The Gorham’s Cave Complex is the name given to the area covering some 28 hectares on the eastside of Gibraltar from sea level to the top of the Rock. In July 2016, it was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its exceptional testimony to the occupation, cultural traditions and material culture of Neanderthal and early modern human populations through a period spanning approximately 120,000 years. The striking cluster of sea level caves contain archaeological deposits that provide evidence of Neanderthal and early modern human occupation of Gibraltar, and the landscape setting and natural species which assist in presenting the natural resources and environmental context, including climatic conditions, of Neanderthal life. The Gibraltar Nature Reserve forms part of the buffer zone to the WH site and together they represent over 40% of the territory of Gibraltar.
Gibraltar has a longstanding association with the Neanderthals. The first complete skull was found and presented to the Gibraltar Scientific Society by Lieutenant Edmund Flint of the Royal Artillery in 1848 - eight years before the famed remains found in the Neander Valley near Dusseldorf in Germany, which gives its name to these people. A second skull – the Devil’s Tower Child – was found in Gibraltar in 1926.
The Gorham’s Cave Complex is of major significance in understanding the global story of human evolution and adaptation. Gorham’s and Vanguard Caves have been archaeologically excavated over the past 26 years, and results have shown that Gibraltar was last refuge for the Neanderthals around 32,000 years ago.. An international, multi-disciplinary research project has revealed the vital importance of the site in our understanding of a critical juncture in human evolution and of the Neanderthals in particular. Now there is a wealth of information on where and how the Neanderthals and early modern humans lived and behaved, what plants, birds and animals they were familiar with and ate, where they acquired materials for their tools and what their environment was like. There is evidence of their complex social behaviour, dress and unique elements including a rock engraving carved by the Neanderthals in Gorham’s Cave, which indicate their ability for abstract thought.
Tours of the WHS
There are several options for visiting the World Heritage Site:
Unescorted walking tours along the Mediterranean Steps Neanderthal landscape.
Pre-booked guided walking tours to Gorham’s Cave, led by experts from the Gibraltar Museum and its World Heritage Team. These are subject to a strict annual quota so booking ahead is highly recommended. Tours can be booked at the Museum, by telephone (+350) 200 74289, or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Specialised boat trips, provide views from the sea of the WHS including Gorham’s and Vanguard Caves (and neighbouring sea caves). Tours on the Dolphin Adventure can be booked by telephone (+350) 200 50650 or by email: email@example.com
Europa Advance Batteries Viewing Platform, offer views of the site in the context of two continents and a Strait connecting two major water bodies. Parking for coaches and cars is available at the viewing platform and at Europa Point a short walk away. Tickets can be bought on site, or from the Gibraltar Museum.