A wealth of new information about the way of life of early man in the eastern Mediterranean, long before the invention of the wheel, is likely to be uncovered after the startling discovery of a cave inhabited by hunter-gatherers between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago.
Workers constructing a sewage line through a forest in northern Israel stumbled across a large cave containing stalactites and strewn with discarded fragments of prehistoric tools and the burnt bones of animals which have long been extinct in the region, including red deer, fallow deer, buffalo and even bears.
While examination of the remains is at a preliminary stage, experts have hailed the discovery - at an undisclosed location in western Galilee - as the most important of its kind in the southern Levant for up to half a century. Dr Ofer Marder, the head of the prehistory branch of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), and an archaeologist colleague were lowered 30m down into the darkness by rope. He described the cave as "one of the best preserved I have seen" and added: "It was if prehistoric man had left it five days earlier."
Dr Marder said: "It seems that, during the past 40 to 50 years, no cave has been found with such a wealth of prehistoric finds and certainly not inside such a lovely stalactite cave." He said it contained a number of chambers, the main one measuring 60m by 80m - not much smaller than a football pitch.
The IAA said the cave appeared to date from the Upper Palaeolithic period but could have been inhabited even earlier than that. Much more detailed examination of the cave and its contents is needed than the two or three hours Dr Marder and his colleagues have so far spent there. …