Hezarmerd Cave

Hazar Mird Cave - Hazar Merd Cave

Useful Information

Location: Sulaymaniyah, Sulaymaniyah Governorate, Iraq.
13 km southwest of Sulaymaniyah, through Hezarmerd across the new motorway. South of the Sulaymaniyah airport.
(35.4939156, 45.3110587)
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave
Light: bring torch
Dimension: A=1,200 m.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Dorothea A. E. Garrod (1930): The Palaeolithic of Southern Kurdistan: Excavations in the Caves of Zarzi and Hazar Merd, Bulletin of the American School of Prehistoric Research, No. 6, pp. 9–43.
Address: Hezarmerd Cave
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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1926-1928 caves excavated by Dorothy Garrod.


Hazar Merd 1928, three Kurdish boys standing on different levels of excavation trenches. Public Domain.

The ئەشکەوتی هەزارمێرد (Hezarmerd Cave), also ئەشکەوتی هەزارمێرد (Hazarmird Cave) or ئەشكەوتی هەزار مێرد Eşkewtî Hezar mêrd (Hazar merd Cave, Cave of a Thousand Men) is actually not a single cave. It is a series of five cave entrances along a limestone cliff at the foot of Mount Baranan. According to local lore, the cave is big enough to accommodate a thousand people, hence the name. The most important of the caves is Ashkawti Tarik (Black Cave), which is 12 m wide an about 10 m high. All those caves are simple shelters, a huge portals followed by a single chamber of almost the same size. They are located at the foot of a vertical limestone cliff and offer a great view of the city Sulaimaniya with is located about 10 km to the northeast.

The caves were used as shelters by prehistoric man. They were excavated in 1928 by Dorothy Garrod. The remains which were found were up to 50,000 years old and belonged to Neanderthal man. The upper layer contained pots and various clay works from the Byzantine and Sassanid period. The second layer is rather thin and contained no human remains. The third layer or lowest layer contained bird skeletons, stone tools and even two hand axes of Moustérien age. It is over 3 m thick.

Really strange is the fact that Dorothy Garrod only kept those pieces that were topologically informative, the rest was thrown away at the site. The findings are on display at the Sulaimaniya Museum. This is the only excavated Middle Palaeolithic site in Iraqi Kurdistan beneath Shanidar Cave.

The cave is easy to reach, through the suburb Hezarmerd, follow the main road, which becomes a single-lane gravel road and leads uphill in serpentines. At the last hairpin curve a trail starts, which leads to all cave entrances.