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Somerset Historic Environment Record

10398

Site Name: Gough's Cave, Cheddar Gorge, Cheddar
SCHEDULED MONUMENT: Gough's Cave, Cheddar Gorge [No:13203]
Civil Parish: Cheddar
Comprises:
PRN 16162Excavation (1948-53), Gough's Cave, Cheddar
PRN 18681Excavation (1986-7), Gough's Cave, Cheddar Gorge
Grid Ref: ST 4670 5391 (ST 45 SE)
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Image: Image of HER 10398 - Photo by Somerset County Council (02 June 1990)
  HER 10398 - Photo by Somerset County Council (02 June 1990)

Public access:

As far as we are aware this site is open to the public at certain times. (Run by Cheddar Showcaves). [Information last updated on 16 December 2002]

Details:

Excavations, 1903 and later, revealed an Upper Palaeolithic or Mesolithic burial, hearths, bone and flint implements, a block of Baltic amber, and two 'Batons de Commandement'. The flints were of Creswellian type. The upper deposits contained EIA and RB pottery. In addition, Roman coins, C1 to C4 and possibly later, have been found possibly here or at the Long Hole and Slitter. Finds in Gough Cavern Museum, Weston-super-Mare Museum, Taunton Museum, and University Museum Oxford. {1}

Cave dug 1890 to 1898 by R.L Gough and Sons. Two items of unusual interest are (a) the skeleton known as "the Cheddar Man" which now has a radio-carbon date of c7130BC and is thought to be a deliberate interment of the very late Palaeolithic [or the Mesolithic] and (b) a bone-point with grouped and purposeful-looking notches which are thought to be some kind of tally or calculating device. {6}

Work on the museum collection of Roman artefacts is being continuing. Coin lists from the site (prepared by Balch and held in Wells Museum) suggest that the coin sequence continued into C5. {20}

The markings occur at c.1.25m above the present concrete floor, at the back of a small embayment in the south wall/roof of the cave. The markings are composed of complementary sets of roughly vertical elements. The markings have been put forward as representing Palaeolithic engraving. However, Collcutt purposes that the markings are a natural geological phenomenon formed during the Holocene and have not been modified by man. {21}

Scheduled 18 March 1991. {37}

The cave consists of a main passage 5-9m wide c.200m long ending in two large chambers. From the N side of the entrance are several side passages. The cave was dug open in 1890-8 and subsequently turned into a show cave. Flints and bones found, and the 'Cheddar Man' skeleton appeared in 1903. Excavation 1927-31 provided a rich collection of LUP flint artefacts, worked bone and antler as well as much Pleistocene faunal material. Investigation from 1986 have produced Creswellian finds including rare human skeletal material and a decorated antler artefact. The cave has also yielded Bronze Age and Romano-British material. Hominid bones show marks associated with defleshing and deliberate disarticulation. {38}

A small area at the mouth of the cave was excavated by Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum. {39}

All appears stable. Most of scheduled area lies sealed beneath concrete walkways of the show cave. Two exposed areas of deposits remain; right of the walkway, narrow area against the wall of the cave is open, but in past has been dug out to some depth; left of walkway is a much larger area from which skeletal remains have been recovered in past. {40}

The 2022 artefacts from excavations that took place before the Natural History Museum's work from 1986-92 and that could be well located were catalogued. Almost all of the lithics were made from black chalk flint which compared best to material from the N of Salisbury Plain some 70km away. Radiocarbon dates on material definitely associated with human activity spanned 1000 radiocarbon years and calibrated to around 16,000-13,500 cal BP. Examination of the faunal material suggests that the cave was used as a base for the hunting of wild horse and, to a lesser extent, red deer. The identification of the site as 'richer' than other sites, and therefore the suggestion that it formed a base camp or meeting place, may be simply due to the much large sample size from this cave. {41}

Revised radiocarbon dating was produced by using ultra-filtrated gelatin from cut-marked bone. Using Bayesian statistics these dates indicated that occupation began after 14,700 cal BP - a younger date than previously suggested and later than well-dated sites in the Paris basin and the Belgian Ardennes. This date for the human re-occupation of south-west England fits well with Greenland ice cores which show rapid warming at this date - the beginning of the GI-1 interstadial - but there are suggestions that the climate improved slightly earlier in western Europe (the Bølling interstadial) than in Greenland. The modelling also suggested that the occupation was much shorter in duration than previously thought with a 62% probability that it lasted less than 200 years, only a few human generations. This further suggests (taken with evidence from Sun Hole, PRN 10396) that the Magdalenian industries in Britain may have ended earlier and the following Federmessengruppen industries began earlier as this material is not found at Gough's Cave. The scattered and cut state of the human remains also associates better with the Magdalenian industry than if occupation continued later as similar material is found across Europe. The human re-colonisation appears to coincide (and therefore to be allowed by) the re-appearance of wild horse - a more stable food source than migratory species such as reindeer. Reasons for the abandonment of the cave may relate to a preference for open-air sites in the warmer conditions of the interstadial rather than the disappearance of the wild horses with increasing forestation as previously suggested. {49}

The occupation of Gough's cave can now be seen to coincide with the end of occupation at Sun Hole (PRN 10396). {52}

The Gough's Cave faunal remains form the type collection for the Gough's Cave Mammal Assemblage Zone comprising artic hare, lemmings (collard and Norway), voles (water, northern and narrow-skulled). wolf (or possibly domestic dog), foxes (red and arctic), brown bear, lynx, mammoth (artefact only), horse, red deer, reindeer (artefact only), aurochs and saiga antelope. The dates from Gough's Cave indicate occupation in the early (Bølling) part of the late glacial interstadial before the cooler (Allerød) phase. {53}

References:

1 Detailed records - Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division record card. Record ID: ST 45 SE 10 (1978) Location: HER files under PRN 10399.
2 Excavation report - Donovan, DT. The Pleistocene deposits at Gough's Cave, Cheddar, including an account of recent excavations. Proceedings of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society  7(2) (1955), 76-104
3 Excavation report - Tratman, EK. Gough's Old Cave, Cheddar, Somerset. Proceedings of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society  9(1) (1960), 7-21
4 Mention - Cullingford, CHD. British Caving.  (1953), 200, 240.
5 Mention - Boon, GC. Numismatic Chronicle.  17 (1957), 231-7
6 Mention - Tratman, EK. Problems of the Cheddar Man, Gough's Cave, Somerset. Proceedings of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society  14(1) (1975), 7-23. Available online.
7 Mention - Tratman, EK. A Late Upper Palaeolithic Calculator, Gough's Cave, Cheddar, Somerset. Proceedings of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society  14(2) (1960), 123-29. Available online.
8 Museum accession number - OXFPR 1940.12.641.1 - .11. Stored at Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford (flint tools).
9 Excavation report - Parry, RF. Excavation at the caves, Cheddar. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History  74 (1928), 102-21 Copy available in Local studies collection at Somerset Heritage Centre.
10 Excavation report - Parry, RF. Excavations at Cheddar. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History  76 (1930), 46-62 Copy available in SANHS library at Somerset Heritage Centre.
11 Excavation report - Donovan, DT, Musgrave, JH and Tratman, EK. Gough's Cave, Cheddar, Somerset. Rescue dig, November 1968. Sections exposed in 1957. Proceedings of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society  13(1) (1957), 49-60. Available online.
12 Museum accession number - Unknown accession number. Stored at University of Bristol Spelaeological Society collection.
13 Archive - Unknown accession number. Stored at University of Bristol Spelaeological Society collection.
14 Description - Beck, CW. The origin of the amber found at Gough's Cave, Cheddar. Proceedings of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society  10(3) (1965), 272-76 (page 272-6). Available online.
15 Description - Hawkes, CJ, Powers, R and Tratman, EK. Decorated piece of rib bone from the Palaeolithic levels at Gough's Cave, Cheddar, Somerset. Proceedings of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society  12(2) (1970), 137-142. Available online.
16 Mention - Barrington, N and Stanton, W. The Complete Caves of Mendip.  (1977), 68-9. Third edition.
17 Description - Campbell, JB. The Upper Palaeolithic of Britain: A Study of Man and Nature in the Late Ice Age.  (1977)
18 Description - Oakley, KP. Relative dating of the fossil hominids of Europe. Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History).  34(1) (1980), 1-63
19 Detailed records - Jacobi, RM. The environment of man at Cheddar: 11-10,000 years ago. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History.  126 (1982), 1-16
20 Mention - Russett, V. Cheddar, Goughs Cave. In Dennison, E. Somerset Archaeology 1984-85. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History129 (1985), 1-35 at 8
21 Description - Collcutt, S.N. Report on certain markings on wall Speleothem in Gough's New Cave.  (March 1985) Location: HER files
22 Detailed records - Barton, RNE and Collcutt, SN. Gough's Cave.  (December 1986) unpublished Monuments Protection Programme fieldwork report for English Heritage. Location: HER files
23 Description - Gowlett, JAJ, Hedges, REM, Law, IA and Perry, C. Radiocarbon dates from the Oxford AMS system: Archaeometry datelist 4. Archaeometry.  28(2) (1986), 206-221 [page 206-21]
24 Description - Irwin, DJ. The exploration of Gough's Cave.and its development as a show cave. Proceedings of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society  17:2 (1985), 95-101. Copy available in SANHS library at Somerset Heritage Centre.. Available online.
25 Description - Jacobi, RM. The history and literature of Pleistocene discoveries at Gough's Cave, Cheddar. Proceedings of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society  17:2 (1985), 102-115. Copy available in SANHS library at Somerset Heritage Centre.. Available online.
26 Detailed records - Donovam, DT. Records, catalogues and layers at Gough's Cave. Proceedings of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society  17:2 (1985), 116-19. Copy available in SANHS library at Somerset Heritage Centre.. Available online.
27 Description - Stanton, WI. Cheddar Gorge and Gough's Cave. Proceedings of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society  17:2 (1985), 121-28. Copy available in SANHS library at Somerset Heritage Centre.. Available online.
28 Detailed records - Colcutt, SN. Analysis of sediments in Gough's Cave, Cheddar, Somerset, and their bearing on the palaeolithic archaeology. Proceedings of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society  17:2 (1985), 129-40. Copy available in SANHS library at Somerset Heritage Centre.. Available online.
29 Description - Leroi-Gourhan, A. Pollen analysis of sediment samples from Gough's Cave, Cheddar. Proceedings of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society  17:2 (1985), 141-44. Copy available in SANHS library at Somerset Heritage Centre.. Available online.
30 Description - Stringer, CB. The hominid remains from Gough's Cave. Proceedings of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society  17:2 (1985), 145-152. Copy available in SANHS library at Somerset Heritage Centre.. Available online.
31 Description - Burleigh, R. Radiocarbon dates for human and animal bones from Mendip Caves. Proceedings of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society  17:3 (1986), 267-274. Copy available in SANHS library at Somerset Heritage Centre.. Available online.
32 Description - Cook, J. Marked human bones from Gough's Cave, Somerset. Proceedings of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society  17:3 (1986), 275-85. Copy available in SANHS library at Somerset Heritage Centre.. Available online.
33 Detailed records - Currant, AP. The lateglacial mammal fauna of Gough's Cave, Cheddar, Somerset. Proceedings of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society  17:3 (1986), 286-304. Copy available in SANHS library at Somerset Heritage Centre.. Available online.
34 Detailed records - Harrison, CJO. Bird remains from Gough's Cave, Cheddar, Somerset. Proceedings of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society  17:3 (1986), 305-10. Copy available in SANHS library at Somerset Heritage Centre.. Available online.
35 Description - Parkin, RA, Rowley-Conwy, P and Searjeantson, D. Late Palaeolithic exploitation of Horse and Red Deer at Gough's Cave, Cheddar, Somerset. Proceedings of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society  17:3 (1986), 311-330. Copy available in SANHS library at Somerset Heritage Centre.. Available online.
36 Description - Currant, AP, Jacobi, RM and Stringer, CB. Excavations at Gough's Cave, Somerset 1986-7. Antiquity.  63 (1989), 131-6
37 Correspondence - English Heritage to Somerset County Council Historic Environment Record. (10/4/1991) Location: HER files
38 Data transfer - Information from English Heritage database. Record ID: 13203 (1991) Record of Scheduled Monuments.
39 Mention - Webster, CJ. Cheddar, Gough's Cave. In Webster, CJ and Croft, RA. Somerset Archaeology 1992. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History136 (1992), 161-182 at 166
40 Site visit report - Graham, A [Alan]. English Heritage Field Monument Warden. (16/12/1998) Report location: HER files
41 Detailed records - Jacobi, R. The Late Upper Palaeolithic lithic collection from Gough's Cave, Cheddar, Somerset and human use of the cave. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society.  70 (2004), 1-92
42 Detailed records - Trinkaus, E. Gough's Cave 1 (Somerset, England): A study of the pelvis and lower limbs. Bulletin of the Natural History Museum: Geology Series  58 supplement (2004), 1-21. Available online.
43 Detailed records - Hawkey, DE. Human dental remains from Gough's Cave (Somerset, England). Bulletin of the Natural History Museum: Geology Series  58 supplement (2004), 23-35. Available online.
44 Detailed records - Holliday, TW and Churchill, SE. Gough's Cave (Somerset, England): an assessment of body size and shape. Bulletin of the Natural History Museum: Geology Series  58 supplement (2004), 37-44. Available online.
45 Detailed records - Trinkaus, E, Humphrey, L, Stringer, C, Churchill, SE and Tague, RE. Gough's Cave 1 (Somerset, England): an assessment of the sex and age at death. Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History)  58 supplement (2004), 45-50. Available online.
46 Detailed records - Macphail, RI and Goldberg, P. Gough's Cave, Cheddar, Somerset: Microstratigraphy of the late pleistocene/earliest Holocene sediments. Bulletin of the Natural History Museum: Geology Series  58 supplement (2004), 51-58. Available online.
47 Detailed records - Andrews, P and Fernandez-Jalvo, Y. Cannibalism in Britain: Taphonomy of the Creswellian (Pleistocene) faunal and human remains from Gough's Cave (Somerset, England). Bulletin of the Natural History Museum: Geology Series  58 supplement (2004), 59-81. Available online.
48 Detailed records - Donovan, DT. Gough's Cave, Cheddar, Somerset: Quaternary Stratigraphy. Proceedings of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society  24:1 (2006), 17-35. Copy available in SANHS library at Somerset Heritage Centre.. Available online.
49 Detailed records - Jacobi, RM and Higham, TFG. The early lateglacial re-colonization of Britain: new radiocarbon evidence from Gough's Cave, southwest England. Quaternary Science Reviews  28 (2009), 1895-1913. Copy available in HER file.
50 Description - Jacobi, R and Currant, A. The Late Pleistocene mammalian palaeontology and archaeology of Mendip. In Lewis, J. The Archaeology of Mendip.  (2011) at 45-84 (specifically 62-71). Copy in SANHS library at Somerset Heritage Centre.
51 Description - Bryant, A. Iron Age cave use on Mendip: a re-evaluation. In Lewis, J. The Archaeology of Mendip.  (2011) at 139-57. Copy in SANHS library at Somerset Heritage Centre.
52 Detailed records - Jacobi, R and Higham, T. The Later Upper Palaeoloithic Recolonisation of Britain: New Results from AMS Radiocarbon Dating. In Ashton, NM, Lewis, SG and Stringer, CB. The Ancient Human Occupation of Britain.  (2011) at 223-47. HER digital source: 38338.
53 Detailed records - Currant, AP and Jacobi, R. The mammal faunas of the British Late Pleistocene. In Ashton, NM, Lewis, SG and Stringer, CB. The Ancient Human Occupation of Britain.  (2011) at 165-180. HER digital source: 38344.

Record created in January 1983

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