Ancient Israeli cave reveals early life in the Holy Land
By Karin Kloosterman
June 25, 2008
The Bible mentions all sorts of exotic animals that once roamed the Holy Land, among them lions and bears. These animals have long since disappeared from the region, but a discovery of an ancient cave in the Galilee region of Israel, might shed some light on their early history.
The cave may also be able to paint a picture about the people who once roamed such a historically significant region. Archeologists are calling it "a rare find" and "a sensational discovery," because the cave which is filled with stalagmites, also includes man-made artifacts, human skulls and animal remains.
It is considered the most important prehistoric find in Israel in over 50 years.
A tractor driver building a sewage line in the Western Galilee found it, and recognizing the find's significance called the Israel Antiquities Authority. Dozens of stalagmite caves similar to it have been uncovered in the northern region of Israel in recent years, and about 20 are similar to the Avshalom Cave outside Beit Shemesh, which is now open to the public.
Archeologist Hamoudi Khalaily from the Antiquities Authority was onsite not long after the discovery, but didn't actually go inside the cave. Based on descriptions from colleagues, and without official permission to talk in depth about it, he says the cave looks nearly the same as the cave near Beit Shemesh, and has a big hole in it.
"The cave contains well-developed stalagmites," he tells ISRAEL21c.
Ancient human remains
"The cave is unique," he adds, "because there are human deposits there belonging to the Upper Paleolithic, dated to about 45,000 to 20,000 B.C.E."
Despite the relatively old age, he notes, the most ancient human origins found in Israel are from Ubeidiya, an Early Paleolithic site in the Jordan Valley. The remains date back to 1.8 million years ago. Although Israel and its surrounding region is sometimes referred to as the cradle of modern civilization, Khalaily said the first humans originated in Africa 2.4 million years ago, and only about 200,000 years later started migrating to modern-day Israel.
Archeologists are saying that the cave is no doubt the most impressive prehistoric find in Israel in decades, since it contains a number of flint tools and the bones of animals that are no longer present in the region. They estimate the finds date back to the Stone Age, but no conclusive tests have yet been made. In the coming years, archeologists expect to examine the remains of the cave to better understand the way of life, climate and the type of animals that lived in Israel in prehistoric times.
The cave measures 85 meters long, 40 wide and about 30 meters high. However Prof. Amos Frumkin, who founded the Cave Research Unit at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said that it will only be possible for people to enter the cave sometime in the near future when access is set up. Yinon Shivtiel, a cave researcher from the Tsfat Academic College told local media: "We have not discovered another cave of such size in Israel," and he also noted that better care is needed to protect Israel's caves. Shivtiel said Israeli caves contain "primordial panoramas that are among the most beautiful in the world." (Israel21c)
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