London, May 27 : The discovery of a cave inhabited by hunter-gatherers between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago in Israel, is likely to reveal a wealth of information about the way of life of the early man in the eastern Mediterranean.
According to a report in The Independent, workers constructing a sewage line through a forest in northern Israel discovered the cave.
It contained stalactites and was 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.
"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," according to Dr Ofer Marder, the head of the prehistory branch of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).
Marder said that the cave contained a number of chambers, the main one measuring 60m by 80m - not much smaller than a football pitch.
The IAA has said that the cave appeared to date from the Upper Palaeolithic period but could have been inhabited even earlier than that.
"The cave will also be dated by means of advanced scientific methods that will provide researchers with an absolute chronological range," said Marder. We have to be very cautious at this stage. But we found waste from flint tools of the sort that would be thrown near a fire because that was where the tools were usually made," he added.
Charred bones from legs and joints, as well as teeth, have already indicated what kind of animals were being hunted by the cave's Paleolithic inhabitants.
According to Marder, the findings could yield new information about the dating of Homo sapiens in the area, the regional climate at the time, surrounding vegetation and animal life, how prehistoric man lived and what he ate.
While the IAA archaeologists have not yet confirmed the presence of human remains, they hope to do so.
As Dr Marder discusses the next step with archaeologists, geologists and other experts, the site has been recovered to prevent curious day-trippers happening upon it and damaging the contents before they are properly inspected.