The Gorham's Cave Neanderthals
Meet Nana and Flint – Gibraltar’s Unesco World Heritage version of Betty and Bambam Flintstone
If you’ve ever wondered how our closest cave-dwelling relatives lived, the Gorham’s Cave Unesco World Heritage Complex will put you in the picture
A viewing platform overlooking a row of cathedral caves in the Rock’s east face lets you peer down into their wave-lashed citadel. When Neanderthal families lit their fires inside, the sea was 5km away across a sandy plain prowled by leopards, hyenas and Gibraltar’s top predator of the day – lions.
The Rock’s sheltering caves and the temperate Mediterranean climate allowed Neanderthals to escape the ravages of Ice Age Europe and survive here until as recently as 2,700 years ago – longer than anywhere else on the planet. Gibraltar was their last refuge.
Their fascinating story has been pieced together from their fireside hearths, fossil remains and evidence on the seabed where freshwater springs have been discovered – the lakes of Neanderthal times.
Take a boat trip across their underwater hunting grounds to get an impression of their territory. That sheer sand-coloured slope in the middle of the Rock above Catalan Bay which many people take to be concrete or part of Gibraltar’s old water catchment system is actually the world’s largest fossilised sand dune!
Or hike up the Med Steps to the rock summit through a Neanderthal landscape where these last survivors of their tribe gathered plants, chased down ibex and looked out on two continents, just as you can today.
But the best part of the UNESCO experience comes at the Gibraltar Museum where you get to meet Nana and Flint. The Gibraltar Neanderthals are becoming as famous as the Flintstones.
Forensically reconstructed into astonishingly realistic 3D replicas from the skulls of a woman and four-year-old boy unearthed in Gibraltar, they’re nothing like the stooped, ape-like creatures of Victorian scientific drawings.
They look human, and pretty modern humans at that. No insult intended to either but don't you think Nana bears a passing resemblance to Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones?
Watch the Making of Nana and Flint
The museum circuit shows you how Neanderthals caught birds and fish, made tools, created jewellery from the feathers and claws of eagles and were even capable of abstract thought.
An engraving found on the wall of Gorham’s Cave in 2012 bearing uncanny resemblance to a hashtag proves they were not only smart but millennia ahead of their time!
More fascinating still, scientists are continuing to dig up new finds so this thrilling story is to be continued.
Further Reading: A Day at the Museum
PLAN YOUR VISIT
Joint Entrance ticket to Museum & Unesco site
£4.00 Children under 12
Boat trip to view the caves from the sea through Dolphin Adventure
DIY walking tour along the Mediterranean Steps Neanderthal landscape in the Upper Rock Nature Reserve.