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Shanidar Cave (Iraq)


Shanidar Cave in Iraq

Shanidar Cave in Iraq

Jan Sefti

The site of Shanidar Cave is located adjacent to the modern village of Zawi Chemi Shanidar in northern Iraq, on the Zab River, one of the major tributaries of the Tigris. Excavations were conducted in the cave during the 1950s by Ralph S. Solecki and Rose L. Solecki.

Stratified occupations were identified in the cave dating to the Middle Paleolithic and Upper Paleolithic periods, as well as a later component dated to the Pre Pottery Neolithic (10,600 BP). The lowest levels at Shanidar (circa 50,000 years ago) included some accidental, and some apparently deliberate burials of Neanderthals.

Soil samples taken near the burials contained an abundance of pollen from several kinds of flowers, including the modern herbal remedy ephedra. The pollen abundance was interpreted by Solecki and fellow researcher Andre Leroi-Gourhan as evidence that flowers were buried with the bodies. However, there is debate about the source of the pollen, with some evidence that the pollen was brought into the site by burrowing rodents, rather than placed there as flowers by grieving relatives.


Agelarakis, A. 1993 The Shanidar cave Proto-Neolithic human populations: aspects of demography and paleopathology. Human Evolution 8(4):235-253.

Sommer, Jeffrey D. 1999 The Shanidar IV 'Flower Burial': A re-evaluation of Neanderthal burial ritual. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 9(1):127-129.

This glossary entry is part of the About.com Study Guide to Neanderthals and the Dictionary of Archaeology.

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