Four caves that contain evidence spanning millennia of human development in
Mount Carmel joined the likes of the Egyptian pyramids, the Leaning Tower of
Pisa and the Great Wall of China on an exclusive list on Friday.
United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) voted to
add the adjacent Nahal Me’arot/Wadi El-Mughara caves – Tabun, Jamal, El-Wad and
Skhul – to its World Heritage List.
The vote to add the caves, as well as
14 other sites around the world, took place as part of the 36th session of the
World Heritage Committee, which began on June 24 and runs through July 6 in St.
“I am happy that UNESCO skipped over political
differences and recognized an Israeli heritage site containing many values of
heritage and history, Jewish and universal,” said Shaul Goldstein, head of the
Israel Nature and Parks Authority, which has administered the caves since 1971.
“The Nature and Parks Authority will continue to make every effort in order to
preserve and nurture this site and hundreds of other sites under our
The four caves are “located in one of the best preserved
fossilized reefs of the Mediterranean region” and contain artifacts covering
500,000 years of human evolution, from the Lower Paleolithic era till today,
according to a summary document printed by the World Heritage Committee in
The 54-hectare (22-acre) area provides evidence for the transition
from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to an agriculture-based, more sedentary
community life and contains relics from the era of the Neanderthals to early
anatomically modern humans, a statement following the vote reported. After 90
years of archeological research in the region, scientists have uncovered “a
cultural sequence of unparalleled duration, providing an archive of early human
life in southwest Asia,” the statement said.
The decision to include the
caves on the list was supported by detailed documents produced by the
International Council on Monuments and Sites and the International Union for
Conservation of Nature, both nongovernmental organizations.
was declared because it represents ‘a unique or at least evidence of exceptional
cultural traditions or alive or extinct culture,’” said Dr. Zvika Tsuk, chief
archeologist at the INPA.
The caves reflect the prehistoric culture of
man including the Acheulian period (200,000-500,000 years ago), the
Acheulo-Yabrudian period (100,000-150,000 years ago), the Mousterian period
(40,000-100,000 years ago), the Aurignacian period (12,000-40,000 years ago) and
the Natufian period (9,000-12,000 years), Tsuk explained. So expansive is the
fossilization there that “fascinating evidence of the sequence human cultures is
revealed spanning hundreds of thousands of years,” he said.
and archeological research, which began early last century, revealed through
decades of excavation and years of research amazing findings of different and
diverse flint tools, that represent culture and development of human heritage
from prehistoric times,” he said, emphasizing the marked transition from
hunter-gather to permanent, agriculture-based settlement.
“This is one of
the few places in the world where it is possible to see this,” Tsuk
At a conference in Minorca, Spain, in April – the First
International Conference on Best Practices in World Heritage: Archeology – Prof.
Mina Weinstein-Evron of the University of Haifa had advocated for the addition
of the caves to the UNESCO list.
“The Mount Carmel caves, subjected to
multi-disciplinary research since the late 1920s, are undoubtedly among the most
famous prehistoric sites,” Weinstein-Evron wrote in the abstract of her
“The potential for local and international education
and community involvement requires integrated educational endeavors considering
groups of various ages, religious and social backgrounds, and the scientific
community,” wrote Weinstein- Evron, who serves as head of the Zinman Institute
of Archeology and the head of the Palynology Laboratory.
how well-known these prehistoric caves are throughout the world, she called them
“a key site for the study of human biological and cultural evolution,” in the
“The site provides a connection to place and time in
the form of human heritage that is relevant to all, transcending national,
ethnic and religious divides,” Weinstein-Evron said.