The Nahal Me’arot Nature Reserve protects a UNESCO World Heritage Site of Human Evolution in northern Israel’s Carmel mountains. Also known as the Caves of Nahal Me’arot; the historic site near Haifa features four caves believed to have been inhabited by humans over a million years ago.
Since it bears the name of the valley in which they are located; the Wadi el-Mughara Caves are made up of Me’arat HaTanur (the Oven Cave); Me’arat HaGamal (the Camel Cave); Me’arat HaNahal (the Stream Cave); and Me’arat HaGdi (the Young Goat Cave). Also, the caves show evidence of human settlement for hundreds of thousands of years and have been proclaimed as a site of “universal value.”
Nahal Me’arot Nature Reserve – A World Heritage Site
So you can find the caves along the western ridge of the Carmel Mountains. Moreover, the caves were discovered and excavated by an all-woman team of archeologists in the 1920s (headed by Dorothy Garrod). Also, the caverns contain prehistoric remains; that scientists believe are highly valuable for the study of human evolution in the Eastern Mediterranean region. Today, visitors can enjoy guided tours of the caves and learn more about the archeological findings in each cave and the hugely significant role the findings played in the evolution of humankind.
The Me’arat HaNahal (the Stream Cave) was the first cave to be discovered by archeologists and is the largest of the three. Eighty-four skeletons were found in the mouth of the cave and it is believed the cave was used as a place of burial. Moreover, the team also found bone fragments and stone tools that are thought to be over 12,000 years old. In fact, a replica of a prehistoric skeleton now stands at the entrance to the cavern and demonstrates the ancient burial practices that would have taken place within the cave.
The Me’arat HaTanur (the Oven Cave) contains both homo sapiens and Neanderthal skeletons dating back 150,000 years; and the Me’arat HaGamal (the Camel Cave) offers visitors a chance to enjoy an audiovisual presentation of what life would have been like for early man; including hunting and gathering activities.
Nahal Me’arot Nature Reserve: Other Activities
Moreover, the Nahal Me’arot Nature Reserve boasts spectacular natural beauty and offers excellent hiking along rugged; rocky cliffs in the Carmel Mountains. After the winter rains in spring; the mountainside bursts into color with blooming wildflowers and boasts some spectacular panoramic vistas. A visitor’s center in the park is a good place to stop before setting off on a hike as you can find an array of information; guidebooks; and maps on the area.
Also, another great thing to do is hire a private tour guide; that will unfold the mysteries of humanity by exploring these one-of-a-kind caves. Because visiting sites like these are like checking out an ancient battleground. In other words, the site itself is quite bare and there is not much to see.
But with an archaeological guided tour of the caves, you will have a professional guide to walk through millions of years; and be able to condense all that knowledge into 45 minutes – 90 minutes tour of the caves. And since Nahal Me’arot Nature Reserve is the only prehistoric site today in Israel that is open for visitors; I recommend you not to skip this rare chance to visit such a rare archaeological site in Israel.
The Importance of Nahal Me’arot Nature Reserve
So in short, the sequence of prehistoric settlements in Nahal Maarot is particularly long and full. The unique finds discovered at the site (as important human fossils) and its intermittent investigation over eighty years; made the site one of the best known in the world from the Paleolithic period. In the four caves studied; the evidence was discovered; among the earliest in the world; of the simultaneous existence of Neanderthal man and modern man; For the burial of the dead; For use in objects of symbolic significance as beads and dyes; And for permanent settlement and construction of stone houses. The site plays a key role in the major issues of world prehistoric research, such as the origin of modern man, the development of modern human behavior, human-environment relations, and the buds of permanent settlement and food production.
Nahal Me’arot Nature Reserve Opening Hours
Reserve entrance closes one hour before cited closing time
Sunday–Thursday and Saturday: 17:00 – 08:00
Friday and holiday eves: 16:00 – 08:00
Sunday–Thursday and Saturday: 16:00 – 08:00
Friday and holiday eves: 15:00 – 08:00
Holiday eves: 13:00 – 08:00
Yom Kippur eve: 13:00 – 08:00