Stone Age Engravings Found In Long Hole Cave, Cheddar Gorge

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 19 August 2005
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Shows a photo of two people standing outside a cave.

Two members of the Spelaeological Society outside Long Hole. Courtesy the University of Bristol.

Stone Age engravings have been discovered in caves at Cheddar Gorge in Somerset.

Members of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society (UBSS) found the engravings, believed to be from the Mesolithic period, on a chamber wall of the cave known as Long Hole.

These new finds follow similar engravings discovered by UBSS at Aveline’s Hole in Burrington Combe, Somerset, in February 2005.

“We are delighted by this new discovery,” said Bob Smart of Cheddar Caves, “which is an excellent example of the importance Cheddar Caves held for our ancestors. Congratulations to the team for a very exciting and significant discovery.”

Shows a photo of a cave wall with some scratched lines on it.

One of the rock engravings found. Courtesy the University of Bristol.

The engravings are abstract line drawings, which appear to have been cut with stone tools. The investigating team, led by Graham Mullan and Linda Wilson, has provisionally ascribed the drawings to the Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) period of more than 10,000 years ago.

“On stylistic grounds,” said Graham Mullan, “we have attributed these engravings to the Mesolithic, rather than the Palaeolithic era because, as in the case of the Aveline’s Hole panel, such abstract designs are more characteristic of that period. Although abstract designs were found in the Palaeolithic, they are almost always in conjunction with representational art.”

“Unlike Aveline’s Hole, which was sealed from the Early Mesolithic until 1797 ruling out any possibility that the engravings found there were Neolithic or Bronze Age,” he continued, “Long Hole has always been open and subject to visits throughout time. It is known to have been used in Roman times and contains graffiti dating back as far as 1668.”

Shows a line drawing of the abstract engraving.

A line drawing of the engravings. Courtesy the University of Bristol.

Long Hole is located immediately above the major show cave, Gough's Cave. It leads 250m into the hillside and the engravings are about 70m from the entrance, on the west wall of a small chamber.

The Spelaeological Society’s research into the engravings is being carried out in conjunction with the British Museum’s Department of Prehistory and Europe.

Jill Cook, Deputy Keeper in the Department, said: “Just when we thought there was not much more to find out about Long Hole, an excellent new discovery has been made which puts it right back into research."

“The new engravings are clearly ancient and comparable to early post glacial pattern panels found elsewhere in Europe. Their discovery will help to breathe new life into research on this period.”

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