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In praise of -the real Hell.

IF, like most sensible people, you believe Hell is actually on Earth, you won't be surprised to learn the specific inspiration for the controversial post-mortem resort has been found.

Well, it was found in the 1950s but only now are top experts asking: "Could this be Hell?" I should be more specific: Hades.

For the locus under advisement is a massive cave in yonder Greece. When I say "massive" I mean the size of four football pitches.

Alepotrypa ("foxhole") housed hundreds of people until the cave entrance collapsed burying everyone alive 5000 years ago.

What the Hell has that to do with Hades? The cavern in Diros Bay, Mani, southern Greece, was a pretty good place to be buried alive. For much of it functioned as a cemetery.

Here, in Neolithic times, local dudes held their burial rituals. According to archaeologists, these cavern-haunters really believed this was Hades, more widely understood as an underground for the afterlife.

The evidence seems thin and the whole thesis based on the intuition that, if you imagine the place full of burning torches and underground rivers, it sure looks like Hades.

Well, maybe. Hades wasn't all bad anyway. The Christian idea of Hell is more like Tartarus, a dungeon of torment beneath the underworld.

Similarly, heavenly Elysium and the boring Asphodel Meadows appear at least to share a postcode with Hades. Hades himself was actually king of the underworld and so, literally, a neighbour from Hell.

At Alepotrypa, they've discovered the usual archaeological trove: pottery. In the past, folk couldn't get enough of the stuff. You never wanted for a vase in ancient times.

Until they find cyclists' Lycra and a carton of food in impenetrable packaging, I'll reserve judgment as to whether Alepotrypa is really Hell.

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