March 28, 2010

World's oldest technical project in Kalambaka

My translation of parts of the article in the Vima which appears to be the most informative source for the new discoveries:
In Kalambaka, the most ancient technical project

The most ancient technical project of Greece, probably in the world, is found in the Theopetra cave of Kalambaka and is 23,000 years old. It is a stone wall that had been constructed in the entrance of the cave, blocking its entrance by 2/3. This construction -stone pile to be precise- was studied and dated by the "Democritus" center, which presented yesterday the results. The age coincides precisely with the coldest period of the last glacial age, suggesting that the Paleolithic inhabitants of the cave had constructed this wall at its entrance to protect themselves from the harsh cold of the times.

Remnants of fire, tools made of pyritolithus (?) and quartz, early jewellery from deerteeth, stone implements and ceramics have come to light in the prehistoric cave of Theopetra during the excavations conducted by Dr. Nina Kyparissi-Apostolika for 25 years, ephor of Palaeoanthropology and Speleology of southern Greece of the Ministry of Culture. Human skeletons have been rarely discovered. On the contrary, there are many animal bones from all periods during which the cave was in use. Of interest are finds from the Mesolithic age related to ceramic production and cultivation. There is barley, wheat, and lentil in wild (Paleolithic age) form, but also as cultivars, which suggests that these people had discovered cultivation as the result of millennia-long efforts and not as the result of population movements from the Near East.


  1. This appears to be a major discovery.

    As you know, Kalambaka lies at the top of the Trikala plain, and at the gateway to Kastoria-Grevena-Trikala route. Even today, there are only two north south routes in Central Greece. The first is the Kastoria-Grevena-Trikala route. The second is the highway 3 route from Kozani to Larisa.

    That puts Kalambaka at a strategic position between an arable, fertile plain to the south, the Southern Pindos, which even today is quite plentiful with wild animals and a route to the Balkan north.

    Such a position would have been ideal for a hunter-gatherer-cultivator lifestyle.

    Anybody who has read a little about the history of the Meteora monasteries and its unique geology will also immediately grasp the significance of the cave.

    I'm putting up some links to try to capture the magic of this area:

    View from Meteora, looking west, toward the Pindos. Meteora is a little south of Trikala:

    Meteora and the Pindos, looking southwest:

    For what it's worth, Kalambaka also lies at the gateway between the southern most point of Western Macedonia and the northern most point of Western Thessaly.

    Thanks for putting up this very significant publication.

  2. According to Google Translate, πυριτόλιθο is "flint", which makes sense in the article.

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  7. According to Google Translate, πυριτόλιθο is "flint", which makes sense in the article.


    Enter the webpage "", then type "flint" and click "Define".

    You'll see that "πυριτόλιθο" has other variants in Modern Greek ("τσακμακόπετρα" and "πυρόλιθος"), which are I suppose more colloquial.

    Btw, "τσακμακ" part of "τσακμακόπετρα" comes from the Turkish word "cakmak" ('c' is read like the 'ch' of "chain"). It means "lighter" in Turkish. In fact, the Turkish equivalent of the word "flint" is "cakmaktasi" (lit. lighter stone/rock), which is the literal equivalent of the word "τσακμακόπετρα" (lit. cakmak/lighter stone/rock).

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  10. Btw, like its synonym "πετρα", the "λιθο(ς)" at the end of the words "πυριτόλιθο" and "πυρόλιθος" also means "stone" or "rock" in Greek.

    As is clear from my previous post, "tas(i)" ('s' is pronounced like the 'sh' in "ship") at the end of the word "cakmaktasi" means "stone" or "rock" in Turkish.

  11. Here's a link to a thesis:

    "Quaternary Glaciation in the Pindus Mountains, Northwest Greece"

    There's a graph at the end showing the estimated extent of glaciation over a timescale of the quaternary.

    I'm still reading it.

    I remember reading somewhere that Meteora was not glaciated in the quaternary, but I can't find the reference at the moment. It would be nice if someone could confirm this.

    All I can say is that the Trikala plain must have been subjected to tremendous seasonal flooding. No doubt, this cave was above the flood plain.

  12. Yes, pyritolithus = fire stone = Feuerstein = flint.

    There's a French site that claims Neanderthal enclosure palisades and other constructions - I'll have to look it up.

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  14. Yes, pyritolithus = fire stone = Feuerstein = flint.

    Lighter stone, fire stone... all these meanings point to the function of flint as a fire making material (as flint was maybe the most frequently used material in fire making in pre-industrial times).

  15. Have the archeologists analysed the flint to see where it came from?

    Was it local? If not, where is it from?

  16. Sorry, should have checked before posting:

    There's flint in the rocks of the Meteora:

  17. So, Dienekes, what's in the DNA of those rarely discovered skeletons?
    How old are they?


  19. Not sure what "technical project" means in this kind of translation. Is the sense meant similar in meaning to "factory" or "workshop"?

    It is hard for me to fit "technical project" which conjures up electronic devices and test tubes in my mind (and more importantly conveys the idea of scientific research) with a bunch of stone and bone tools.

  20. From Vima:

    Το αρχαιότερο τεχνικό έργο της Ελλάδας . . .

    Etymology of technical: τεχνικό

    Language of origin: Ancient Greek

    Age: > 3000 years

  21. My question is what the idiomatic meaning of the word is, because the phase wouldn't be used that was in ordinary English. It looks like a "false friend" where a similar looking and etymologically related word is no longer an accurate idiomatic translation of the original.

  22. Andrew,

    I think in English we would simply say "structure". An English-language paper would probably call this "the oldest man-made structure" or something similar.

    τεχνικό έργο can refer to any engineered building or structure, like an office or a bridge. In this case, the structure is the wall which seals the entrance to the cave and protects it.

  23. From:
    Industrial Design Insight:
    Seeing Technology in the Widest Sense

    Quoting from this article:

    Indeed, the idea of revealing is embedded in the meaning of the word technology. Technology
    comes to us from the ancient Greek technikon and “technikon means that which belongs to
    techne” (Heidegger 1977, 12). The word techne is associated with the word episteme and both
    words are used to describe “knowing in the widest sense. They mean to be entirely at home in something, to understand and be expert in it. Such knowing provides an opening up.”

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  25. Vincent,

    Thank you. I now understand much better what the article was trying to say.

  26. There doesn't appear to be much info online about the discovery at Theopetra. Hopefully further details will be published over the next few weeks. The Wikipedia page is just a stub :-(


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