Neanderthals Left Their Tools in Kaldar, Lorestan

Neanderthals Left Their Tools in Kaldar
Neanderthals Left Their Tools in Kaldar

Excavations in the Paleolithic site of Kaldar cave near Khorramabad city in the western Iranian province of Lorestan revealed traces of early intelligent hominids. Some further research may cast light on vague archaeological issues, including the reason behind the Neanderthals becoming extinct, Mehr News reported.

Following a memorandum of understanding between the Research Institute for Cultural Heritage and Tourism (RICHT) and the Catalan Institute for Human Palaeo-ecology and Social Evolution, a joint Irano-Spanish team has been exploring the cultural remains of Kaldar cave for approximately two months. The excavations have yielded results, which could help archaeologists in obtaining a deeper understanding of the past.

Archaeologists have been trying to gain an understanding of the Paleolithic climate and natural environment by examining the pollen in test trenches.

What makes Khorramabad valley significant is its special location on the timeline; the transition between the Neanderthals dying out, and the emergence of the modern day humans.

“The artifacts found in the valley are thought to be the very first tools made and used by intelligent hominids,” the supervisor of the archaeology team on the Khorramabad valley, Dr Behruz Bazgir said, while cautioning against hasty conclusions. “Further discoveries on the other sites should confirm the theory.”  Should similar tools be found on the other sites, and should the analyses prove our theory correct, “we can claim that intelligent hominids originated in Khorramabad valley,” the supervisor asserted.

This valley could have been home to the ancestor of the present day Europeans, Bazgir further explained, adding “the excavations may even help reveal why the Neanderthals became extinct – a question that has bemused archaeologists from the beginning.


During the exploration of the Kaldar cave in Khorramabad valley by the Sefidkuh Mountain, archaeologists discovered valuable remains of appeared to be the belongings of early of hunting and gathering humans of the middle and upper Paleolithic age onwards. The initial, test excavation in Kaldar was conducted in a one meter square trench.

The discoveries were made in a Paleolithic stratum, with some geological strata having remained intact since the Pleistocene era, which lasted from 1.7 million years ago to about 10,000 years ago. The discovered artifacts in Kaldar cave include arrowheads, carinate (ridged) scrapers, end scrapers, Levallois blade cores (blade or flake tools struck from prepared cores), flakes, Aurignacian blade cores (retouched blades made by punch technique), and stone hammers, all indicating the presence of intelligent humans as Paleolithic dwellers of Kaldar cave. The diversity of the handmade tools indicates that the cave was settled during a range of periods.

Within the Middle Paleolithic layer, remains of natural bitumen were found among the artifacts. The site is thus the oldest instance of the bitumen application in Iran so far.    

Kaldar cave also contained skeletal remains of animals such as boar, red deer (Cervus elaphus), ibex, marten, and crab.

There are hard layers on the Kaldar site, where the exploration is only possible through the use of tools such as the sledgehammer, Bazgir added.


Test excavations were conducted in caves of Gilvaran, Qamari, Kaldar, as well as Gararjene rock shelter, Bazgir said. As in Kaldar, Gilvaran cave contained settlement layers from the middle and upper Paleolithic period or Old Stone Age. Remains of animals, including rhinoceros, equids (of horse family), and ibex were also found in the Gilvaran cave.

In the Gilvaran cave, for the first time in Iran, archaeologists applied ‘use-wear’ and residue analysis, where organic and inorganic microscopic residues are analyzed to find out whether the studied object is a handmade tool or it just resembles an artifact.

Coals and ocher found in the cave are considered the oldest archaeological discoveries in Iran, Bazgir said.


Qamari is the oldest of the caves in the valley. “We dug the test trench three meters down, until we hit a bed-rock,” Bazgir said, adding “the exploration of Qamari cave is a challenging task, and will require additional funding.”

  Atapuerca, Spain

Prof. Andreu Olle of the Catalan Institute for Human Palaeo-ecology and Social Evolution, is another supervisor of the archaeology team. He compared the findings in the Khorramabad caves with original settlement sites in Europe. He referred to the archaeological site of Atapuerca in Spain where fossils of the earliest human beings in Europe were found, saying, “we are here to investigate the settlement patterns of humans across Asia and Europe.”

The Atapuerca site is a small mountain where archaeological sites were discovered dating back to 1.2 million years ago, and extending up to the Bronze Age. Some 100 years ago, the site was accidentally discovered during railway constructions.

The caves of Atapuerca represent an exceptional reserve of data, the scientific study of which provides priceless information about the appearance and the way of life of these remote human ancestors.

Human jaw, teeth, cranium, skull fragments, and hand fingers were discovered in Atapuerca, as well as the signs indicating incisions on human body, Prof. Olle said. At the upper layers of the site, stone artifacts were found, including advanced implements such as serrated cutting tools.

“A total of 6,000 bone pieces were discovered in Atapuerca, which is a global record,” Olle said. Scientists identified and replicated 29 different hominid species on the site. Here also, the first traces of human burials were found, along with the discovery of a pickax dating back to 430,000 years ago.

Archaeologists are putting together the data from both sites, Atapuerca and Khorramabad, and are confident that the findings will lead to fascinating new insights about our ancestors.