On the tracks of the dwarf elephants on the island of Tilos

Tilos © Tilos Prefecture/ GNTO

  Once upon a time on Tílos, an island belonging to the Dodecanese, there used to live… elephants! A species of pygmy elephants survived on the island until about 3500 BC and are actually considered to be the last elephants that have ever lived in Europe!

  It is truly amazing, yet true: if you could set foot on the island 50.000 years ago, you would see them approaching the island from the east, as at that time Tilos used to be part of Asia Minor, from which it was separated only 12.000 years ago.

  The elephants were too many to fit on an island as small as Tilos; in order to survive they had to adjust to new conditions of living “transforming themselves” into dwarfs with a height ranging from 120-150 cm.

  Due to the volcanic eruptions on Santorini and Nisyros everything, Tilos, just like all the other islands, ended up covered in volcanic lava.

  The excavations at Charkadio cave, located about 2 km to the south of the village of Megalo Chorio, have brought to light skeletal remains of forty dwarf elephant as well as fossils of animals, including turtles and deer. Scientists believe that those dwarf elephants lived on the island 45,000 years ago and that they disappeared about 4,000 years ago.

  Today, the findings are on display at the Town Hall of Megalo Chorio.  

For more information on Tilos: http://www.tilos.gr/gr/index.php?lang=en