Elephant Cave, Crete
At Cape Drepano of the Municipality of Apokoronas under the Red Village, outside the bay of Souda, lies the underwater cave of the Elephants as it is called. The cave was discovered in 1999 by Manolis Efthimakis. After which, the Palaeoanthropology and Speleology Ephorate organized the first cave exploration mission on March the 31st in 2000. The findings were fantastic and of extreme palaeontologic importance. The most important finding was the identification of palaeontological material, whereby, after a first study, were found to consist mostly of elephant and a very small percentage of deer (Cervidae) bones. From the measurements taken from parts of the elephant skeleton, it has been possible to support this is a new species, called Elephas chaniensis, from the Chania region. Its size was larger than the current elephant and smaller than its ancestor, antiquus. The fossils from the elephants belonged to at least three adults and a younger member, apparently an endemic species. Elephas Chaniensis was three meters tall and although he had no remarkable differences from the African and Indian Elephants, he had thicker bones and a tougher built body.
The age is thus far estimated to be between 50,000-60,000 years. The migration of these species to Greece is determined to have occurred 15 million years ago when there was a single land from the Ionian region to the coasts of Asia Minor. It is believed that the excessive increase in the deer population (which is very similar to today’s goats) had greatly reduced food stocks, leading to the extinsion of the region’s elephants. This is confirmed by the fact that in the cave, the bones of elephants were found in lower layers than the deer counterparts and other smaller mammals.