Friday, May 02, 2008

Paglicci Cave in risk of collapse

Terrible news from Italy, where a section of the the exterior wall of Paglicci Cave (aka Grotta Paglicci, whose Gravettian and Aurignacian assemblages I discussed previously) has collapsed, thus threatening the integrity of the cave as a whole:

The report includes some comments by Annamaria Ronchitelli and Vincenzo Pazienza:

President of the Paglicci Study Centre, Vincenzo Pazienza, made an urgent appeal to incoming premier Silvio Berlusconi and Puglia region president Nichi Vendola for funds to secure the cave after a section of its exterior wall collapsed on Tuesday.

''It's extremely important to safeguard the cave for research to proceed: if the wall collapses completely it will obstruct the entrance to the grotto,'' he said.

His plea was backed by Annamaria Ronchitelli of Siena University, who leads a team that has worked in the cave for the last 40 years.

''If we're going to continue excavations in the cave, the structure needs to be safe and and we need to guarantee that the archaeologists will be unharmed,'' she said.

I hope the responsible authorities find a way to intervene and stabilize the cave as soon as possible, as it is, quite literally, the only one of its kind in Italy. Beyond having yielded several Paleolithic burials (some of whom have yielded some of the earliest modern human DNA samples), the site is among a handful in Italy to have yielded parietal art. In addition of that, it has yielded the oldest dated proto-Aurignacian assemblage in southern Italy, part of a nearly continuous sequence of archaeological remains spanning the Late Pleistocene, and very probably more. Here's a video of the cave (in Italian) which shows the cave, along with the stratigraphy and footage of excavations at the site, including the uncovering of one of the Gravettian burial.

It'd certainly provide a golden opportunity for Berlusconi to endear himself to archaeologists, were he to promptly intervene in this matter. I'll be sure to keep readers updated with any developments on this story.

Other links:

"Per la grotta dei graffiti imminente rischio di crollo" - La Repubblica, newsreport with a bit more on the history of safety issues at the cave.

"Stone Age cave risks collapse" - Life in Italy

"Historic Italian cave may collapse" - United Press International

"Historic Italian cave may collapse" - Daily


Maju said...

Hi. It may seem trivial in the context of the danger of collapse (any news?) but this cave has just yielded the first direct evidence that modern Europeans are direct descendants from these peoples. Paglicci 23 has been genetically tested, retested and its haplotype compared with that of all archaeologists that manipulated the remains, and has yielded the Cambridge Reference Sequence (mtDNA haplogroup H), the most common modern European haplogroup.

Your other post on the cave has just helped me quite a bit to figure out the context of this important finding. Thanks.

Maju said...

Btw, the paper was published in PLOS ONE (PLoS ONE 3(7): e2700. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002700).