Thursday, February 11, 2010

Zooarchaeology, Paleoanthropology and Franchthi Cave.

In the Southeastern Argolid of the Peloponnese of Greece lies the archaeological site, Franchthi Cave. The cave is located on the opposite side of a small bay from the Greek village Koilas. The time span of occupation at this site appears to have been from 30,000 BCE to 3000 BCE. Within this extended period archaeologists were able to observe the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture and the domestication of animals like goats and sheep. Evidence currently suggests that this transition did not actually take place at Franchthi, but was likely due to the locals adopting plants and animals from elsewhere... probably the Near East.
My wife and I had the opportunity to explore the cave in 2007 with our friend Natalie Munro who teaches zooarchaeology at the University of Connecticut. One of the research programs she is conducting is of the faunal remains unearthed from the site between 1967 and 1976. Which is way cool.
We've all played the, "If I had it to do all over again..." game, right? Well, for me, in addition to photography (couldn't live without that!) I'd no doubt go for some sort of science. As a layman, I've enjoyed and have been excited about various scientific disciplines (cosmology, paleontology, etc) but I've long had a real fascination with Paleoanthropology. I could read and re-read books about Proconsul and Lucy, about human evolution and anthropology until the day I die (and probably will) and never tire of them. So getting the opportunity to explore a site like Franchthi with a scientist like Natalie (who patiently entertains the dumbest of questions over and over!) is a thrill not easily conveyed.
Being able to combine photography and a lesson in anthropology... well, man, that's just the coolest!
As far as digging goes the site was closed down in 1976, so no bones or tools were there to be photographed. But the cave is a fascination all its own.
Below is the village of Koilas. Fresh fish, octopus, cold beer and the company of friendly local cats were thoroughly enjoyed dockside. (Oh... And great conversation about where we just were, of course!)


  1. thank you for this post, it really helped me. I will visit the cave coming March and wasn't sure if there was anything to see. Do you happen to know where the finds from the caves are exhibited?

  2. Dear 'orbis terrarum'

    Thanks for stopping by here. I just contacted Dr. Munro regarding your question. This is her response:

    "Unfortunately there are no exhibits at the Cave but there is a small but
    nice exhibit on Franchthi at the Archaeological Museum in Nafplion which includes some of the material remains. The Museum is located at the southern end of the town square. The Museum just reopened in 2009 and the new exhibits are very well presented and I would recommend a visit for anybody interested in archaeology."

    Have a wonderful time in your travels!