Sfakia report, May 7th – Asfendou, palaeolithic cave Everything you want to ask, read or write about Sfakia, southwest Crete, or Crete island in general.

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Sfakia report, May 7th – Asfendou, palaeolithic cave

by Jean » 08 May 2019, 14:27

Tuesday morning it was cool, cloudy and windy (no ferry boats again). We had intended to do a walk between Asfendou and Kallikratis and decided to drive up anyway and see how the weather was when we got there. We stopped first at the stone mitato on the ridge above Asfendou – it was drizzling, there were no views of the mountains in either direction, and it was only 10C. So we decided to just go to Asfendou and Kallikratis and forget the walk.

mitato above Asfendou.jpg

The sun came out and it was a few degrees warmer in Asfendou, so we spent some time looking for orchids and other flowers. There is so much white clover in bloom now that the air is permeated with its sweet scent. The butterfly orchids are out, with more to come, and there are still a few fresh sitiaca orchids (photos in another posting).

About a year ago we had read a scientific article about a small cave with palaeolithic rock carvings in Asfendou (discovered in the 1960s) and had found out that the owner of the very nice taverna in Asfendou had the key to the gate the archaeologists had put across the cave entrance. He was on his own when we arrived but phoned for someone to look after the restaurant while he accompanied us to the cave – he said we would never find it ourselves, even with detailed directions (in Greek). After about 15 minutes of relatively easy walking down old terraces, we clambered part way up a steep stony hill to the south-facing, very hidden site.

The cave is more like a crawl space, but perhaps it was larger in earlier times and suffered a partial collapse. You can’t stand up in it, and there’s really only room or one or two people at a time to look at the figures. As we didn’t have a flashlight with us, we relied on smart-phone lights to see the carvings on the smooth sloping stone surface.

low cave entrance.jpg
stone surface with carvings.jpg

There are several different kinds of carvings on the rock, but the majority are what the archaeologists have determined represent an extinct species of long-horned dwarf deer. There are also paddle/spear shapes, a boat, and geometric patterns consisting of little holes (cupules). The experience of seeing these ancient carvings was incredibly exciting, and I didn’t want to leave without having a second look at them.

horned deer and spears.jpg
spears through deer.jpg
boat and deer.jpg
patterns under deer.jpg

The scientific article can be found at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/a ... 9aeaa92ffb

It was hard to thank the Asfendou taverna owner enough for his time and patience in taking us to this amazing site. We sat in the sun on the tavern patio and enjoyed some of his wonderful traditional food while discussing the ancient carvings.

We then drove to Kallikratis, amazed at all the very tall tassled hyacinths in the fields up there this year. It turned quite cold when the sun went behind the clouds, and after a quick fresh lemonade at Janina’s café, we took the winding scary road back down to the coast. The bottom section of the road is lined with oleanders in full bloom, although the same plants in Kallikratis don’t even have any flower buds showing yet.

road down from Kalikratis.jpg

It was still very windy along the coast and in Sfakia, and we were forced to eat dinner inside again. The wind dropped very late in the evening, and we hoped the sea would calm down enough for the ferries to run on Wednesday (which it did).

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Re: Sfakia report, May 7th – Asfendou, palaeolithic cave

by Erno » 08 May 2019, 14:57

Thanks Jean. Fascinating! And very interesting article at the link.
All the best,

webmaster Sfakia-Crete.com

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Re: Sfakia report, May 7th – Asfendou, palaeolithic cave

by Dorthe » 09 May 2019, 11:54

Really interesting. It must have been fantastic to see.
Thanks for the report :-) And thank you very much for all your good advice on flower-locations.
Due to the late spring, we saw even more than we had hoped for( -including the "scary" road to and from Kallikrates, which I loved so much, we had to drive it both ways with Henning keeping the video camera running the whole time).
We had a wonderful 15 days in Sfakia. I fell in love with the place 12 years ago, and there is still so much to discover.
We'll be back again as soon as we can.
Best regards, Dorthe

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