Nahal Mearot Nature Reserve (official site) is located at Hof Hacarmel not far from Haifa. It is a world heritage site due to the importance of archeological findings, and today we are going to visit it. Let’s begin!
Map of the area:
As you can see, there are many trails in this area. But since it was still too hot, we did not plan to take a long path.
World Heritage Site
As I mentioned before, Nahal Mearot Nature Reserve is a world heritage site.
The prehistoric site in the Nahal Mearot Nature Reserve was inscribed by UNESCO in 2012 as a “World Heritage Site with outstanding universal value for the study of human evolution.
It is home to a group of prehistoric caves in which humans lived for some 500,000 years. Such long-term habitation of the same caves is very rare anywhere in the world.
The “Prehistoric Man” Trail At Nahal Mearot Nature Reserve
As I mentioned, since it was quite hot we decided not to take a long trail, and we decided to go with the “Prehistoric Man” Trail. This round route visits most of the caves on site.
As we entered inside, we started climbing the stairs.
Note, there is also a wheelchair accessible trail that leads to the last and the most impressive cave.
Though today this is a dry land spot, it was covered by water until 1-2 million of years ago. The cliff in the photo is a fossil reef which formed 100 million years ago from skeletons of marine organisms. The caves were created through limestone dissolution. The uplift of the Carmel caused the caves to become exposed.
The Oven Cave
This cave is named for the opening in its ceiling.
The first excavations in this cave were conducted in 1927, headed by Dorothy Garrod. A team from Haifa University is currently excavating the cave, and they have reached a depth of about 20 meters.
Archeological excavations in this cave exposed a sequence which is one of the oldest and longest known. Beginning some one million years ago and continuing to about 40,000 years ago. During this period the cave was occupied by people of three different prehistoric cultures. Each of these cultures defined by appropriate stone tools and it is possible to follow improvements in technology through the sequence.
After a short walk, we reached the second cave.
Camel cave named after its hump shape and in the cave, you can see how ancient people lived.
The activity in this cave may have included the processing of raw materials. The cave contains displays showing human life styles in the various prehistoric periods.
The Stream Cave
The next cave along the route is the biggest one on site.
The Stream Cave, consists of an extensive entrance hall, at the end of which there is a 70-meter long corridor. In front of the cave there is a broad rocky platform. The main findings in this cave are those of the Aurignacian culture (40,000 to 20,000 years ago). The cave was abandoned a few thousand years ago, and when humans returned there, they lived mainly in the entrance hall and on the rock platform in front of the cave (Natufian culture, 12,000-10,000 years before our time).
The entrance to the Stream Cave:
Every round hour there is a short movie in the back of this cave showing the lifestyle of the prehistoric man.
The wheelchair accessible trail I mentioned at the beginning of this post leads towards and inside of this cave.
Watching the movie.
The movie is not graphical, but there is a scene where a wild animal attacks a human and in the next shot prehistoric people are burying their friend. That can be frightening to small kids.
The audio-visual show laster for about fifteen minutes. And then we headed outside.
At the entrance to the Stream Cave, you can find this sign. If you look closely at the walls, then you will be able to recognize conical shells.
Since we saw following equipment, I guess there is active archeological work on site.
We followed “Prehistoric Man” Trail almost to the entrance, but at this point, we made a small detour. As I mentioned, since it was a hot day we did not want to make the longer trails. Therefore at the entrance, I asked the guide whether we can see something more nearby. She pointed out there is another new excavation site closeby. We followed the blue trail along the dried stream into the mountains.
After about seven minute walk we saw an archeological site to the right on the slope of Carmel mountain.
In front of the Gdi cave, we saw an active archeological site. That is a Mousterian cemetery. It contained skeletons of ten individuals (men, woman, and children).
The skeletons belong to early Homo sapiens type, the people that lived 90,000 years ago in this area.
And this is the Gdi Cave:
From the fourth and the last cave we headed back towards the exit from Nahal Mearot Nature Reserve. The whole visit took us about two hours, which is more than enough in hot weather.
Nahal Mearot Nature Reserve presents essential archeological findings. But if you are visiting with kids or you are not archeology lover, then I would suggest visiting this Nature Reserve when additional activities take place on site (and there are such from time to time). A guide will make the visit much more enjoyable.
If you think the caves will protect you from the sun, then think again. As you saw most of the time, we were outside. Thus, do not visit during the hot hours and wear sunscreen. The additional bonus of an early visit is making one of the trails in the area or touring nearby attractions (see map at the top of this post).
Have you ever visited Nahal Mearot Nature Reserve? How was your experience? Tell us in the comments below.
That’s all for today, and I’ll see you in future travels!