New Publication 


 Photos by J. Pint unless otherwise indicated - Photos  ©2006 by John and Susy Pint-- Updated September, 2013

Ghar al Hibashi Harrat Nawasif/Al Buqum, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by J.J. Pint, M.A. Al-Shanti, A.J. Al-Juaid, S.A. Al-Amoudi and P. Forti, with the collaboration of R. Akbar, P. Vincent, S. Kempe, P. Boston, F.H. Kattan, E. Galli, A. Rossi, and S. Pint, SGS-OF-2004-12, Saudi Geological Survey, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, 2005, 68 p. 43 figs, 1 table., 2 apps., 1 plate.


In 2004, Hibashi Cave was added to the list of the ten mineralogically most important lava caves in the world. This is rather extraordinary because prior to 2001, no scientific cave studies had been carried out in Saudi Arabia’s vast lava fields, whereas, elsewhere on the planet, lava caves have been under study for centuries. A possible implication is that Saudi Arabia may possess a large number of lava caves of importance to more than one field of scientific study. This assumption is bolstered by the publication in 2005, of a new report on Hibashi Cave, based on explorations which began in January of 2003. The Hibashi Report is available in printed form from Saudi Geological Survey. However, the complete report (or just the abstract in English or Arabic) can be downloaded from the internet.

The new report comes only three years after the Kishb Report which describes the first mapping of lava tubes in Saudi Arabia as well as the discovery of possibly Neolithic structures and artifacts in several caves.

The Hibashi Report includes a large (60X88 cm) plate showing plan and profile maps of the cave, which is 689.54 meters long with a vertical difference of 25 meters.


John Pint displaying the Hibashi Map at the 2005 NSS Convention. Click on the picture to see the entire map in detail (.PNG file, 307 kb). Photo by Susy Pint. 

Click to see detailed Hibashi Map



The profile view is especially useful for appreciating the features of the cave in perspective...


The grey area represents one of two burnt-guano beds found in the cave. Combustion from these guano fires aided in the production of minerals such as pyrocroproite and pyrophosphite, which are rarely found in caves. Professor Paolo Forti, one of the co-authors of the report, lists nineteen cave minerals detected in samples from Hibashi cave and provides eighteen images of the most interesting minerals, taken through an electron scanning microscope. A popular treatment of Prof. Forti’s analyses can be found at .


Features of the cave include lava stalactites, stalagmites, levées, gutters and a 13-meter-long inclined lava channel.



Lava channel, now filled with dirt from surface and unburnt bat guano. Pen shows scale.


A bed of thick, powdery silt up to 1.5 meters deep covers the floor of the cave. Samples of this silt were taken from the cave and age-dated using Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL).  Silt or loess taken from a depth of 150 cm proved to be 5.8±0.5 ka: nearly 6,000 years old.

This bed of loess attracted the attention of researchers involved in a project funded by the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts. They are designing microrobotic technology for underground exploration using Hibashi Cave as a model for Martian Lava Tubes.

Mahmoud Al-Shanti measures the depth of the loess bed in Hibashi Cave.


Unidentified bones of large and small animals are found in many parts of the cave, apparently carried inside by hyenas, foxes and wolves. Appendix One of the report describes the desiccated scat of these animals, which is so well preserved that it is possible to extract phytoliths (tiny particles of opal with unique shapes)  from the plant material they contain. The authors note that the cave-map symbol for guano approved by the UIS and used throughout the world is inadequate to represent the several kinds of animal scat found in most desert caves. They retain a bat symbol for bat guano and introduce five additional symbols for the droppings of wolves, hyenas, foxes, birds and sheep or goats, noting that the location of various kinds of animal scat is of interest not only to speleobiologists, but to anyone exploring these caves, due to the usefulness of scat deposits as landmarks.


Appendix Two of the report describes a human skull  probably belonging to a girl 12-14 years of age and found deep inside the cave. The upper portion of the skull appears to have been removed by a sword or axe. Carbon dating indicates it is 425 ±30 years old. It should be noted that the skull was found lying on the surface of the thick bed of silt covering the cave floor and that no attempt has yet been made to dig below the surface for other remains or artifacts.


Side view of skull found in Hibashi Cave.


The studies carried out in Hibashi Cave—when taken together with the results of the expeditions to the caves of Harrat Kishb—suggest that the lava tubes of Saudi Arabia are likely to be fertile ground for important new discoveries in the future.