'Myth Of Hades' Cave Found! Is Alepotrypa Origin Of Greek Underworld Legend? [VIDEO & PHOTOS]
Myth of Hades cave found anew recently by archaeologists will have scientists and fabulists alike chattering that Alepotrypa, a cave dating back to the Neolithic Age that has been lying undiscovered in the South of Greece, could be the origin of the Greek Underworld myth of Hades, Zeus's brother; Cereberus, his watchdog; and the River Styx.
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But even if this isn't the cave that started the famous international myth that yielded, among other things, a Disney movie, one thing is certain: because the cave is the size of four football fields, and has its own underground lake, it's very easy to believe that the Ancient Greek could have confused the new found Alepotrypa for his Underworld-- even if he'd never seen Hades for himself.
The name "Alepotrypa" translates in English to "foxhole," meaning that a strong sense of irony isn't lost during the transatlantic voyage. It would have to be a seriously large fox to fill a hole of proportions more worthy of the world of myth than the real world. It's no wonder that Hades, the legendary son of Chronos and ruler of the Underworld, might have been thought to live underneath this cave's glorious cascade of stalactites and stalagmites.
When Alepotrypa was discovered in the 1950s, the cave wasn't associated with the myth of Hades. Still, it served a purpose to the Greek government. For just about sixty years, Athens has been utilizing the cave as a tourist attraction. Now that archaeologists have found the secrets that the cave may hold, their efforts are focused on ensuring that tourists do not accidentally destroy anything.
"The legend is that in a village nearby, a guy was hunting for foxes with his dog, and the dog went into the hole and the man went after the dog and discovered the cave," said Michael Galaty, a research archaeologist based in Mississippi, "The story's probably apocryphal-- depending on who you ask in the village, they all claim it was their grandfather who found the cave."
The atrium of the cave of Hades is approximately 200 feet tall and 330 feet wide. If you were to place the cave on one plane, it would stretch out to nearly 3,300 feet beginning to end. Alepotrypa even has its own cave, which is probably where the myth of the River Styx began!
"If you've ever seen 'The Lord of the Rings,' this might make you recall the mines of Moria-- the cave is really that impressive," said Galaty.
Excavations have taken place on site since 1970, and have found such invaluable artifacts as pottery, tools, obsidian, and even silver and copper artifacts that could be 9,000 years old. The dwellers of the cave not only used it as a shelter, but also as a cemetery, or similar such place of ritual. No wonder, then, that it was associated with the the God of the Underworld.
"You have to imagine the place torchlit, filled with people lighting bonfires and burying the dead," said Galaty, "It was quite like a prehistoric cathedral, a pilgrimage site that attracted people from all over the region and perhaps from further afield."
No wonder, then, that this cave should be associated with the myth of Hades.
"You can easily see why Giorgos [Papathanassopoulos, the first archaeologist to explore Alepotrypa] would make that hypothesis. The cave really does recall the underworld, Hades and the River Styx."
Check out some seriously awesome pictures of the cave here.
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