Nahal Mearot Nature Reserve

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​World Heritage Site.
A prehistoric experience in caves in which humans lived for hundreds of thousands of years, as well as short walks along rocky cliffs, in the rich world of nature on the Carmel Mountain.

 Routes

  • Caves of Prehistoric Man, including an audio-visual show
  • Circular botanical route
  • Circular geological route
  • The "Prehistoric Man" Trail - a route that climbs up steps to the entrance of the Tabun (Oven) Cave, named for the opening in its ceiling.  The first excavations in this cave were conducted in 1927, headed by Dorothy Garrod.   A team from Haifa University is currently excavating the cave, and they have reached a depth of about 20 meters.  The route continues on to the Camel (Jamal) Cave, named for its hump shape.   The activity in this cave may have included the processing of raw materials.  The cave contains displays showing human life styles in the various prehistoric periods.  The next cave along the route, the el-Wad (the Stream) Cave, consists of an extensive entrance hall, at the end of which there is a 70-meter long corridor.  In front of the cave there is a broad rocky platform.  The main findings in this cave are those of the Aurignacian culture (40,000 to 20,000 years ago).  The cave was abandoned a few thousand years ago, and when humans returned there, they lived mainly in the entrance hall and on the rock platform in front of the cave (Natufian culture, 12,000-10,000 years before our time).  In this cave there is an audio-visual display demonstrating the lifestyle of prehistoric man, and at the entrance there is a reconstruction of a burial site.
  • The Botanical Trail - a circular route marked with blue trail marks.  The trail leads eastwards along the Nahal Me'arot and climbs up the southern side of the stream, through thick Mediterranean woodland, to the top of the ridge, where it passes through a natural forest of Jerusalem Pine (Pinus halepensis).  From there it continues westward to an observation point giving an impressive view towards the Carmel Coast and the sea, and descends back to the starting point. 
  • The Geological Trail - a circular route which climbs up to the northern cliff of the reserve.  The trail is marked with wooden sign-posts with arrows and station numbers.  From the highest point in the trail there is a spectacular view towards the Carmel coastal plain.

     The trail to the Kids (Es Skhul) Cave - a short trail leading to the most easterly prehistoric cave along Nahal Me'arot.  In this cave were found skeletons of modern man (Homo sapiens), belonging to the Mousterian culture (90,000 years ago).   This finding shows that modern man lived alongside Neanderthals, who occupied the Tabun Cave.

Observation Points

From the entrance to the Tabun Cave and from the top of the cliff on the northern bank of the stream, on the Geological Trail, there are spectacular views of the Carmel coastal plain. 

Identity card


Status: The area was declared a nature reserve in 1971 and was expanded in 1994.

 Reasons for the Declaration:

  • To preserve a prehistoric site of global importance
  • To represent the fauna and flora typifying a range of habitats on the Carmel
  • To preserve the large reef of Rodist fossils.

Location in Israel:

The nature reserve is on the Carmel Coast, at the foot of the Carmel Mountain

Fauna

The nature reserve is very rich in fauna.  The animals in the reserve are representative of those living on the Carmel, including mammals, such as wild boar (Sus scrofa), common badger (Meles meles), rock hyrax (Procavia capensis) and bats, raptors, various species of song birds and reptiles.

  • In the past - excavations conducted in the caves exposed the bones of animals that were hunted in prehistoric times, by means of which it is possible to reconstruct which animals lived on the Carmel tens of thousands of years ago.  According to the findings, 120,000 years ago hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibious) lived on the Carmel Coast (and survived up to the Iron Age) and Nile crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus) (which survived until the 20th century).  There were also wart hogs (Phacochoerus africanus), common eland (Taurotragus oryx), leopards (Panthera pardus), hyenas, mongoose (Herpestes), Egyptian jackals (Canis aureus lupaster), mountain gazelle (Gazella gazella), rats, mice and rock hyrax. These animals are all African type fauna.  In the course of the Mousterian period (60,000 - 50,000 years ago) many species became extinct, probably due to environmental changes.   Out of the many animals that lived on the Carmel and on the coast we can mention the wild horse (Equus ferus, the onager (Equus hemionus) and the Mediterranean zebra, the wild goat (Capra aegagrus), the brown bear (Ursus arctos) , the fox (Vulpes vulpes) and the wolf (Canis rufus).
  • In the present - going from west to east along the riverbed one can see a phenomenon in which species of animals from a dry, southern desert background live in one area of the reserve, with animals and plants from northern humid regions living in another area.  The range of habitats and the relative isolation of the reserve provide a home for a broad variety of creatures.  Wild boar (Sus scrofa) and jackals (Canis aureus aureus) hide in the thickets on the slopes, and foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and porcupines (Hystricidae)  dig their dens in between the soft marly rocks.  You will also find here the common badger (Meles meles), the rock hyrax (Procavia capensis) and the Cairo spiny mouse (Acomys cahirinus). Among the birds there are the Eurasian eagle-owl (Bubo bubo), Eurasian sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) and long-legged buzzard (Buteo rufinus).  In addition, the Nature and Parks Authority has taken action to restore the lanner falcon (Falco biarmicus) to the reserve.

Flora

The reserve is typified by Mediterranean woodland, with a natural forest of Jerusalem Pine (Pinus halepensis) along the ridge.  The vegetation on the banks of the stream is divided - on the southern bank grows rich Mediterranean vegetation, while the vegetation on northern bank is poor in woody plants and rich in grasses.  On the high cliffs grows a range of cliff plants, among others "Cretan Cabbage" (Brassica cretica), which grows in Israel only along Nahal Me'arot.

The vegetation growing in the Nahal Me'arot nature reserve is typical of the low hilly Mediterranean area.  Within the boundaries of the reserve the slope facing south is low in woody vegetation and rich in grassy plants, while the slope facing north is rich in thick Mediterranean woodland trees.  This phenomenon is unique here because the distance between the two slopes is only a few dozen meters.

The southern slope is more exposed to sunshine and therefore is typified by vegetation more resistant to dryness.  Here the common carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua) is dominant and is accompanied by the mastic bush (Pistacia lentiscus).  The northern slope is dominated by the common oak (Quercus) and Broad-Leaved Phillyrea (Phillyrea latifolia), up which climb the Etruscan honesuckle (Lonicera etrusca) and the Tamus vine.

On the tops of the ridges, on Rendzina soil developing on chalky rocks, grow Jerusalem Pine trees and shrubs of Genista fasselata, a plant unique to the Carmel.  Another rare plant growing there is cytisopsis pseudocytisus. 

The cliffs create a special habitat in the reserve.   Plants typical of the cliffs are the Dianthus pendulus - a species of carnation, golden drop (Podonosma orientalis)  and golden henabane (Hyoscyamus aureus).  On the slopes of the western cliffs the Jerusalem spurge (Euphorbia hierosolymitana) bush is widespread.  In places which suffered from fires, the spiny broom (Calicotome villosa), sage-leaved rock-rose (Cistus salviifolius) and pink rock-rose (Cistus creticus) are common.  On the cliffs of Nahal Me'arot grows the perennial "Cretan Cabbage"(Brassica cretica), a wild relative of the cultivated cabbage, which grows only along Nahal Me'arot, and is therefore an endangered plant in Israel.

Other rare species growing in the reserve are the small laurestine tree (Viburnum tinus) (growing in the reserve as a bush), Yellow wort (Chlora perfoliata), Cytisopsis pseudocytisus growing on the chalky rocks, Palestine stonecrop (Sedum Palaestinum) and sweet clover (Melilotus italicus) - an annual, of the Papilionaceae family, with yellow flowers.

History and Archaeology

The reserve contains a succession of prehistoric cultures lasting about a million years, a rare phenomenon in Israel and the world, and it is the only site in Israel presenting to the public the life in the prehistoric period on the site where it occurred.

The study of the caves was begun in 1928, and it continues intermittently to this day.  Human remains have been discovered from the lower stone age.

  • The Lower Paleolithic period (in Nahal Me'arot - from 1,000,000 to 250,000 years before the present):  the human culture that lived at that time is called Acheulian.  In this period, for the first time in human history, people made well-defined flint hand tools, by knocking chips off flint cores.  The stone tools served to create wooden utensils and to cut meat.  At the end of the period, when the culture became known as Acheulian-Yabrudian, tools for scraping hides were added.
  • The Middle Paleolithic period (250,000 to 50,000 years before our time):  the remains of the Mousterian culture were discovered in the caves.  In this period Modern Man and Neanderthals may have lived side by side in the caves along the stream.  Prominent findings in the reserve are the burial of a Neanderthal woman in the Tabun cave and a concentration of graves of Modern Man in the Kids Cave.   The first evidence of the existence of Modern Man outside Africa was discovered within the boundaries of the reserve, and possibly of the earliest ancounter between Homo sapiens, who immigrated from Africa, with the Euro-Asiatic Neanderthals.  According to the findings, the inhabitants of the caves of both types of humanoids regularly lit fires and hunted animals, such as the mountain gazelle and the Persian fallow deer (Dama mesopotamica).  The flint stones created by the techniques typical of the Acheulian culture are very common.  In the Kids Cave beads made of shells were discovered and remnants of ochre, a mineral used for coloring, collected from far away.  This is one of the earliest testimonies in the world to the use of objects of symbolic value.
  • The Upper Paleolithic (50,000 to 20,000 years ago):  during this period, Modern Man crossed oceans and dispersed all over the world, and it may be assumed that he was able to build boats.  Flint tools were improved and tools made of bone and deer horns were found.  Based on the excavation in the el-Wad Cave, Dorothy Garrod defined a new type of culture typified by decorated flint tools, and called it the "Atlit Culture".
  • The Epipaleolithic (15,000 to 11,500 years ago): remains of the Natufian culture from this period were discovered in the el-Wad Cave.  Humans apparently established a permanent or semi-permanent settlement at the foot of this cave.  Remains of residential structures and a support wall built of stone were found here.  More than a hundred graves, mortars, art objects and an enormous quantity of detritus from human settlement were found.  The findings of the excavations in the Natufian layer in the el-Wad Cave played a major role in defining this culture as a stage between the Paleolithic wanderers culture and the Neolithic agricultural culture.

Geology and Geomorphology

There is a steep cliff in the reserve, consisting mainly of a reef of fossilized marine rudist bivalves. In the rest of the reserve the rocks are dolomite, hard limestone and chalk typical of the Carmel.

On the west of the Carmel and in the Nahal Me'arot nature reserve there is a cliff which is actually a reef consisting of fossilized marine creatures who lived in the sea 115 to 90 million years ago.  The most common fossils in this cliff are those of rudist bivalves, which became extinct about 65 million years ago.

The rudist bivalve consists of a lower, roughly conical valve that was attached to the seafloor or to neighboring rudists, and a smaller, upper valve that served as a kind of lid for the organism.  The rudist was able to open and close its upper valve at will.

Many caves on the Carmel, among them those along Nahal Me'arot, are on the reef cliff.  The reef rocks are full of holes, so water can percolate through them relatively easily, dissolve them and create cavities.  The cliff on the west of the Carmel was created due to the fact that, in the geologic past, it faced the sea and absorbed the impact of the waves. 

On the eastern side, the Carmel consists of hard limestone and dolomite, which create a landscape of steps and terraces.  Dolomite is formed in shallow seas or lagoons, and it may be that the rudist reefs blocked the sea thus creating the lagoons behind them, which led to the development of these rocks.

Hydrology

Nahal Me'arot is a seasonal stream, in which water flows only in winter, the rainy season.

Nahal Me'arot drains the western side of the Carmel, and streams feeding it come from the area between Daliat Al Carmel in the north and Kerem Maharal in the south.  The length of the principal channel is about 12 kms, and its drainage basin stretches over approximately 40 square kilometers.  Since it is a seasonal stream, water flows in it only from the winter flooding.  The stream's drainage basin is in an area where annual rainfall averages about 700 mm.

When the stream reaches the Carmel coastal plain, it becomes an alluvial stream, creating an alluvial plain.  This part of the stream has been regularized by the Carmel Drainage Authority, and is routed between fields and settlements to prevent flooding.

Activities of​ the Nature and Parks Authority

  • In the past entry into the Prehistoric Man caves was free.  Many people used to light candles and bonfires in them, garbage accumulated and access to the caves was by many steep irregular trails.  In 1989 the Nature and Parks Authority organized the caves for public visits, while preserving their archaeological values.
  • In 2012 UNESCO declared the Nahal Me'arot nature reserve a World Heritage site, containing international value for the study of the development of Man.
  • In 1996 the UN declared the Carmel a Biosphere Reserve.  The Nahal Me'arot nature reserve is in an area defined as a buffer between the biosphere reserve core in which there is maximum conservation, and the transition area, in which extensive human activity takes place.  Being a buffer zone, it is possible to conduct tours and research in the reserve.
  • Studies of flora were conducted to locate rare species of plants within the boundaries of the nature reserve, and a multi-annual investigation was held on the changes in vegetation.  Additional random studies are conducted every few years.
  • Studies were conducted to locate raptors' nests in the cliffs along Nahal Me'arot.
  • Establishment of the population of the rare "Cretan cabbage".   Between 1999 and 2001, and from 2013, seeds of this plant were collected in order to plant them and increase the number of sites where it appears along Nahal Me'arot.
  • Studies were held to locate the species of bats living in the caves.
  • Two winter pools were excavated within the boundaries of the reserve in 2001 in order to encourage the population of amphibians on the Carmel, and to enable studies of amphibians in the pools every few years.
  • Lesser kestrels (Falco naumanni) were released into the wild within the boundaries of the reserve at the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st centuries.
  • In 1999, the blue trail route (the "Botanical Trail") was altered, in order to reduce the impact of hikers on the fauna, particularly the nests of the long-legged buzzard (Buteo rufinus).  At the same time, the rehabilitation of the old path was watched, and the development or regression of vegetation on the new path was monitored.

​How to get there​

On Highway No. 4 (Old Tel Aviv - Haifa road) 8 kms. north of the Faradis Intersection.

For those coming from the north, there is no left turn (continuous white line).  Continue to the entrance of Moshav Geva Carmel.

After about 500 meters, turn around and return towards the north.

Bus route 921 from Tel Aviv to Haifa.  For details call Egged Information.

 

What else is there:​

Regional information station, regional instruction center, marked trails - geological, botanical, accompanied by information sheets, souvenir store, cafeteria.

 

Entrance fee

Single Adult- NIS 22;  Child- NIS 9.

Groups (over 30 persons): Adult- NIS 19;  Child- NIS 8.

Students: NIS 9.

 

Opening Hours:

The entrance to the Park is closed one hour before the times given below:

 

Summer:

Sundays thru Thursdays and Shabbat: 8:00 - 15:00

Fridays and eves of religious festivals:  8:00 - 16:00

 

Winter:

Sundays thru Fridays and Shabbat: 8:00 - 16:00

Fridays and eves of religious festivals: 8:00 - 15:00

 

On the eves of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Pesach:  8:00 - 13:00

 

Communication

Telephone: 04-9841750/2

Fax:  04-9843144

 

Entry for Dogs

Forbidden.

 

 

 

Site pamphlet
    Content under construction, the information apears soon.

    ​In the Nahal Me'arot nature reserve adaptations to make the site accessible to people with disabilities are being made. Adaptations currently in place include:

    • Parking
    • snack bar and souvenir store
    • restroom
    • assistance along the trail inside the cave is available by prior arrangement with the reserve's staff.

    32.671057,34.964693
    Nahal Mearot Nature Reserve

     Content Editor

    Nahal Mearot Nature Reserve