One of the things that would sound really strange to today’s Greeks would be to expect to see in the countryside elephants, hippos, and bison, but things were not always this way according to current research – wild mammals found today in Africa and in Asia were once roaming in Thessaly, particularly near Pinios River.
According to geologist/paleontologist professor Athanassios Athanassiou and his study entitled “The Paleolithic World of Pinios”, numerous fossilized remains of mammals discovered in the Pinios River basin are between 30,000 and 45,000 years old.
Athanassiou’s study mentions among others fossils found in the valley that belong to relatives of modern-day elephants (Elephas antiquus), bulls (Bos primigenius, or aurochs), buffaloes (Bubalus cf. arnee), ibexes (Capra ibex), antelope (Saiga tatarica), rhinoceruses (Stephanorhinus hemitoechus), horses (Equus ferus and Equus hydruntinus), hippopotamuses (Hippopotamus sp.), deer species (Cervus sp., Dama sp. and Capreolus capreolus), as well as to the extinct “Irish deer” (Megaloceros sp.).
The first fossils of the Pinios area were unearthed in 1958 by a German archaeological mission excavation.
The finds are exhibited at Thessaly’s University Medical School, while many of them are also on display at the Museum of Larissa (an elephant tusk, horns of a wild ox and the skull of a deer).
Pinios’s fauna belongs, according to Athanassiou’s study, to the Upper Pleistocene era. This era however has a very wide range in human terms, covering a time from 180,000 years ago to 10,000 years ago. [amna]