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Cheddar Gorge and Gough's Cave

Cave / Rock Shelter


Prehistoric cave art found in Gough's Cave

"It might not have the instant impact of modern graffiti but a mammoth carved on to a wall in Cheddar Caves 13,000 years ago is being hailed as one of the most significant examples of prehistoric art ever found in Britain.

The carving - a little larger than a man's hand, is only the second piece of representational cave art found in Britain, and contemporary with the golden age of cave art in Europe.

Britain had a flourishing Stone Age culture but, unlike prehistoric sites in France and Spain, no cave paintings or carvings had been found until recently, when the discovery of Stone Age carvings of animals and humans at Creswell Crags, near Sheffield, launched a new hunt for prehistoric cave art.

Graham Mullan and Linda Wilson, of Bristol University, have spent several years minutely examining various Cheddar Caves for almost imperceptible carvings, using sophisticated new lighting techniques.

So far they have uncovered geometrical carvings in Long Hole, and the 13,000-year-old mammoth in Gough's Cave. Experts believe the carving, in an isolated niche, may have been used by tribal shamans in religious rituals.

It lies beyond the main living area of the Stone Age tribe who inhabited the cave.

It takes an expert eye to see the carving which has just gone on show to the public. The creature's huge tusks are the clearest feature.

Cheddar Caves director Hugh Cornwell said: "We've got to hand it to Graham and Linda.

"They looked closely at rock faces which had only been glanced at by previous archaeologists, and have come up with some very exciting finds.

"Gough's Cave has always been one of Britain's most important prehistoric sites, and inhabited for more than 1,000 years by our hunter-gatherer ancestors.

"The country's first evidence of cannibalism was found here, and also Britain's oldest complete skeleton, Cheddar Man.

"The mammoth carving was found just beyond the daylight zone, where our ancestors ate and slept.

"It may have been a secret inner chamber, only used by shamans to invoke their animal gods. Now, thanks to special lighting and a small display, all our customers can walk in and admire our mammoth. He's a lovely little chap - a wonderfully spirited carving with enormous tusks."

Speaking from his home in Bristol Mr Mullan said: "This is certainly a significant find. Before the discovery of the Creswell Crags carvings, I was one of the people who argued that there was nothing of the kind in this country at all.

"This shows that the people of Cheddar were doing the same sort of thing as their contemporaries in France.

"Some people are even suggesting that the work at Cheddar is so similar to that at Creswell Crags that it must have been carried out by the same people."

The carvings pre-date the famous Cheddar Man skeleton by 4,000 years. Caves spokesman Bob Smart, said: "The mammoth dates from the golden age of cave art in Europe, but by the time of Cheddar Man, who died 9,000 years ago, it seems they had moved on to other forms of art and religion."

Visitors enthused by the spirit of their ancestors can study the mammoth and then walk across the road to try their own hand at cave art in the Cheddar Caves Museum of Prehistory, built in the house formerly owned by Richard Gough, the Victorian who rediscovered Gough's Cave."

From the Western Daily Press:
baza Posted by baza
14th August 2007ce
Edited 3rd April 2016ce

Comments (1)

For a photo and drawing see:
rockartuk Posted by rockartuk
17th August 2007ce
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