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Somerset Historic Environment Record


Site Name: Badger Hole cave, Wookey Hole
SCHEDULED MONUMENT: Badger Hole, Wookey [No:13257]
Civil Parish: St. Cuthbert Out
Grid Ref: ST 5324 4795 (ST 54 NW)
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Public access:

The public accessibility of this site is unknown or has not been checked. Please ask locally and do not visit without permission. [Information last updated on 21 May 2003]


The HER is currently being transferred to a new system. Please ask about this changed entry. {0}

Badger Hole is a high level cave situated above Hyena Den. It was first excavated in 1938 and subsequently by Balch, who discovered stratified evidence of human occupation. In the top two feet a C3 Roman coin was found together with hundreds of fragments of RB pottery. 1ft lower down Aurignacian flint implements including knives and a lance head were revealed, associated with a series of Pleistocene animal remains including mammoth, woolly rhinoceros and hyena. In 1958 a sounding was made some distance from the main overhang at the cave entrance. A number of artefacts, and a considerable number of Pleistocene fauna were revealed. The main finds are in Wells museum. {1}

Scheduled 3 September 1992. {6}

On the E side of Wookey Hole ravine, about 20m above the present valley floor and 11m below the plateau. Large cave mouth 10m wide by 3m high forming a sheltered, well lit entrance area, with a modern retaining wall at the front. Two short passages lead back into a chamber 6m high, at the back of which is a hole opening to the plateau above. Under the opening is a cone of deposit. Excavations uncovered Early Upper Palaeolithic finds including leaf points and lithic tools, and evidence for a Mesolithic burial c9000 years ago. The cave served as a burial place in the late Roman period and there is a villa site on the hillside above Undisturbed deposits may survive at the back of the cave, on the walls and under excavation spoil at the mouth. {7}

In generally good condition, although the wall forming the boundary of the site has fallen and may need to be replaced. {24}

Flint artefacts of various ages have been found around the entrance and it is clear that badgers have disturbed the deposits but it is possible to identify an Early Upper Palaeolithic component. Various attempts have been made to date the finds, the best radiocarbon determination being 36ka BP from a bone associated with a blade-point. Human remains were once considered to be palaeolithic but have been shown to be either Early Mesolithic or Romano-British. {25}

The radiocarbon date (36,000±450 OxA-11963) is similar to others associated with blade-points and suggests that these are earlier than previously thought (29-27ka BP). This suggests that these artefacts form part of the earliest Upper Palaeolithic in Britain, possibly associated with Neanderthals. {26}


0 Compiler comment - Webster, CJ (Chris). Somerset Historic Environment Record (12/02/2016). Location: Verbal, electronic or direct entry, no source retained.
1 Detailed records - Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division record card. Record ID: ST 54 NW 15 (1966) Location: HER files
2 Excavation report - Wells Archaeological and Natural History Society Annual Report.  75-6 (1963-4), 4-25
3 Mention - McBurney, CBM. Report on the first season's fieldwork in British Upper Palaeolithic cave deposits. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society.  25 (1959), 260-269 [page 264-5]
4 Mention - Hawkes, CFC. Wookey Hole. Archaeological Journal  107 (1950), 92-93
5 Museum accession number - WELLWM (accession number unknown) in Wells and Mendip Museum.
6 Correspondence - English Heritage to Somerset County Council. (14/9/1992) Location: HER files.
7 Detailed records - Record of Scheduled Monuments (English Heritage). Record ID: 13257
8 Detailed records - Barton, RNE and Collcutt, SN. Badger Hole.  (1986) unpublished Monuments Protection Programme report for English Heritage. Location: HER files.
9 Description - Barrington, N and Stanton, W. The Complete Caves of Mendip.  (1977) Third edition.
10 Mention - Black, GP. The conservation of caves in Britain. Studies in Speleology  1:1 (1963), 16-21
11 Excavation report - Campbell, JB. The Upper Palaeolithic of Britain: A Study of Man and Nature in the Late Ice Age.  (1977)
12 Description - Collcutt, SN. The Analysis of Quaternary Cave Sediments and its Bearing on Palaeolithic Archaeology with Special Reference to Selected Sites from Western Britain.  (1984) unpublished DPhil thesis, University of Oxford.
13 Description - Gowlett, JAJ. Radiocarbon accelerator dating of the Upper Palaeolithic in Northwest Europe: a provisional view. In Collcutt, S N. The Palaeolithic of Britain and its Nearest Neighbours: Recent Trends.  (1986) at 98-102
14 Excavation report - Ashworth, HWW. The Badger Hole, Wookey Hole, 1953 report. Wells Natural History and Archaeological Society Annual Report  65/6 (1953/4), 13-16 Copy available in SANHS library at Somerset Heritage Centre.
15 Detailed records - Balch, HE. Diary of Excavation.  (1938-54) Location: Wells and Mendip Museum.
16 Excavation report - Balch, HE. Badger Hole, Wookey Hole. Wells Natural History and Archaeological Society Annual Report  51 (1939), 37-40 Copy available in SANHS library at Somerset Heritage Centre.
17 Excavation report - Balch, HE. Mendip Nature Research Committee report for 1940. Wells Natural History and Archaeological Society Annual Report  (1941), 23-4 Copy available in SANHS library at Somerset Heritage Centre
18 Excavation report - Balch, HE. Mendip Nature Research Committee report for 1941. Wells Natural History and Archaeological Society Annual Report  (1942), 23 Copy available in SANHS library at Somerset Heritage Centre
19 Excavation report - Balch, HE. The Great Cave of Wookey Hole.  (1947)
20 Description - Campbell, JB. The Upper Palaeolithic period. In Campbell, JB, Elkington, D, Fowler, P and Grinsell, L (eds). The Mendip Hills in Prehistoric and Roman Times.  (1971) at 5-11.
21 Excavation report - McBurney, CBM. Two soundings in the Badger Hole. Wells Natural History and Archaeological Society Annual Report  71-2 (1961), 19-27
22 Description - Oakley KP, Campbell BG, and Molleson, TI. Catalogue of Fossil Hominids. Part II: Europe.  (1971)
23 Description - Shackley, ML. The use of textural parameters in the analysis of cave sediments. Archaeometry  14 (1972), 133-45
24 Site visit report - Graham, A (Alan). English Heritage Field Monument Warden (13/1/1998) Location: HER file.
25 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. Copy in SANHS library at Somerset Heritage Centre.
26 Detailed records - Jacobi, RM, Higham, TFG, Bronk Ramsey, C. AMS radiocarbon dating of Middle and Upper Palaeolithic bone in the British Isles: improved reliability using ultrafiltration. Journal of Quaternary Science  21:5 (2006), 557-73. Copy available in HER file 24330.. Available online.
27 Mention - Jacobi, R and Higham, T. The British Earlier Upper Palaeolithic: Settlement and Chronology. In Ashton, NM, Lewis, SG and Stringer, CB. The Ancient Human Occupation of Britain.  (2011) at 181-222. HER digital source: 38340.

Record created in October 1985

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