TRACES OF THE PAST
Karain Cave 160.000-60.000 BC
The Gulf of Antalya lies on the south western edge of the Anatolian Peninsula. Surrounding the gulf and south of the Western Taurus Mountains, approximately 25 kilometers from the Antalya city centre, are a series of caves located 500-600 meters above sea level. Situated on the slopes surrounding the springs that feed Kırkgöz Lake, these caves tell the stories of the prehistoric past to us today.
Artefacts discovered during the excavation of these caves distinguish not only the periods of Anatolia’s distant past, but those of humanity as well. The most notable of these caves is Karain Cave.
Karain Cave, located on the upper slopes of the springs of Kırkgöz Lake near Yağca village in the Döşemealtı district has been a host to every era of human civilisation. Traces of human occupation in the Karain Cave go back hundreds of thousands of years to the Early Stone Age. They continue to, and also include, the Middle Stone Age, Later Stone Age (Mesolithic), Copper Age (Chalcolithic), Bronze Age and subsequent ages, giving todays visitors insight into all of these eras.
In the Karain Cave, drilling and cutting tools made of antlers and flint stones, and rudimentary hatchets were discovered alongside fossilized Neanderthal skulls. In the upper layers near the remains of fossilized human bones, tooth and bone fragments of extinct hippopotami, elephants, hyenas and cave bears have been found.
The habitation of Karain Cave began with the emergence of modern man and lasted until recent times. Inscriptions engraved at the entrance of the cave demonstrate that it was used as a place of worship. From an inscribed epithet to the Mother Goddess Cybele we understand that the cave was a shrine dedicated to Meter Oreia.
Karain Cave is not the only place in Antalya where prehistoric items have been discovered. When Karain Cave became unable to sustain the needs of the first human settlement, other caves in the immediate vicinity of the Kırkgöz Lake springs also became occupied. They include the Öküz, Mustan, Boynuzlu, Çark, Kızıl, Sulu and Harun caves. These were occupied from the later periods of the Early Stone Age until the advent of agriculture in the Neolithic Age. Öküz Cave stands out among these caves as being especially significant.
As the population increased, this collection of caves surrounding Kırkgöz Lake became inadequate to house the residents. People started to move to nearby caves and shelters (dolmens) and gradually established Neolithic villages beside the lake shores and in the area that surrounded it.
The Kocain Cave, near the Ahırtaş village northwest of Döşemealtı, abounds with inscriptions and cisterns. The Beldibi Rock Shelter and Belbaşı Cave possess cave paintings depicting human and animal figures painted on its walls. Both of these caves have served as a shelter for humans in the middle and upper periods of the Early Stone Age.
The Kadıini Cave is located in the Oba district northeast of Alanya at the eastern end of the Antalyan Gulf. Primitive tools and fossilised human remains found there are evidence that this cave has served as a shelter since the Early Stone Age.
The Karain Cave in the Elmalı district on the western shores of the Gulf (not to be confused with the Karain Cave in the Döşemealtı district) and the numerous caves surrounding the city of Antalya, such as those near the Geyikbayırı stream to its west or Güzeloba and Kemerağzı to the east of it, echo the primitive past of these regions.