top of page

Nahal Me’arot Nature Reserve, prehistoric man and hikes

There are several trails in Nahal Me’arot. By far the most interesting is the Geological Trail on the north bank of Wadi Me’arot that visits caves used by prehistoric man. Most people are aware that modern man (Homo sapiens) was proceeded by other human species and may even have seen pictures of them, but this may not have fully registered as a reality. Once you visit these caves you will be convinced as there is evidence here of over 500,000 years of hominis habitation. The Nahal Me’arot caves are a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of their cultural and historical significance.


The caves on the banks of Wadi Me’arot would have been wonderful places for early human species to live. Below them was a river with fish, rich vegetation and animals they would have used for food. The latter included fallow deer and gazelles. The bones of a hippopotamus and extinct species of camel and rhinoceros have also been found in the caves. Only a short distance was the sea with even more food for the taking. The water was much closer to the caves than it is today. It was then an ancient sea called the Thetis Sea, which once flooded large parts of the Eastern Mediterranean. It was also higher than it is today due to melting of polar ice caps. The cliffs were created from a reef formed about 100 million years ago. You can even see fossilized marine animals in the rocks, particularly a horn-like shell from a rudist. 





The earliest human-like species was Homo erectus who arose approximately 1.9 million years ago in Africa. He spread to Asia and Europe and was in existence until about 143,00 years ago. He had a similar bone structure to modern man (Homo sapiens). Neanderthal man probably arose from Homo erectus and lived in Europe and parts of Asia from about 400,000 years ago to about 40,000 years ago. It may well be that Israel was the southern-most place in the world reached by Neanderthal man. Homo sapiens is modern man and he emerged in Africa, possibly from Homo erectus and eventually spread throughout the world. The finding here of Homo sapiens was early evidence of his migration outside of Africa. Of considerable interest was the finding of burial of Neanderthals from the Tabun Cave and Homo sapiens from the most eastern Skhul Cave, indicating that about 100,000 years ago they coexisted.




     Do you find my website interesting and helpful?

Then you are sure to love my two new books "In and Around Jerusalem for Everyone - The Best Walks, Hikes and Outdoor Pools" and "The Struggle for Utopia - A History of Jewish, Christian and Islamic Messianism". Both books are available on Amazon and in Jerusalem bookstores. Click on each of the titles for information, reviews and purchase information.

  • After climbing some rock steps, you will come to the Tabun Cave. Displayed in front of you are different archeological layers that extend 25 meters in depth, span about half a million years, and show evidence that three species of hominims lived here.


The earliest culture to live here was the Acheulen culture. They were Homo erectus species and lived here from about 500,00 to 400,000 years ago. This was followed by the Achelo-Yabrudian culture. Then came the Homo sapiens Mousterian culture which began about 250,000 years ago and existed for some 200,000 years. During these different cultures, stone tools, and eventually bone tools, became more sophisticated. This cave was probably big enough for 25 to 50 people to live in.  


  • The next cave along is the bell-shaped Jamal Cave which has a display of models engaged in the day-to-day life of Homo sapiens species and some of their flint and bone tools. The use of fire was an important innovation because it broke down the muscle fibers of animals and made their meat soft enough to be eaten. 


  • The final cave you will visit, the El-Wad Cave, is a long cave. At its end is shown a short movie on the life-style of prehistoric man.


Outside the cave are the ruins of the Natufian culture which existed some 12,000 years ago and lasted for about 4,000 years. This culture marks the transition from a purely hunter-gatherer existence to a settled or semi-sedentary way of life. These people established semi-permanent and even permanent habitation. There was early experimentation with agriculture, with wild wheat and barley, and they collected nuts and legumes. They may have begun some animal domestication, particularly of dogs. They also showed artistic expression with bone and stone carvings and a shell necklace. They also had cemeteries. Niches can be seen in a stone wall. Their function is not known but they may indicate some ritual function and even a belief in an afterlife.


  • From here it is a gradual descent to the Visitor Center.

Prehistoric man in Nahal Me'arot

Prehistoric life in Wadi Me'arot

Tabun cave in Nahal Me'arot

Archeological layers in Tabun Cave

Other trails in the reserve:

The circular Botanical Route is a delightful trail into the Carmel Mountains that is highly recommended. It takes about 2¼ hours and is about 4 Km in length. It is slightly to moderately difficult, but is not dangerous and is suitable for families with older children. There is little shade except at the top of the mountain range. The way up is more difficult than the way down, but I found that for many of the rock faces that need to be climbed, there is a side path at the side that makes it quite easy. Hiking poles can be useful especially on the way down because of loose stones.


The trailhead is just outside the visitor center through a grey gate and is marked to Skhul Cave. The trail goes about 800 meters along the wadi and then turns right on a footpath up the hill.  The path is clearly marked with blue-markings.










Nahal Mearot I.jpeg
Nahal Mearot II.jpeg

The Shvil Yisrael (Israel Trail) crosses Nahal Me’arot and continues along the boundary between Mount Carmel and the Carmel coast. In a southern direction it goes towards Zichron Yaakov. There is also a circular Opher Lookout trail that takes about 5½ hours. A there and back hike to the Ofer Lookout is much shorter.

bottom of page