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Decision : 36 COM 8B.13
Mixed Properties - Sites of Human Evolution at Mount Carmel: The Nahal Me’arot / Wadi el-Mughara Caves (Israel)

The World Heritage Committee,

1.   Having examined Documents WHC-12/36.COM/8B, WHC-12/36.COM/INF.8B1 and WHC-12/36.COM/INF.8B2,

2.   Inscribes the Sites of Human Evolution at Mount Carmel: The Nahal Me’arot / Wadi el-Mughara Caves, Israel, on the World Heritage List on the basis of criteria (iii) and (v);

3.   Adopts the following Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:

Brief synthesis

The four Mount Carmel caves (Tabun, Jamal, el-Wad and Skhul) and their terraces are clustered adjacent to each other along the south side of the Nahal Me’arot/Wadi el-Mughara valley. The steep-sided valley opening to the coastal plain on the west side of the Carmel range provides the visual setting of a prehistoric habitat.

Located in one of the best preserved fossilised reefs of the Mediterranean region, the site contains cultural deposits representing half a million years of human evolution from the Lower Palaeolithic to the present. It is recognised as providing a definitive chronological framework at a key period of human development.

Archaeological evidence covers the appearance of modern humans, deliberate burials, early manifestations of stone architecture and the transition from hunter-gathering to agriculture. The attributes carrying Outstanding Universal Value include the four caves, terraces, unexcavated deposits and excavated artefacts and skeletal material; the Nahal Me’arot/ Wadi el-Mughara landscape providing the prehistoric setting of the caves; el-Wad Terrace excavations, and remains of stone houses and pits comprising evidence of the Natufian hamlet.

Criterion (iii): The site of the Nahal Me'arot/ Wadi el-Mughara Caves displays one of the longest prehistoric cultural sequences in the world. From the Acheulian complex, at least 500,000 years BP, through the Mousterian culture of 250,000-45,000 years BP, and up to the Natufian culture of 15,000-11,500 years BP and beyond, it testifies to at least half a million years of human evolution. Significantly, the site demonstrates the unique existence of both. Neanderthals and Early Anatomically Modern Humans (EAMH) within the same Middle Palaeolithic cultural framework, the Mousterian. As such, it has become a key site of the chrono-stratigraphic framework for human evolution in general, and the prehistory of the Levant in particular. Research at Nahal Me'arot/ Wadi el-Mughara Caves has been ongoing since 1928, and continues to promote multidisciplinary scientific dialogue. The potential for further excavation and archaeological research at the site is to date far from exhausted.

Criterion (v):The Nahal Me'arot/ Wadi el-Mughara Caves are a central site of the Natufian culture in its Mediterranean core zone. This significant regional culture of the late Epi-Palaeolithic period presents the transition from Palaeolithic to Neolithic ways of life, from nomadic to complex, sedentary communities, bearing testimony to the last hunter-gatherer society and the various adaptations it underwent on the threshold of agriculture.


The Nahal Me’arot/Wadi el-Mughara site includes all elements necessary to express the values of the property, comprising the caves and the visual habitat. The caves are intact, in good condition and do not suffer from neglect, except in the case of Skhul Cave, which has been partly defaced with graffiti. The visual habitat defined as the caves, the terrace in which the caves are found and the area that can be viewed from the caves is intact except below Skhul Cave, where Eucalyptus trees are growing along the riverbed around the water pumping station.


Archaeological research over 90 years has established the authenticity of the Nahal Me’arot/Wadi el-Mughara site as a crucial record of human, biological, behavioural and cultural origins. The caves, terraces and excavated structures, together with excavated artefacts and human remains, truthfully and credibly express the values of the property. The authenticity of the habitat is impacted by the alien Eucalyptus trees and water pumping station.

Protection and Management requirements

Legal protection is provided at the highest national level possible in Israel. The caves and their surroundings were declared a National Nature Reserve in 1971. The property is protected by the National Parks, Nature Reserves, National Sites and Memorial Sites Law 1998, administered by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) and the Antiquities Law (1978) and the Antiquities Authorities Law (1989). Research activities or excavations within the property require permits from both the INPA and the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). INPA and IAA share responsibility for the management of the archaeological resources that sustain the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. An agreement between the Antiquities Authority and the INPA (2005) outlines the effective protocol necessary to facilitate cooperation, conservation and management of Antiquities in Israel’s Nature Reserves and National Parks.

A steering committee of stakeholders was established to oversee the nomination and will serve as a governing body that integrates local, regional, and national management of the site. The steering committee includes representatives of the INPA, the IAA, archaeologists from Haifa University, the Carmel Drainage Authority, Kibbutz Ein HaCarmel and Moshav Geva Carmel (who leases the agricultural land designated as Buffer Zone B), the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, the Society for the Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites, the Carmelim Tourism Organization, and the Hof HaCarmel Regional Council. A Site Conservation and Management Programme describing all management procedures for the site was prepared in 2003 and currently serves as the foundation for the day to day management of the site.

4.   Recommends that the State Party give consideration to the following:

a)   Removing the invasive Eucalyptus trees growing along the valley floor below Skhul Cave,

b)   Downsizing, conceal or remove the water pumping station located near Skhul Cave,

c)   Cleaning off the graffiti observed on the wall of Skhul Cave,

d)   Including Skhul Cave on the main tourist circuit and improve the presentation of the cave in order to enhance its protection, better integrate the cave with the others, and ensure that its significance is made clear, 

e)   Evaluating possible erosion of the rock-cut basins on el-Wad Terrace and if need be, consider including a protective cover of the basins to limit erosion due to rainfall and exposure,

f)    Referring any proposal for new buildings at the property such as the proposed new museum of prehistory and adjacent research centre to the World Heritage Committee for review in accordance with paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention;

5.   Decides not to inscribe the Sites of Human Evolution at Mount Carmel: The Nahal Me’arot / Wadi el-Mughara Caves, Israel, on the World Heritage List under criterion (viii).

Themes: Inscriptions on the World Heritage List, Outstanding Universal Value
States Parties: Israel
Year: 2012
Decision Code: 36 COM 8B.13