Nahal Me’arot Caves

Wadi el-Mughara - Caves Creek - Vallée de Hefer

Useful Information

Location: Carmel mountain range, near Haifa. Carmel Coast, at the foot of the Carmel Mountain.
(32.671025, 34.965552)
Open: Summer Mon-Thu 8-17, Fri 8-16, Sat, Sun 8-17, Hol 8-16.
Winter Mon-Thu 8-16, Fri 8-15, Sat, Sun 8-16, Hol 8-15.
Holiday eves, Yom Kippur eve 8-13.
Fee: Adults ILS 22, Children ILS 9, Students ILS 19, Israeli Senior ILS 11.
Groups (): Adults ILS 19, Children ILS 8.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Nahal Me‘arot Nature Reserve, Nature and Parks Authority, Tel: 04-9841750/2 Fax: 04-9843144.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1928 trial excavation at El Wad by British archaeologist Charles Lambert.
1928 Es-Skhul Cave first excavated by Dorothy Garrody.
1929-1935 large-scale excavations at El Wad by Dorothy Garrod.
1929 Tabun Cave first excavated.
1939 Es-Skhul Cave remains classified by Arthur Keith and Theodore D. McCown as Palaeoanthropus palestinensis, a descendant of Homo heidelbergensis.
1967 to 1972 Tabun Cave excavated by Arthur Jelinek.
1971 area declared a nature reserve.
1980–1981 El Wad Terrace excavated by François Valla and Ofer Bar-Yosef.
1988–1989 excavation of El Wad Cave by Mina Weinstein-Evron.
1989 opened to the public.
1994 nature reserve expanded.
1994 large scale excavations of El Wad Terrace by Mina Weinstein-Evron and others, still ongoing.
1996 declared a UN Biosphere Reserve.
2012 inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.


Nahal Me’arot (Wadi el-Mughara, Caves Creek) is not the name of a cave, its the name of a valley where four caves exist. The caves of Tabun, Jamal, el-Wad, and Skhul were excavated during 90 years of archaeological research. The result is a cultural sequence of unparalleled duration, at least 500,000 years of human evolution, from the Lower Palaeolithic to the present. Important is the coexistence of Neanderthals and early anatomically modern humans during the Middle Palaeolithic or Mousterian. Also the transition from a hunter-gatherer to agriculture and animal husbandry. The caves have become a key site of the chrono-stratigraphic framework for human evolution in general.

The Tabun Cave or Tanur Cave (Oven) was occupied intermittently during the Lower and Middle Paleolithic (500,000 to 40,000). The cave is actually a shallow grotto, not much more than an overhanging cliff, but it contained more than 25 m of sediment.

El Wad (Stream) are actually two sites nearby, מערת הנחל (El Wad Cave, Mugharat el-Wad or HaNahal Cave) and El Wad Terrace. The site was discovered in 1928 by the British archaeologist Charles Lambert. He was working for the Department of Antiquities of Mandatory Palestine to assess the area's archaeological value. All the sites were threatened by quarrying for the construction of the Port of Haifa. But Lambert's sensational discovery of a bone handle carved in the shape of an animal established the scientific importance of the caves and prevented them from being destroyed.

Es-Skhul Cave or Gedi Cave (Kid) revealed numerous microlith stone tools, human burials and ground stone tools. It represents an area where Neanderthals may have lived alongside humans, 100,000 to 45,000 years ago.

And finally there is Gamal Cave or el-Jamal (Camel), named for its hump shape. The cave contains displays showing human life styles in the various prehistoric periods.

The caves are visited on the Prehistoric Man Trail which includes Tabun Cave, Jamal Cave, and el-Wad Cave. And there is the trail to the Es Skhul Cave, a quite short trail. There are other trails like the the Botanical Trail and the Geological Trail.

The caves are karst caves which formed in the 90 to 115 million years old reef limestone. The limestone is rich in fossilized rudist bivalves. The valley has a seasonal stream named Nahal Me'arot which flows only in the rainy winter. Its drainage basin has 40 km² and it forms an alluvial fan in the coastal plain.