Once again, we’re visiting the ancestors of Caveman Cook at the limestone gorge of Creswell Crags located on the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire borders, this time to tour the largest cave on the site, the Robin Hood cave.
This was the most northerly point in the world during the last ice age which was habitable for only a few weeks each year where Neanderthal ancestors used to visit. The gorge, split by a modern-day lake, is also home to Britain’s only ice age rock art which is on the north facing Nottinghamshire side, and on the suburban south-facing sunny Derbyshire side we have where our caveman friends used to live. Definitive proof that people from Derbyshire are Neanderthals while confirming Nottinghamshire’s status as the bohemian capital of the midlands.
Britain at this time, was connected to the rest of Europe, called Doggerland, which is very different from dogging land which allegedly happens in the nearby woods, allowed nomadic humans to follow migrating woolly mammoths, rhinoceros, hyenas and bisons as evidenced by remains in the Robin Hood cave. To access this cave tour, we have to don a cavers helmet and torch looking like some sort of manic miner ducking through small passageways to reach the four main chambers. Its pretty dark in here with illumination only from your head torch (sounds like dogging again) and its pretty cool at a constant 8 degrees but with the overhanging magnesium limestone cliff face helping to enforce the natural protection from the cold, it’s still warmer than outside in the ice age.
The Victorian archaeologists in their eagerness to excavate the cave and its deposits were frustrated by the hard flowstone and used dynamite to help dig through, probably destroying more artifacts than they found. A wide range of artifacts have been found including tools left by Neanderthals between 60,000 and 40,000 years ago. Amazingly, they have a genuine Neanderthal hand axe you can touch and pass round the tour group. Even more amazing is that I didn’t drop it. The hand axe is made from flint that is not local to Creswell and thought to be from nearer Kent. Other tools found were flint scrapers, leaf points and ribs that were made into spear tips.
Other notable finds include hippo and narrow nosed rhinoceros bones from before the last ice age when this area was as warm as Africa is today and a tooth from a lesser scimitar cat which was extinct long before the ice age. Evidence for upper paleolithic hunters camping here 12500 years ago come in the form of flint and bone objects that include the only known engraving of a horse on a fragment of rib clearly showing the head and neck facing to the right.
You may also like this previous post on Creswell Crags Ice Age Rock Art Tour.
You can find out more about Creswell Crags here.