The cave of Petralona is located about one kilometer from the village of Petralona, in the prefecture of Chalkidiki in Macedonia. It has been open to the public since 1979.
The cave was discovered by Filippos Hantzaridis on May 10 1959, and became known for its paleontological and paleoanthropological findings as early as 1960, after the accidental discovery of the famous fossilized human skull by the resident of Petralona, C. Sarigiannidis. The value of the find and its uniqueness boosted a series of works inside and outside the cave. In 1968 and in the period 1974-1988, excavations were carried out in the cave by the (paleo)anthropologist Aris Poulianos.
In the publications of Poulianos about the cave, were mentions of stone and bone tools. The finds are extremely important and constitute the first evidence of habitation in the Greek geographical area. However, the temporary nature of the publications does not give us a clear picture of them.
From an anthropological point of view, there is no unanimity of experts on its dating and on the assessment of its fossilized skull. There are two main views and they diverge significantly. The skull, according to one theory, is attributed to a man who lived about 700,000 years ago, and a man who lived about 200,000 years ago according to another.
It was discovered on September 16, 1960 in the mountain Katsika of Petralona (“Macedonia” newspaper 18-9-1960), inside the limestone cave stuck and covered by a stalagmite, 23 cm. above the ground, while his skeleton was on the ground underneath.
The skull (scientific name: Petralona 1) is so transitional in its morphology that it is widely believed to represent an intermediate state between Homo neanderthalensis and its primitive ancestor. It actually shares quite a few features with other Neanderthal fossils, but there are also some very primitive features. Generally speaking, the skull has the face features of a Neanderthal, but the skull of a more archaic type. Originally, it was classified as Homo neandertalensis, but later reclassified as Homo erectus. Nowadays, most researchers agree that it belongs to the species, also found in Atapuerca and other places in Europe, Homo heidelbergensis.
Initially, the skull was dated to 70,000 years old, a date that corresponds to the most recent Neanderthal remains. Modern dating yielded the time range of 700,000 years. The most recent dating, based on electron resonance techniques combined with radiometric dating and stratigraphic data, yields a minimum time range of 200,000 years. However, the morphology of the skull points more precisely to the time range of 300,000 or 400,000 years.