In June–July 2016 a salvage excavation was carried out in Ge’ula Cave in the Vardiya neighborhood of Haifa (Permit No. A-7723; map ref. 200221–334/744552–661), prior to construction. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the Shikun Ovdim Company and the Dan David Foundation, was directed by O. Barzilai, with the assistance of Y. Amrani and E. Bachar (administration), D. Kirzner (preliminary inspection), T. Abulafia, M. Shemer and L. Davis (area supervision), R. Mishayev, R. Liran and M. Kahan (surveying and drafting), A. Dagot (GPS), A. Peretz (field photography), I. Hershkovitz and H. May (physical anthropology), M. Orbach and R. Yeshurun (archaeozoology), A. Frumkin and M. Ullman (speleology), N. Shtober-Zisu (geology), P. Gendelman (consulting), L. Talmi and K. Sa‘id (planning and organizational support) and C. Amit (studio photography). Students from Tel Aviv University and Ben-Gurion University also participated in the dig, as well as workers from Wadi ‘Ara.
Ge’ula Cave is located at the foot of the hilltop of Vardiyya neighborhood in Haifa, c. 15 m above Nahal Tan—a tributary of Nahal Giborim. An excavation of the cave in 1958–1964 (Wreschner 1967) focused on two chambers (A, B; Fig. 1), which had been preserved from a large cave damaged by quarrying during the British Mandate period. Only Chamber B (c. 50 sq m) revealed prehistoric finds: three archaeological strata that contain animal bones and flint artifacts; human remains were also found, in the lower stratum (Arensburg 2002). All the finds were attributed to the Middle Paleolithic period.
The site and its surroundings were surveyed and cleared mechanically of vegetation and a rockfall. Remains of animal bones and flint artifacts, including Middle Paleolithic tools, were collected in the area of Chamber B. In the area of Chamber A, animal bones and flint artifacts were discerned in a sediment profile in the cliff and in a layer of breccia.
The 2016 excavation season focused on two new chambers (C, D) discovered north of Chamber B; on a sediment profile found in a natural rock chimney; and on an area of breccia found between Chamber A and the chimney.
Chambers C and D. The openings of these two small spaces (Figs. 2, 3) are c. 5 m apart; the two chambers are connected by a long, narrow corridor (length c. 4 m; Fig. 4). The opening into Chamber C was identified at the time by Wreschner (1967: Fig. 2). The stratigraphic sequence identified in both chambers comprises three strata (Fig. 5) that conform to Wreschner’s description of Chamber B. The lower stratum (3; thickness 0.10–0.15 m) is a compact dark brown sediment containing numerous animal bones, two human teeth and a few flint objects; some of the bones and flint artifacts appear burned. A rockfall separated Stratum 3 and the stratum above it (2; thickness 0.15 m)—friable dark brown sediment containing numerous animal bones and a few flint objects attributed to the Middle Paleolithic period. The upper stratum (1; thickness 0.2 m) consisted of friable light gray soil with numerous animal bones, some of them modern.
The chimney. A rock chimney was identified in the cliff; it was filled with reddish sediment that penetrated the cave (Fig. 6). The sediment in the chimney was compact and contained layers of small stones. A small area (1.2 × 3.0 m) was excavated at the base of the chimney down to the rock shelf. The rock shelf and the layers of stones incline northward, apparently due to the collapse of the shelf, though it is unclear whether this occurred naturally or as a result of quarrying. A few finds were discovered in the layers of stones, including fragments of animal bones and flint items identified with the Middle Paleolithic period.
The breccia. A thick layer of breccia (c. 20 sq m; thickness 1–2 m; Fig. 7) abutted Chamber A. It contained numerous flint artifacts characteristic of the Middle Paleolithic period, as well as a few fragments of animal bones. It may be assumed that the layer of breccia represents the main activity area of the cave’s inhabitants. The original size of the layer could not be determined because it had been cut by quarrying in its northern and western parts, and its continuation to the south and east runs below the surface. Large rocks found above the breccia area were apparently part of the cave’s ceiling that had collapsed. It is unclear whether the cave once included Chambers B–D or was separate from them.
Faunal remains. The size and nature of the fauna assemblages differ and represent a variety of activities; the bones in Chambers C and D were brought into the cave by predators. The assemblages of bones in all the strata were well preserved and represent a rich variety of species, including mammals—Rodentia, Ungutata and Carnivora (Figs. 8–10)—reptiles and birds. The excellent preservation of the bones made it possible to identify signs of predator activity—bite marks, perforation and digestion. Among the species of predators were Eurasian cave lion, bear and mainly spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta; Fig. 9). Many of the bones revealed signs of rodents; especially prominent were massive signs of gnawing, attributed to an extinct species of porcupine found in the cave (Hystrix refossa; Fig. 10). In contrast to the bones from the chambers, the bones from the chimney and breccia show signs of intentional breakage, typical of human activity aimed at removing the bone marrow. Medium-sized mammals were predominant in this assemblage.
Flint artifacts. The flint finds were typical of the Middle Paleolithic period. In Chambers C and D there were several objects, mainly complete tools and flakes, including Levallois scrapers and points (Fig. 11). Many flint items were found in the area of the breccia, including cores, knapping debitage and tools (Fig. 12). The composition of the flint assemblage in this area indicates flint knapping activity inside the cave.
The excavation focused on Chambers C and D, the chimney and the breccia layer. Three strata of human activity were found in both chambers, as well as in Chamber B, which was excavated by Wreschner: the early stratum (3) yielded burned flint artifacts and bones; the middle stratum (2) revealed extensive predator activity, mainly by spotted hyena, which is now extinct in our area; and the late stratum (1) had evidence of rodent activity, particularly bone gnawing by porcupines. Sediments in the chimney that had penetrated from outside the cave were examined. The finds in its profile included a few animal bones and flint artifacts, attesting that this part was also in use by humans during the Middle Paleolithic period. The stratum of breccia represents a chamber in the cave where the ceiling was not preserved due to natural erosion. The considerable thickness of this stratum (as much as 2 m) indicates use during a prolonged period in the Middle Paleolithic. The existence of a cave whose ceiling had collapsed is indicated by large boulders that covered the layer of breccia and by this layer abutting the vertical rock wall.
The Chambers which together comprise Ge’ula Cave are the only known group of caves in the northern part of Mount Carmel. Most of the known caves on Mount Carmel are in its western part, at a lower elevation. The latter include, for example, Nahal Ha-Me‘arot, Kebara Cave and Sefunim Cave. Future research on the findings from Ge’ula Cave will focus, among other topics, on the cultural characteristics and the chronology of the Middle Paleolithic period in the cave, on the association between this cave and cave sites in the western Carmel and on reconstruction of the paleoenvironment based on the animal-bone assemblage. Such research will contribute greatly to the study of the human evolution and material culture in the Carmel area during the Middle Paleolithic period.
Arensburg B. 2002. Human Remains from Geula Cave, Haifa. Bulletins et mémoires de la Société d’Anthropologie de Paris 14/1–2:141–148.
Wreschner E. 1967. The Geula Caves – Mount Carmel. Quaternaria 9:69–140.