Early Communities

The small rock shelter here at Zarzi was probably used by mobile groups of hunter-gatherers between 18,000 and 14,000 years ago during the Epipalaeolithic period.

Zarzi Cave (and nearby Hazar Merd) was first excavated by Dorothy Garrod in 1928 and again by Iraqi archaeologist Ghanim Wahida in 1971. The cave is small, only 8 by 8 metres, with occupation deposits between half a metre and 2.5 metres thick.

In this valley, the Epipalaeolithic site of Zawi Chami Razan was discovered during a survey in 2013 by the University of Reading in collaboration with the Directorate of Antiquities and Heritage. The survey and excavations in 2022 found stone tools, similar to those in Zarzi Cave, and large grinding stones used for preparing food dating to after the cave was abandoned.

Abundant Water and Biodiverse Environments

The people who sheltered inside the cave ate sheep, goat, gazelle, tortoise, fish and snail. To hunt and prepare food, these humans used small stone tools (microliths) mostly made from stones gathered along the riverbed. The site is famous for these tools and its name is used to describe all tools from this period (the ‘Zarzian’) across the region.

This area is a Key Biodiversity Area and the river has supported life here for 20,000 years. To preserve these rich water-supplies, farmlands and wildlife, we need to protect them from climate change, pollution and damage.