Archaeologists had finished with the cave more than 50 years ago, but looters proved that the Cave of the Skulls had more treasures to reveal. Another official excavation was therefore undertaken as a preventative measure in 2016.
Numbered “Cave 32,” the Cave of the Skulls is part of the Large Cave Complex located at the top of a high vertical cliff in the northern bank of Nahal Ze’elim Valley in the Judean Desert—about a third of a mile southwest of the trail known as “the Leopard Ascent” (Hebrew: Ma’ale Namer). The cave received its name from the late Professor Yohanan Aharoni of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who discovered seven human skulls within a niche deep inside the eastern wing of the cave during his 1960 archaeological expedition to Nahal Ze’elim and the Large Cave Complex. This is the largest and richest cave in the Large Cave Complex, which includes, among other caves, the Cave of the Arrows (Cave 31), named for the 12 wooden arrows discovered there, and the Cave of the Scrolls (Cave 34), where eight documents from the Roman period were found.