Circeo’s most ancient charm
One of the most significant aspects of Circeo National Park is the abundance of paleo-ecological and prehistorical findings. Evidence of human presence in the Park territory dating back to the Middle Palaeolithic was found in caves and under rock overhangs all around Mt. Circeo.
During the Quaternary, the Pontine territory was affected by its changing coastline, whose shape was influenced in turn by climate changes: in warmer periods it was a vast and shallow gulf, whereas, during glacial periods, areas above sea level were larger than they are today. The coast, the subsoil and the seabed bear traces of these remote events, witnessed 75,000 years ago by Neanderthal men, and then by Homo sapiens.
Guattari Cave and the Neanderthal man
Workers casually discovered this meaningful site in 1939. They found a cave, not very deep, from which some secondary caves branched off. The ground was strewn with fossils, and at a dead end, the most exciting discovery was made: at the centre of an oval made of stones, the perfectly preserved skull of a Neanderthal man was found.
Alberto Carlo Blanc, who studied the finding first, noticed ancient mutilations which - after comparing them with similar traces left by Melanesian head hunters - he attributed to some sort of cannibalistic rite. It is also however possible that they were hyenas' doing.
The cave, which had presumably been blocked by a landslide, has been keeping a valuable and evocative environment, as Neanderthal men left it, for over 50,000 years.
Grotta delle Capre and Grotta del Fossellone
Grotta delle Capre ("Goats' cave") is an important cave where a wonderful fossil shoreline records how the sea level between glaciations was higher than the current one. In 1936, Blanc understood the site importance and carried out systematic excavations.
Grotta del Fossellone is about 200 metres west of Grotta delle Capre. Here, too, A.C. Blanc led the first researches in the years between 1937 and 1940.
In the "Blanc shelter", where the Italian Institute for Human Palaeontology has conducted excavations, remnants of artefacts made from sea pebbles were found, as well as a large amount of shells and molluscs - presumably meal scraps. The few elements that can be used for dating seem to point to the Mesolithic.
This very small cave is located on a steep coastal area, not far from the alabaster quarry where the Blanc shelter is situated. The floor inside is slightly sloping, made of blunt-ended calcareous stones, on which traces of lithic manufacturing were found. Under the stones, a reddish soil contains a diverse fossilised fauna: deers, steinbocks, chamois, fallow deers, wolves and wild boars were found among others. Steinbocks, usually young, are the most numerous, and may be an indication of specialised hunting.
Archaeological findings were not limited to promontory caves, but are common in many other places within Circeo National Park. They encompass a very long time span, from the Middle Palaeolithic to the Metal Ages. Ancient settlements were most commonly found in inter-dune hollows (the so-called "piscine"), by river terraces and along the shores of coastal lakes. The most important settlements that have been studied so far are those of Molella and Selva Piana, and the one by Fonti di Lucullo.