Kalispera Greece Tilos.

Dwarf elephants in Tilos

In 1971 Greek scientists discovered bones of a long-extinct specie of dwarf elephants. According to Nationalencyklopedin (a Swedish language encyclopedia) there should have existed dwarf elephants on more islands in the Mediterranean. Why the elephants disappeared or died out, no one can say for sure. Tilos' volcanic neighbouring island of Nisyros have had a number of big volcanic eruptions over the years and probably the elephants became extinct at one of these eruptions.


Elephant museum in Megalo Chorio in Tilos.

Inside the elephant museum in Megalo Chorio.


The elephants were around 1.20-1.50 meter high, compared to the African elephant that may stand 4 meters tall at the shoulder. One can only imagine how cute the elephant babies must have been.

The Harkadio Cave, where the elephant remnants were found, lies almost in the centre of the island, along the road to Megalo Chorio. There is not much to see except a hole in the rock. Scientists are still excavating and therefore is the cave not open to the public. Outside the cave there is an amphitheatre where concerts are given sometimes.


Harkhadios cave in Tilos where the elephants were found.

View over Eristos valley from the Harkhadios cave where the elephants were found.

The cave is, as I said, not much to see. But I can highly recommend a visit to the elephant museum in Megalo Chorio. The museum is unique in its kind, to my knowledge there are no other dwarf elephant museums in the world. The museum is in the same building as the city hall, about where the bus stops. The museum houses a collection of bones of dwarf elephants.


The elephant museum in Megalo Chorio in Tilos island.

The elephant museum in Megalo Chorio.

Previously, a woman named Vicky guided in the museum, but since the summer of 2019 she does not. Instead, you have to visit the municipal office on the other side of the street and someone comes and guide you. The museum is open weekdays 8.30 am to 14.30 pm. A new museum, that is not yet opened, lies outside the gates of the Harkadio Cave.


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