Researchers continue investigations

Neanderthal woman’s skull expected to return to the Kurdistan Region

SORAN — The skull fragments of a Neanderthal woman discovered in Shanidar Cave will be returned to Erbil within a year, according to the region’s head of archaeology and antiquities.

A striking reconstruction of the woman’s face, based on more than 200 skull fragments, has gove viral on social media and sparked new interest in the region’s history during the Neanderthal period. Researchers have estimated the skull to be approximately 75,000 years old.

According to Kaifi Mustafa, director of archaeology and antiquities in the Kurdistan Region, the skull fragments were taken by Cambridge University for analysis, while Dutch scientists assembled the pieces and completed the facial reconstruction.

Although the skull fragments were originally scheduled to return to Erbil in March 2023, the reconstruction process was delayed for more than a year due to complications in working with so many pieces.

According to Mustafa, the skull fragments are expected to be returned sometime in 2025, as researchers continue working to prepare another reconstruction. Upon return, the pieces are expected to be transported to Shanidar Cave, where they will be exhibited in a forthcoming museum.

The Cambridge University researchers have signed a further five-year agreement with the region’s archaeology department to continue working in Shanidar Cave.