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Authors: Calvari, S.* 
Puglisi, G.* 
Title: The lava caves in the territory of Etna
Issue Date: 2007
Keywords: lava tubes
Subject Classification04. Solid Earth::04.08. Volcanology::04.08.08. Volcanic risk 
Abstract: Since ancient times, the lava caves of Etna have been one of the main attractions of this volcano, and have had an important role in Sicilian society throughout its development. Initially used as habitations, as places for worship or burial, they have also provided hiding places for bandits, safe shelters for wayfarers, and lastly have been used as storage chambers for snow, a characteristic Etnean economy. Etna in fact, in so far as an active volcano, has always been a different mountain to others. A long time before the Age of Enlightenment, therefore also before the start of mountaineering, when the Alps were visited only by a few intrepid hunters, Etna was already the favoured destination of travellers and students who made it an obligatory stop on their stay in Italy. It is thanks to these numerous cultured travellers that the multiple descriptions of the fires of Etna, with details and precious information for the reconstruction of the past eruptive activity of the volcano, have come down to us. At the end of the last century, the spread of the passion for mountaineering and the knowledge of the mountain as exploration of both nature and Man himself, provoked new interest in the hypogeal ambient. With some decades of delay with respect to the areas of the Carso in the Trieste region and southern France, where Boegan and Martell respectively led the first speleological research into karstic caves, a methodical and scientific work of exploring of the caves of volcanic origin by the first Catanese speleologists began on Etna between the two world-wars. Among these, a special place is held by Francesco Miceli (1906-1978). Gradually, the location, description and topographical survey of numerous caves of volcanic origin was undertaken. At the beginnings of the 1970s, the known Etnean caves already numbered more than a hundred, and currently they amount to more than two hundred and fifty cavities.
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