Мезмайская пещера

Mezmaiskaya Cave

Useful Information

Location: Sukhoi Kurdzhips river, northwestern foothills of the North Caucasus.
(44° 10′ 0″ N, 40° 0′ 0″ E)
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave
Light: n/a
Dimension: L=35 m, W=25 m, H=10 m, A=1,310 m asl.
Guided tours:
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Gennady Baryshnikova, John F. Hoffeckerb, Robin L. Burgess (1996): Palaeontology and Zooarchaeology of Mezmaiskaya Cave (Northwestern Caucasus, Russia), Journal of Archaeological Science. 23 (3): 313–335. doi:10.1006/jasc.1996.0030. online
Liubov Golovanova, John Hoffecker, V. Kharitonov, G. Romanova (1999): Mezmaiskaya Cave: A Neanderthal Occupation in the Northern Caucasus, Current Anthropology. 40. 77 - 86. online
M. Hajdinjak, Q. Fu, A. Hübner (): Reconstructing the genetic history of late Neanderthals, Nature 555, 652–656 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature26151. online
Address: Mezmaiskaya 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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1987 beginning of excavation by Lubow Golowanowa.
1993 first Neanderthal individual Mezmaiskaya 1 was recovered.
1994 Mezmaiskaya 2 and Mezmaiskaya 3 excavated.
2003 end of excavations.


The Мезмайская пещера (Mezmaiskaya Cave) is a cave ruin which consists only of a single chamber with a huge portal. The cave is quite high, but after the entrance it quickly narrows while staying high. The floor in the entrance is rocky because of the frost weathering of the rock. The back has clay on the floor.

This small cave is of no speleologic interest, but it is a very important site with numerous Neanderthal remains. While Homo neanderthalensis is well-known in pop culture the archaeological remains are quite sparse. So any neanderthal site is actually of great importance.

Initial excavations revealed Mousterian artifacts. The Mousterian lasted from 160,000 to 40,000 BP and is more or less the age of the neanderthals. Modern man reached Europe probably 45,000 years ago. The cave revealed seven layers which were dated between 70,000 and 40,000 BP.

In the early 1990s the remains of three Neanderthal individuals were recovered. The first is an almost complete skeleton in a well preserved state of an two weeks old infant. It is the youngest Neanderthal ever recovered and dated to be 70-60,000 years old. Mezmaiskaya 2 are 24 skull fragments of a 1-2 year-old male Neanderthal child. The third is only a recovered tooth dated around 44,600-42,960 BP.

Beneath the Neanderthal remains more than 6000 large mammal and numerous small vertebrate remains have been recovered. Noteable are steppe bison (Bison priscus), Caucasian goat (Capra caucasica), Asiatic mouflon (Ovis orientalis), and reindeer (Rangifer tarandus).

It seems the excavations have stopped and the site was filled in. As it has a rather nice setting it is sometimes visited by tourists.