classical studies at Indiana University, began excavations at Franchthi Cave. The dig was only intended to temporarily occupy Jacobsen and his fellow researcher, M.H. Jameson, for one short season. It soon became clear that Franchthi Cave was more important than they had anticipated. They kept going. Ending 10 years later in 1976. Since then numerous people have examined the extensive finds. Some still are.

Similar to some of the extreme weather we see today. During much of its history, Franchthi was significantly further from the coastline, than it is today. The lower sea levels that have since risen around 120 metres (400 ft). Inhabitants of the cave and area, looked out on a coastal plain that was constantly changing.

During the pleistocene, Franchthi Cave was probably seasonally occupied by a small group (or groups). Probably in the range of 25 to 30 people. Who mainly hunted wild ass and red deer. Its use as a campsite increased considerably after the last glacial maximum (LGM). Obsidian from the island of Melos, and other nearby lithic tool sources, appear at Franchthi Cave.

Ancient boats
As early as 13,000 BC, Franchthi cave offers some of the earliest evidence of seafaring and navigational skills by anatomically modern humans in Greece. There is also evidence that suggest, ancient mariners, such as Homo Erectus or Homo Heidelbergensis, may have came thru Franchthi, and reached Crete 130,000 years ago.

An blip in the occupation of Franchthi Cave occurred during the younger dryas climate cooling event. After which the Mesolithic and Neolithic culture appeared. The world settled into the warm holocene climate, that continues, and you see today. These periods are represented by only a few sites in Greece, and, like the Franchthi. Nearly all of them are close to the water and coast. It is believed that they did not rely as heavily on big game as their predecessors. Probably due to changing climate and location. Plus resources like a variety of small game, wild plants, fish and mollusks. Implying deep sea fishing, there was a even a notable stretch spanning several hundred years (circa 7,900 to 7,500 BC) when tuna became a major part of the diet at the Cave. Like other early neolithic or mesolithic cultures, agraves were found buried in the cave, suggesting health care and respect for the dead.

The cave contains some of the earliest evidence for agriculture in Greece. Remains of domesticated plants and animals are found among the usual wild plant and animal species hunted and gathered during the Mesolithic, and from before around 7,000bc. Suggesting that either the inhabitants of Franchthi had begun to practice agriculture. Or, were trading seeds, meat, fish and crops with others. There is debate about whether agriculture developed locally at the cave, was introduced or both. Though it is now generally believed that emigrants from the pre- pottery neolithic b, introducing agriculture, arriving on boats from the near east. Mesolithic hunter-gatherers would have rapidly adapted to the Neolithic methods introduced, discovered or combined there.

During the Neolithic, the main occupancy of the cave shifted to an area outside the entrance, called the Paralia, (or, the seaside). They where terracing walls for growing crops, and, art and tool making areas. It was believed the inhabitants occupied an additional settlement below the Paralia. Which is now submerged beneath the sea. Confirming this, several anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figurines were recovered from the cave. And, it has been suggested parts of the site, served as a workshop, for making cockle-shell beads. They traded with inland, and other communities during the early Neolithic age.

Underwater village
The Franchthi area of Kiladha Bay below, is a strong candidate for the submerged Neolithic village. In 2012 a search was launched called the ‘Bay of Kiladha Project’, searching for underwater evidence. It was a collaboration between the University of Geneva and the Greek Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities. The divers revealed very old pottery fragments and odd seafloor anomalies. By 2015, under a more thorough investigation, they found early ruins of a bronze age city. Including foundations of buildings, stone paved surfaces, roads and the fortification of 3 large towers. The site spanned 3 acres, and lies beneath 1 and 3 m (3 and 10 ft) of water. Its defensive structure would be the first of its kind from the early bronze age in Greece. Being built around the same time as Newgrange, great pyrimids and many other significant structures. This place is an amazing piece of Neolithic history.

Bibliography: Douka, Katerina. “Douka, K., Perles, C., Valladas, H., Vanhaeren, M., Hedges, R.E.M. 2011. Franchthi Cave revisited: the age of the Aurignacian in south-eastern Europe. Antiquity 85 : 1131–1150”.

Farrand, William R. 1999. Depositional History of Franchthi Cave: Sediments, stratigraphy, and chronology. Fascicle 12 in the series Excavations at Franchthi Cave, Greece. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0253213142. OCLC Number 41503459

J.M. Hansen (1992) “Franchthi Cave and the Beginnings of Agriculture in Greece and the Aegean.” Prehistoire de l’agriculture. Nouvelles approches experimentales et ethnographiques, CNRS, Paris pp. 231–47

T.W. Jacobsen, “Franchthi Cave and The Beginning of Settled Village Life in Greece” Hesperia 50:4, 1981 p. 306

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