Evidence that heritage tourism spurred economic development, even 8,000 years ago:
The settlers used the cave as a shelter, a cemetery and a sacred worship place. The population expanded outside of the cave and bloomed into an early urban center. The pottery and “ancient people’s garbage” the settlers left behind are the strongest evidence of a densely populated village, Parkinson said. A two-by-two meter unit revealed more than 30 pounds of pottery. The archaeologists unearthed materials and pottery styles from different regions, which indicate economic activity and a mingling of cultures.
“If you’re in an area where there is more trade more interaction, there’s more variety in not just in food, but in life and the people you meet,” Parkinson said. People may have gravitated toward Alepotrypa just for the sake of “wanting to live together.” But Parkinson said all life in Alepotrypa abruptly ended, around 5,000 years ago, when the cave’s population was most dense and dynamic. The cave entrance collapsed, possibly due to an earthquake. The cave’s occupants were buried alive.
“It’s sealed,” Parkinson said. “And it’s not opened again until the 1950s.”
After the collapse, settlers outside the cave fled the peninsula. Even today, the area surrounding the cave is scarcely populated.