The first Upper Palaeolithic rock carvings ever found in Wales were etched by prehistoric hunter-gatherers as “sacred statements”, according to experts working with National Museum Wales on a bid to discover the first cave art ever made in Wales.
A team including representatives from the University of Bristol, the Open University and National Museums Northern Ireland have been digging the hidden recesses of a cave on the Gower peninsula in South Wales.
They say a “deer-life” motif was engraved using a sharp-pointed tool made of flint. Uranium tests show the inscription was made around 12,500 years ago, matching the age of similar cave art found in Britain.
“The discovery is unique in both rarity and style,” said University of Bristol team member Dr George Nash.
“It is unlike other art found during this early period of prehistory. The engraving could be a personal and sacred statement on his or her environment made during a respite between hunting expeditions that followed megafauna along ancestral migration routes across the landmass that once covered the Bristol Channel.”
Elizabeth Walker, the Curator of Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Archaeology for the museum group, said the findings could prove vital in tracing the history of caveman creativity.
“Caves have been important places for people for many thousands of years,” she explained.
“This preliminary date is exciting – it provides an opportunity for us to re-visit the historic collections the Museum holds from this important cave.”
Organisers said they would share the results of extensive further excavations and testing with the public. The Parkwood cave, which is managed by Forestry Commission Wales, has been the focus of several investigations during the past 150 years.