Haua Fteah Cave

Haua Fteah - Hawa Fteah - Hawa Ftaih

Useful Information

Location: Wadi al-Kuf, Jebel Akhdar (Green Mountain) area, Cyrenaica. 8 km east of Apollonia (the Port of Sousa), 1 km from the Mediterranean coast.
(32.899722, 22.051389)
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave Speleologyerosional cave
Light: not necessary
Dimension: H=20 m, W=80 m, A=67 m asl.
Guided tours:
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Professor Graeme Barker (2008): The secret life of a Libyan cave, Relay, Newsletter of Research in the School of the Humanities and Social Sciences, Issue 4: May 2008. pdf
C. B. M. McBurney (1967): The Haua Fteah (Cyrenaica) and the Stone Age of the South-East Mediterranean, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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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1948 discovered by the archaeologists Charles McBurney.
1951-1955 excavated by the archaeologists Charles McBurney and C.T. Houlder from Cambridge.
2007-2011 excavations by the Cyrenaican Prehistory Project.


Haua Fteah Cave is a single chamber with a huge portal which was used as a shelter by stone age man. There is a continuous sequence of inhabitation for 100,000 years. Some suggest the cave was first visited 200,000 years ago. The site was occupied by an exceptionally inventive and advanced group of Paleolithic hunters, one of the most technologically progressive communities known from this time. Extraordinary tools and a bone flute were discovered. Excavated food remains suggest a diet of wild cattle, gazelle, snails and marine molluscs.

Haua is a Lybian term for a certain type of cave which is quite common along this coast. Those caves were probably formed by erosional processes, in other words as sea caves, during the early stage of the pleistocene. However, the sea level was only 6 m higher than today, while the cave is 67 m asl. This theory actually states that the whole area underwent an uplift of more than 60 m. The haua caves form typically huge elongated overhanging cliff faces. The caves are not deep, but rather wide and high. They offer protection from wind and, as they are mostly oriented to the north, from direct sunlight. The sea right in front offered food in various forms. As a result they were popular shelters.

The cave was discovered in 1949 by the American archaeologist Charles Brian Montagu McBurney (18-JUN-1914 to 14-DEC-1979). Born in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, he studied Archaeology and Anthropology at Kings College, in Cambridge, England. He researched the Upper Paleolithic in Britain, France, Lybia, Iran and Afghanistan. After the discovery of Haua Fteah he excavated the cave for five years with his collegue C.T. Houlder. They found a former shaft or trench in the ground, which was filled with cave sediments. After the excavation was completed, the cave was forgotten for half a century.

Between 2007 and 2011 the cave was again excavated by the Cyrenaican Prehistory Project. The project was financed by the Society for Libyan Studies and the Leakey Foundation. It was a collaboration of Queen’s University Belfast, Birkbeck College, Royal Holloway, and the University of London. The team was headed by Professor Graeme Barker, University of Cambridge, Head of the Department of Archaeology and Director of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research. They completed the excavation of the McBurney trench by emptying it to a depth of -8 m. Also they excavated other sections of the cave floor.

Like all caves in the area this cave is freely accessible. Its size is quite impressive and there is a nice view too.