The cave of Alepotrypa, where rich remains from the settlement there of a large Neolithic community that prospered during the Late and Late Neolithic periods (5300-3200 BC) were rescued and revealed, is located in the mouth of the Dyros Gulf.
It is one of the largest and most important Neolithic caves in Greece and as it appears from the excavation data and the radio dating of the embankments, it began to be inhabited from 5,300 BC.
It is probable that a group of Neolithic sailors sailing the laconic coastline of the Messinian Gulf, on the obsidian road from or to Milos, rushed to Dyros, where they discovered the precious drinking water contained in the cave, and gradually organized a naval trading station in the small bay .
However, the cave was used as a residence, a warehouse of goods, a workshop for eco-technical activity as well as a place of burial and worship of the dead.
A strong earthquake that occurred at the end of the 4th millennium BC. (as evidenced by the excavation findings, unburied dead and massive rock fragments) had the consequence of detaching rocks from the roof and side walls of the cave, sealing the exit trapping the inhabitants. After this devastating earthquake the cave was not inhabited again.
The cave was discovered in 1958 by the couple of speleologists Giannis and Anna Petroheilou. The archaeological value of the cave was recognized from the beginning. However, a program of intervention works for its tourist exploitation, carried out in the 60s with the construction of concrete floors and corridors, concrete and iron staircases and with excavating and excavations to arrange the site and install electrical installation, unfortunately had the result the destruction and loss over a large area of important man-made embankments of great thickness.
Today, only the western part of the cave can be visited.
The number of bones-residues of food from goats, sheep and cattle, which were found scattered throughout all the layers of the man-made fillings of the cave, inform us about the extensive practice of animal husbandry in the area. At the same time, deer and wild boar bones, as well as obsidian and flint spearheads and arrowheads found in the Foxhole, confirm that the population was also actively involved in hunting wild animals.
The significant number of small and large fish vertebrae, found in the man-made embankments of the Foxhole, proves the fishing skill of the fishermen of the Neolithic community.
In the many small and larger natural alcoves that are located next to each other on both sides of the central corridor of the cave that leads to the Hall of the Lakes, are concentrated almost all the domestic activities of the inhabitants of the cave (weaving, embroidery, cosmetics, of basket weaving, the manufacture of stone weapons and tools and metalwork) as evidenced by a large number of stone and bone tools, while the potters and angiographers of Dyros would have worked in daylight.
The small side alcoves of the cave were chosen for the accommodation of the inhabitants. The side niches of the cave were also chosen for cremation and secondary burials.
From the type and number of finds in the cave, it follows that an economically and politically powerful social order had formed in Dyros already from the middle of the Late Neolithic and during the Late Neolithic.
They are the sailors who build and own the ships and who, traveling on the high seas, carry out and must control the sea transport and especially the trade of the obsidian of Milos in the southern Peloponnese. The class of sailors, therefore, largely controls the agricultural and livestock production of Dyros, since it trades its products, at the same time exercising administrative powers, certainly in a hierarchical organization of the local society.
This privileged class of sailors of Dyrus must have had in their possession the hundreds of large storage jars adorned with relief decorations, as well as the multitude of large spherical square amphorae for the storage, use and transport of liquid and preserved food, and it seems that they were owners of the very expensive for the time, unusable, written vessels of the Foxhole, with which they lavishly and in large quantities cremated their beloved dead.
The silver jewelry, the Spondylus gaederopus oyster bracelets and the "scepter" from the same oyster apparently belonged to people of the same class, all examples of wealth and social prestige, safe evidence of contemporaneous maritime trade exchanges.
The occupations, productive specializations, daily activities and habits of life, burial customs, religious beliefs, artistic sensibilities and spiritual concerns of the Neolithic community of Dyros are traced and followed in the findings brought to light by the excavation research even today are exhibited in the Neolithic museum of Dyros so that the visitor can more easily approach and understand the life of the Neolithic community.
Among the museum's exhibits are exquisitely crafted stone, bone and obsidian tools, exquisite written art, undecorated and embossed pottery, weaving tools, needles and spindle whorls, fine bone, stone and silver jewellery, elegant clay and marble figurines and plenty, excellently preserved human and animal skeletal material.
Editor: Fotini Anastasopoulou