Qesem Cave, the 420,000-Year-Old ‘School of Rock’ from Prehistoric Times


An accidental discovery of an ancient limestone cave has recently provided researchers with interesting insights into the prehistoric life of human ancestors. What’s special about the Qesem Cave is that, unlike other sites where severe cementation hampered studies, the animal remains are well-preserved along with artifacts such as the stone tools used by our distant ancestors. Apart from the animal remains, a total of eight teeth containing some traits of Neanderthals and anatomically modern man were also found. Here is more about the Qesem Cave and the glimpse it gives us into our past.

The Qesem Cave is a limestone cave located in a western mountain ridge of Israel and was found in the year 2000 CE when its ceiling collapsed during road construction. The cave has been occupied for several millennia as long as 420,000 years ago.

After the cave was found in October 2000, two rescue excavations were conducted in 2001. The Turonian limestone cave is located in between the Samaria Hills and the Israeli coastal plain 90 meters above sea level. The excavations revealed that the site is 7.5 meters deep, with the deposits such as stone tools and animal remains buried in two layers: the upper layer 4.5 meters deep, and the lower layer is 3 meters deep. Research in the past decade involving the dating of the burnt flints, speleothems (mineral deposits that form in limestone caves), and herbivorous teeth have established the beginning of the cave’s occupation to 420,000 years ago.

The cave is believed to have been used for butchering, as there are bones from 4,740 prey animals such as roe deer, wild pig, horse, aurochs, and even tortoise and rhinoceros. There is also evidence of the regular use of fire and a 300,000-year-old hearth where meat was cooked.

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