UIS Commission on Karst Hydrogeology and Speleogenesis

Not too many cavers will seriously think about going to Iraq at the moment. Consequently, the only comprehensive source on the caves of Iraq is a speleological bibliography published by Claude Chabert, Ray Mansfield & Pierre Strinati in 2000. However, there is a different part of Iraq existing where terrorists and kidnapping are unknown and where people are very hospitable to foreigners: the autonomous region of Kurdistan in the northeast of Iraq. The famous Shanidar Cave from where Neanderthal burials are known is located here.

Due to favourable circumstances a Kurdish-German cave surveying project became a reality in October/November 2007. This was carried out on invitation of the Kurdish Minister of Tourism and had brilliant logistical support by the Museum of Antiquities in Suleymaniyah. Within 3 weeks 21 caves with a total passage length of 8,115 metres were mapped, firmly establishing Kuna Kamtiar as the longest cave of Iraq currently 5,060 m in length. The cave is a complicated network of fossil rift passages created by sulphuric acid water (similar to Lechuguilla Cave, New Mexico, USA).

Another highlight was Trshawaka, a limestone cave with a sulphuric spring inside. The sulphuric acid has dissolved the carbonate rock and has produced a rind of replacive gypsum that covers the cave?s roof and walls. The source of the sulphur is supposed to be an underground hydrocarbon deposit. Exploration of Trshawaka was stopped in wide open river passage due to lack of time. The resurgence of the cave river is supposed to be about 1 km further towards the northeast. There are only a few active caves with sulphuric water known on a world-wide scale ? e.g. Kane Caves in Wyoming, Cueva de Villa Luz in Mexico and Movile Cave in Romania, all of which having a unique biospeleology.

The cave potential in NE Iraq remains very high and the local authorities are keen to conduct further investigations. The results of the 2007 expedition will be available soon in English language in the publication series ?Berliner Höhlenkundliche Berichte.?

Michael Laumanns
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List of the longest caves known in Iraq (as at November 2007):

No. Cave  Location   Length (in metres)
1.Kuna Kamtiar -- Kirkuk governorate  5,060 m*
2.Sahra  -- Sulaimani governorate  1,080 m*
3.Fasaya -- Haditha city (Euphrat valley) approx. 1,000 m (no survey)
4.Pigeon Cave -- Haditha city (Euphrat valley) approx. 732 m (no survey)
5.Kuna Baa -- Sulaimani governorate  767 m*
6.Kouna -- Kowter/Malan Dohuk gov.(?), Tahkt-e-Solehman approx. 650 m (sketch)
7.Useiba -- Publication to be traced   570 m
8.Gejkar -- Sulaimani governorate  438 m*

* Surveyed by the 2007 Kurdish-German cave project.