© Photograph courtesy Greek Minstry of Culture, Education and Religious Affairs
A man appears to hold a woman in a double burial that took place about 5,800 years ago at Alepotrypa Cave, the site of ancient funerary rites.
Strange and surprising findings have been reported from ongoing excavations at Alepotrypa Cave
, a site in the Peloponnesus that one archaeologist called "a Neolithic Pompeii," the Greek Ministry of Culture, Education, and Religious Affairs announced.
The most striking discovery was a burial from roughly 5,800 years ago containing two well-preserved adult human skeletons, one male and one female, with arms and legs interlocked in an embrace.
Archaeologists also found bones from two other Neolithic double burials, as well as a roughly 3,300-year-old Mycenaean ossuary holding bone fragments from dozens of individuals and numerous expensive grave goods, including a bronze dagger, agate beads, and ivory likely sourced from Lebanon.
"Like most things in Greece, it's complicated," said Bill Parkinson
, associate curator of Eurasian anthropology at Chicago's Field Museum and one of the archaeologists working at the site.
The Alepotrypa—or "foxhole"—Cave represents one of the largest Neolithic burial sites known in all of Europe. Its enormous interior chambers reach more than half a kilometer into a mountain above Diros Bay, and burials in the cave span the entire Neolithic period in Greece, from 6000 to 3200 B.C. There are bones from at least 170 individuals inside the cave.