Caves, Cannibals & Art: Britain's Human History Revealed

A

Anonymous

Guest
#1
Britain's oldest cave art

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/2994130.stm

Archaeologists have discovered the earliest known example of prehistoric cave art in Britain.

Enhanced view: This image traces the outline of the ibex
It consists of 12,000-year-old engravings of birds and an ibex carved into the stone walls at Creswell Crags, Derbyshire.

The identification was made by Paul Bahn and Paul Pettitt, with Spanish colleague Sergio Ripoll. ...

There are fine examples of cave art in France and Spain but none has been found in the UK - until now.

The British art is less impressive than the paintings found in continental caves. It is also substantially younger.
Blimey - Creswell!
My missus was helping to survey in those caves twenty years ago-
she was looking in the silt on the bottom of the caves for pollen and microsnails;
the walls were covered in graffiti from the 40's-
looks like there was something underneath the graffiti all that time.
So she was looking at the floor when she should have been looking at the walls.
 

sjwk0

Ephemeral Spectre
Joined
Oct 21, 2002
Messages
341
Likes
1
Points
49
#2
I've wandered around Cresswell a few times - not in the caves though, they keep those all locked and barred. Was always curious what was in there. I do know one of the people who found them though, so when he gets back from his fieldwork I might try and see if he's got any other photos.

Steve.
 

Mattattattatt

Abominable Snowman
Joined
Sep 17, 2001
Messages
510
Likes
3
Points
49
#3
I went to Cresswell Crags as a kid. I always wondered what was behind the bars on those caves - I always imagined loads of dead cavemen, for some reason! Maybe I thought they'd been locked behind the bars and starved to death... :eek:
 

sjwk0

Ephemeral Spectre
Joined
Oct 21, 2002
Messages
341
Likes
1
Points
49
#4
Well, I went back to Cresswell at the weekend and was shown around the cave where they've found most of the cave art. Most of it was up on the ceiling rather than lower down since the 'floor' is significantly lower than it was during that period - Victorian archaeologists apparently, whose idea of archaeology was to excavate everything back to solid rock. (The floor and lower layers apparently are neanderthal era, while the 13000 year old level of the artists starts about 4-5 feet up and is evident by a layer of ash and occasional bit of charcoal from their fires that you can see on the wall.
Fortunately the scaffolding they were working from was still there which made it much easier to get close enough to have a good look, aided by a very bright light.
It's kind of like seeing faces form in the bedclothes or in wallpaper patterns - you can't see anything apart from the rock until a couple of features are pointed out and then the light moved to make the shadows more prominent. Once you've seen it, you can still see it even without the aid of the light.
I'll take the films in for developing soon.

Steve.
 

rynner2

Great Old One
Joined
Aug 7, 2001
Messages
55,255
Likes
8,916
Points
284
Location
Under the moon
#5
The earliest-known example of prehistoric cave art in Britain could get a new £4.5m museum.

The ibex is partially obscured by 1940s graffiti
A lottery bid is being prepared to allow the cave art to go on public view, although the exact details have yet to be worked out.

The art - first revealed in June - consists of 12,000-year-old engravings of birds and an ibex carved into the stone walls at Creswell Crags, on the border of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

Nigel Mills, manager of the Creswell Heritage Trust, told BBC News Online that "these discoveries show how important Creswell Crags are in global terms.

"Twenty thousand years ago, the edge of the ice cap was only 30 kilometres north of Creswell, so this was one of the most northerly places to have been visited by our ancestors during the Ice Age."

Before Stonehenge

The proposed museum and education centre will, hopes Nigel Mills, change the prevailing view of prehistory in the UK.

"Usually prehistory starts with the Romans with a brief look back to Stonehenge, and that's about it.

"But there is much more. The people who lived at Creswell were remarkably sophisticated, and they faced the problem of environmental change, just like we do today."

The Creswell Crags Trust hopes to submit its lottery bid later in the year, as part of a £14m initiative to extend facilities in the Creswell area.

The plan was already under way before the discovery of the cave art. Its inclusion has added a new dimension to the project.

The trust also hopes that many of the objects removed from Creswell by Victorian archaeologists, and distributed to museums throughout the country, could be displayed at the new centre.

Mystery animal

"Every European country has a museum telling the story of life in the Ice Age, except Britain. We hope to change this."

Before the Creswell engravings were identified, archaeologists had always insisted that it would have been a surprise not to find Palaeolithic cave art somewhere in the UK.

Although some experts said most cave paintings would have been destroyed in Britain's damp climate.

Of the two birds carved on the wall of the cave at Creswell, one might be a crane or swan, the other a bird of prey.

The other engraving could be an ibex, an animal not thought to have existed in Britain.
Story with pics, links:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3084155.stm
 
Joined
Aug 19, 2003
Messages
48,067
Likes
19,534
Points
284
Location
Eblana
#6
Britain's human history revealed

By Jonathan Amos
Science reporter, BBC News, Norwich

The story has been filled out but human remains are scarce
Eight times humans came to try to live in Britain and on at least seven occasions they failed - beaten back by freezing conditions.

Scientists think they can now write a reasonably comprehensive history of the occupation of these isles.

It stretches from 700,000 years ago and the first known settlers at Pakefield in Suffolk, through to the most recent incomers just 12,000 years or so ago.

The evidence comes from the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain Project.

This five-year undertaking by some of the UK's leading palaeo-experts has reassessed a mass of scientific data and filled in big knowledge gaps with new discoveries.

The project's director, Professor Chris Stringer from London's Natural History Museum, came to the British Association Science Festival to outline some of the key findings.

What has been uncovered has been a tale of struggle: "In human terms, Britain was the edge of the Universe," he said.

Australian aboriginals have been in Australia longer, continuously than the British people have been in Britain

Prof Chris Stringer, Natural History Museum
The project has established that a see-sawing climate and the presence of intermittent land access between Britain and what is now continental Europe allowed only stuttering waves of immigration.

And it has extended the timing of what was regarded to be the earliest influx by 200,000 years.

More than 30 flint tools unearthed in a fossil-rich seam at Pakefield, Lowestoft, on the east coast, represent the oldest, unequivocal evidence of humans in northern Europe.

But the story from then on is largely one of failed colonisation, as retreating and advancing ice sheets at first exposed the land and then covered it up.

"Britain has suffered some of the most extreme climate changes of any area in the world during the Pleistocene," said Professor Stringer.

"So places in say South Wales would have gone from something that looked like North Africa with hippos, elephants, rhinos and hyenas, to the other extreme: to an extraordinary cold environment like northern Scandinavia."

THE HISTORY OF HUMANS IN BRITAIN



The evidence suggests there were eight major incursions
All but the last - about 12,000 years ago - were unsuccessful
A number of major palaeo-sites mark the periods of influx
Extreme cold made Britain uninhabitable for thousands of years

Scientists now think there were seven gaps in the occupation story - times when there was probably no human settlement of any kind on these shores. Britain and the British people of today are essentially new arrivals - products only of the last influx 12,000 years.

"Australian aboriginals have been in Australia longer, continuously than the British people have been in Britain. There were probably people in the Americas before 12,000 years ago," Professor Stringer explained.

Dr Danielle Schreve from Royal Holloway, University of London, has been filling out part of the story at a quarry at Lynford, near Norwich.

She and colleagues have found thousands of items that betray a site occupied some 60,000 years ago by Neanderthals.

The discoveries include the remains of mammoths, rhino and other large animals; and they hint at the sophistication these people would have had to employ to bring down such prey.


The oldest evidence of occupation comes from Pakefield, Suffolk
It seemed likely, she said, that the Neanderthals were picking off the weakest of the beasts and herding them into a swampy area to kill them.

"In the past, Neanderthals have been described as the most marginal of scavengers, and yet we have increasing evidence that they were supreme hunters and top carnivores," Dr Schreve told the festival.

One major piece of this great scientific jigsaw remains outstanding: extensive remains of the ancient people themselves.

What we know about the early occupations comes mostly from the stone tools and other artefacts these Britons left behind; their bones have been elusive.

Professor Stringer is confident, though, that major discoveries are still ahead.

Some of the earliest human settlements would have been in what is now the North Sea. Indeed, trawlermen regularly pull up mammoth fossils from the seabed, for example.

"There are very many promising sites in East Anglia where there is tremendous coastal erosion going on. That's bad news for the people who live there now; and we don't want it too happen to quickly either because we need time to get to grips with what's coming out of the cliffs."


http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/5317762.stm
 

BIg_Slim

Junior Acolyte
Joined
Oct 24, 2005
Messages
95
Likes
0
Points
22
#7
Very interesting, BUT how can they really say when the earliest occupation was? and ice age scrapes out thousands of tons of land
and could quite possibly wipe out any traces of habitation.
just a thought. :?
 
Joined
Aug 19, 2003
Messages
48,067
Likes
19,534
Points
284
Location
Eblana
#8
Ice Foiled Ancient Settlement of Britain Seven Times
Kate Ravilious in Edinburgh, Scotland
for National Geographic News

September 18, 2006
If at first you don't succeed, then try, try again.

This appears to have been the motto of ancient humans trying to inhabit the British Isles. These settlers were beaten back by ice sheets at least seven times before managing to permanently establish themselves, researchers say.

Scientists have managed to piece together much of the human history of the British Isles as part of the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain Project, a collaboration among archaeologists, paleontologists, and geologists that has been running for the past five years.

Those researchers have unearthed a wealth of new findings. Humans, it appears, came to the British Isles at least 700,000 years ago, 200,000 years earlier than previously thought, but began to establish permanent residence only around 12,000 years ago.


The director of the project, Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London, England, outlined the project's key findings at the British Association Science Festival in early September.

"In human terms Britain was the edge of the universe," he told attendees.

Hot and Cold

There were eight waves of migration from continental Europe to the British Isles, the scientists say. Each migration attempt occurred when ice sheets retreated northward and the climate became warmer.

The ancient humans ventured to Britain during periods of low sea level (when much of the water was locked up in ice sheets), strolling across land bridges that now lie underneath the English Channel and parts of the North Sea.

But during harsh glacial periods, ice sheets traveled as far south as London, defeating the first seven invasions (map of the United Kingdom).

"Either [the ancient humans] went extinct, or they traveled south and hunkered down in warmer areas such as Spain," said Mark White of England's Durham University, one of the project archaeologists.

Crumbling Cliffs

Many of the archaeological finds have occurred along the east coast of England, where there has been dramatic coastal erosion in recent years.

The earliest evidence for human occupation in the British Isles has been discovered at Pakefield, a site dated to 700,000 years ago and located near Lowestoft on Britain's east coast.

No human remains were found, but more than 30 flint tools have been unearthed, providing sufficient proof of human occupation.

Animal and plant fossils from the same time period show that Pakefield was once very different.

"The climate was almost Mediterranean, and there were animals like hippopotamuses, hyenas, and lions roaming around," said Simon Parfitt, a mammal fossil specialist based at the Natural History Museum in London.

It's hard to say what the Pakefield people were like, Parfitt says. But the kind of tools they used and the animals they hunted indicate that the Pakefield settlers were more human than ape.

"Essentially they would have been very robust early humans, who walked about on two legs and subsisted from hunting and gathering," he said.

Further Invasions

The next wave of immigrants appears to have developed more sophisticated tools such as hand axes.

At Happisburgh, also on the east coast of England, the scientists discovered huge piles of butchered animal bones and hand axes at least 500,000 years old.

The majority of the finds have been in the south of the British Isles. "Ice sheets would have ground everything to pieces further north," Parfitt explained.

But that doesn't mean that early humans didn't go farther north. Some evidence of settlement has been found in Wales and in England's Midlands and north.

After several more unsuccessful incursions, the Neandertals (often spelled "Neanderthals") strode over to the British Isles around 60,000 years ago and survived by hunting big game, researchers say.

At a quarry near Norwich, in eastern England, Durham University's White and his colleagues have been examining a woolly mammoth butchery site.

The Neandertals appear to have been picking off the weakest of the beasts and herding them into a swampy area to kill them.

The findings are changing the way that scientists perceive the Neandertal people. "It seems they were a lot more savvy than people give them credit for," White said.

Nonetheless, the Neandertals couldn't withstand the extreme cold and were pushed out by the next ice age. (Related: "Neandertals' Last Stand Was in Gibraltar, Study Suggests" [September 18, 2006].)

Around 20,000 years ago the world experienced its most recent glacial period. The ice gradually retreated, and by around 12,000 years ago the modern British population began to arrive.

Climate Cycles

Most glacial cycles are believed to occur because of changes in planetary motions known as Milankovitch cycles. All across northern Europe, Russia, and China, ancient peoples were likely to have followed the advance and retreat of the ice sheets, scientists say.

However, humans didn't always take advantage of the warm periods in Britain.

"There were four warm periods where the ice retreated, but humans, as far as we know, didn't come," White said.

The sea level may have been too high for them to cross, or perhaps they were just content to stay in continental Europe, he says. Or evidence of their presence in Britain during these periods may just not have been found yet.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news ... itain.html
 

kiev85

Junior Acolyte
Joined
Aug 5, 2001
Messages
52
Likes
0
Points
37
#9
BIg_Slim said:
Very interesting, BUT how can they really say when the earliest occupation was? and ice age scrapes out thousands of tons of land
and could quite possibly wipe out any traces of habitation.
just a thought. :?
The earliest occupation can be pinned down (relatively) by the evidence of patterns in movement from europe and all the way down to Africa...

hense the "at least 700,000 " phrase...at uni we used to use the phrase "present evidence" or "at publication"....(cover your back in this ever changing world)

Ice ages do destroy "open" sites, i.e lake side dwellings etc...Ther is and will be no evidence of the earliest occupation up here in scotland...due to this...

However the majority of evidence that these studies look at come from the study of "closed" sites, cave dwellings etc...

and in many cases, like the pakefield site, in-direct evidence of human occupation...

The 700,000 date comes from tools believed to have been fashioned...no physical remains of humans where found...but from this assumptions can be made..
 
Joined
Aug 19, 2003
Messages
48,067
Likes
19,534
Points
284
Location
Eblana
#10
Delving deep into Britain's past
By Paul Rincon
Science reporter, BBC News



Neanderthals probably made this hand axe from Swanscombe in Kent
Scientists are to begin work on the second phase of a project aimed at piecing together the history of human colonisation in Britain.

Phase one of the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain project (AHOB) discovered people were here 200,000 years earlier than previously thought.

Phase two has now secured funds to the tune of £1m and will run until 2010.

Team members hope to find out more about Britain's earliest settlers and perhaps unearth their fossil remains.

How far back could human occupation go in Britain? We just don't know; but we are certainly going to be looking

Prof Chris Stringer, AHOB Project
They will also compare the animals and plants of Britain with those of nearby continental Europe. This will establish similarities and differences to determine how distinctive British wildlife was in the distant past.

Studies of prehistoric mammals suggest there were filters operating in the distant past that allowed some animals in from mainland Europe, but not others.

These filters may have been physical barriers such as the English Channel, or the narrowness of a land bridge that once connected Britain to Europe, or they may included climatic factors.


See some of the most important prehistoric sites in Britain


More details

Dr Nick Ashton, from the British Museum, said "AHOB2" would investigate the absence of humans in Britain between 180,000 and 60,000 years ago: "The new project will test the idea that this was due to the creation of the English Channel just prior to this time," he said.

The first year of the project will include an attempt to recover DNA from a fragment of human jawbone discovered at Kents Cavern in Devon. Recent re-dating of the specimen shows it is older than previously thought.

If the jawbone is from a modern human (Homo sapiens), as it was long thought to be, it would be amongst the earliest fossils from our species known from Europe; but the early date suggests it could also be from a late Neanderthal (Homo neanderthalensis).

Warm periods

A see-sawing climate and the presence of intermittent land access between Britain and what is now continental Europe allowed only stuttering waves of immigration.

Humans came to try to live in Britain eight times and on at least seven occasions they failed - beaten back by freezing conditions.


A dig at Lynford revealed mammoth remains and signs of human activity
Phase one of AHOB extended the timing of the earliest known influx by 200,000 years. More than 30 flint tools unearthed in a fossil-rich seam at Pakefield, near Lowestoft, on the east coast, represent the oldest, unequivocal evidence of humans in northern Europe.

But project scientists now plan to hunt for even older evidence of occupation than this.

"The conditions that brought people to Pakefield were Mediterranean; there were warm summers and mild winters. Those conditions were there even earlier than Pakefield," said Chris Stringer, the project's director and head of human origins at London's Natural History Museum.

"How far back could human occupation go in Britain? We just don't know; but we are certainly going to be looking."

Burial practices

Professor Stringer said the discovery of a well-preserved fossil hominid, or early human, continues to be a "personal dream".

While the ancient settlers of Britain left an evidence trail in the form of stone artefacts and butchered animal bones, their fossil remains are vanishingly rare.


The Swanscombe skull may belong to an early Neanderthal
Early Neanderthals are known from teeth discovered at Pontnewydd in Wales and a partial skull unearthed at Swanscombe in Kent. Late Neanderthal remains have been found on Jersey.

An earlier species, Homo heidelbergensis, is represented at the 500,000-year-old site of Boxgrove, West Sussex, by a shinbone and two teeth.

"The problem is that humans were always thin on the ground in the distant past. They were competing with the lions, the hyenas and the wolves, so the environment could not support large numbers of humans," said Professor Stringer.

"They didn't bury their dead, they don't seem to use caves as much as they did later on and we don't have good cave sites in Britain with deposits from the right time, except perhaps Kents Cavern.

"But with the sites in East Anglia, we have other mammals preserved there; we have stone tools, so at least there's a chance - we just have to get lucky."

Buried landscape

Dramatic coastal erosion in some parts of East Anglia has forced many people to leave homes that are collapsing into the sea.

It is also exposing a buried landscape beneath the cliffs that is over half a million years old. The potential for uncovering fossils and artefacts will ensure the region is a major focus for AHOB's next phase.


DNA may shed light on the owner of the Kents Cavern jawbone
Quarrying at gravel pits is also exposing ancient sites, such as Lynford in Norfolk, which contains possible evidence of Neanderthals butchering mammoths.

"We're hoping to foster closer relations with the aggregates industry because unless they dig holes, we're not going to see the right sediments exposed," said Danielle Schreve, a palaeontologist from Royal Holloway, University of London.

"They're after sand and gravel which were laid down by ancient rivers and that's a prime place to find bones and stones together. That stuff needs to be recorded because there's an enormous amount of it being lost."

Dr Schreve is working with colleagues to refine a dating method for ancient archaeological finds in Britain based on evolutionary changes in the teeth of water voles.

The AHOB project involves researchers from the Natural History Museum, the British Museum, Royal Holloway and other institutes and is funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

[email protected].


http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/5392134.stm
 

rynner2

Great Old One
Joined
Aug 7, 2001
Messages
55,255
Likes
8,916
Points
284
Location
Under the moon
#11
Rare carving found at famous cave

A cave carving dating back 13,000 years has been discovered - only yards from where hundreds of tourists file past every day.
Cavers from Bristol University found the etching of a mammoth in Gough's Cave at Cheddar Gorge, Somerset.

They date the engraving, which is hard to see because of erosion, back to the Upper Palaeolithic period.

It follows the discovery of presumed Mesolithic carving at the gorge in 2005.

The Ice Age etching was in a small alcove off a main footpath and was only found during a systematic sweep of the caves.

Graham Mullan, from the university's spelaeological society, said tourists would have had difficulty finding the markings.

He explained: "Unlike our previous finds of abstract designs in the caves in this area, this is a clear representation of an animal."

The society's research into the engravings is being carried out with the British Museum's Department of Prehistory and Europe.

Jill Cook, deputy keeper in the department, added: "Cave art is so rare here that we must always question and test to make sure we are getting it right.

"Opinions on this may differ but we do seem to be looking at an area of ancient rock surface and the lines which appear to form the head and back of the mammoth could have been made by a stone tool."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/somerset/6947774.stm
 
Joined
Aug 19, 2003
Messages
48,067
Likes
19,534
Points
284
Location
Eblana
#13
Kents Cavern crops up again. Its rather gruesome this time.

Cannibalism theory over bone-find
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/engl ... 188406.stm

The marks are believed to be from a stone tool


A human bone found in Devon with tool-cuts thought to have been made during a ritual ceremony 9,000 years ago may be evidence of cannibalism.

Torquay Museum staff identified the arm bone as they documented animal remains discovered in Kents Cavern in Torquay.

The bone's marks are thought to have been made by stone tools and could indicate a ritual - or that the victim was devoured by other people.

The caves are the oldest Scheduled Ancient Monument in Britain.

The bone was first unearthed in 1866 by archaeologist William Pengelly, who spent 15 years excavating the cavern.


Some archaeologists have interpreted [similar] marks as evidence of cannibalism

Torquay Museum
It was put into storage in the museum and "rediscovered" in December 2008.

It was found as part of a cataloguing programme, which has been examining about 15,000 animal bones excavated from the cavern that had been housed in the museum's store.

The museum's researchers found the butchered bone in June, and, working with the University of Oxford's School of Archaeology and Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, identified it as a fragment of human arm bone.

It was then radiocarbon dated to 8,185 years BP [Before Present, an archaeological term meaning before 1950].

'Ritual burial'

Tom Higham, from the radiocarbon unit, said: "The bone was particularly well preserved and the result is seen as very reliable."

Dr Rick Schulting, of the University of Oxford's School of Archaeology, said: "Finds like this highlight the complexity of mortuary practices in the Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age), many thousands of years before the appearance of farming, which is more usually associated with complex funerary behaviour."

The museum said only one other site in Britain had yielded similar human remains with cut marks of this age - Gough's Cave at Cheddar Gorge.

"Some archaeologists have interpreted these marks as evidence of cannibalism, but ritual burial practice or dismemberment for transportation has not been ruled out," a museum spokesman said.

Archaeological digs there have unearthed a 37,000-year-old human jawbone and stone tools that were more than 40,000 years old.
 
Joined
Aug 10, 2005
Messages
12,027
Likes
142
Points
114
#14
Re-examination of human bones and artefacts from previous excavations leads to fascinating insights into the possible funerary practices of some of Britain's earliest human inhabitants.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/feb/16/cheddar-cave-skull-cups

Cheddar cave dwellers ate their dead and turned their skulls into cups

Skulls unearthed in a Somerset cave were skilfully fashioned into cups with the rest of the bodies probably being cannibalised

guardian.co.uk, Ian Sample. 16 February 2011

A macabre collection of bone cups made from human skulls, unearthed in a Somerset cave, are the oldest of their kind, researchers believe.

The extraordinary vessels are the handiwork of early modern humans, who used stone tools to prepare and finish the containers at the end of the last ice age, around 14,700 years ago.

The three cups, made from the skulls of two adults and one three-year-old child, were dug up several decades ago, alongside the cracked and cut-marked remains of animal and human bones at Gough Cave in Cheddar Gorge, south-west England. They have now been re-examined using new techniques.

The human bones show clear signs of butchery, implying that the bodies were stripped for meat and crushed for marrow before the heads were severed and turned into crockery.

There is no suggestion that the cups are trophies made from the remains of dead enemies. It is more likely that making skull cups was a traditional craft and their original owners died naturally.

"It would probably take a half day to prepare a skull cup," said Silvia Bello, the palaeontologist who led the study at the Natural History Museum in London. "Defleshing the skull was a skilled and lengthy business."

Researchers said it was impossible to know how skull cups were used, but historically they have held food, blood or wine. Some are still used today in Hindu and Buddist rituals. "To us they can still seem a little strange," said Bello. "I wouldn't have my cereal in one."

Writing in the journal Plos One, the scientists describe revisiting excavated remains from the cave, including a skull cup unearthed in 1987 by Chris Stringer, head of human origins research at the museum. Detailed examination of 37 skull fragments and four pieces of jaw using a 3D microscope revealed a common pattern of hard strikes followed by more finessed stone tool work that turned a freshly decapitated head into a functional cup or bowl.

"This is the first time we've understood how this material was processed, and the fact that the skulls were not just cut and butchered, but were shaped in a purposeful way," said Stringer.

The discarded human bones had the same cut and saw marks found on butchered animal bones at the site, and some were cracked open or crushed, as was done with animal bones to expose nutritious marrow. Only the skulls seem to have been treated with special care. The cuts and dents show they were scrupulously cleaned of any soft tissues soon after death.

"They systematically shaped the skulls to make them into cups. They scalped them to remove the hair, they removed the eyeballs and ears, they knocked off the faces, then removed the jaws and chiseled away the edges to make the rims nice and even. They did a pretty thorough job,' Stringer said.

The smaller cup, made from the child's skull, would have leaked because the cranial bones had not fully fused together, but the larger two might have carried food or around two pints of liquid.

"We assume it was some kind of ritual treatment. If there's not much food around they may have eaten their dead to survive. Perhaps they did this to honour the dead, to celebrate their lives," Stringer added.

The cave dwellers were among the first humans to return to Britain at the end of the last ice age. The island was unpopulated and almost completely under ice 20,000 years ago, but as the climate warmed, plants and animals moved across Doggerland, a now submerged land bridge that linked Britain to mainland Europe. Where food went, early humans followed and brought art, craft and toolmaking skills with them.

The ages of the remains at Gough Cave suggest it was home to humans for at least 100 years. The cave is well-sheltered and, with skin flaps over the entrance, would have made a cosy abode, Stringer said. The residents were ideally placed to hunt passing deer and wild boar, while up on the Mendip Hills roamed reindeer and horses.

In the 1900s, several hundred tonnes of soil were removed from the cave to open it up as a tourist attraction, a move that may have destroyed priceless ancient remains. The skull cup and other bones unearthed in 1987 survived only because they were lodged behind a large rock.

In 1903, field researchers working in the cave's entrance uncovered Cheddar Man, the oldest complete skeleton in Britain at more than 9,000 years old. A painting of a mammoth was found on the wall in 2007. Other artefacts from the site include an exquisitely carved mammoth ivory spearhead.

A precise replica of one of the skull cups, complete with cut marks, will go on display at the Natural History Museum in London from 1 March for three months.
 

escargot

Disciple of Marduk
Joined
Aug 24, 2001
Messages
25,157
Likes
20,362
Points
309
Location
HM The Tower of London
#15
I saw this on the BBC news this moning. They held up the skull to the camera and you could see the scrape marks where the flesh had been removed. Brrr.
 

Yithian

Parish Watch
Staff member
Joined
Oct 29, 2002
Messages
25,606
Likes
25,201
Points
309
Location
East of Suez
#17
Pietro_Mercurios said:
...
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/feb/16/cheddar-cave-skull-cups

Cheddar cave dwellers ate their dead and turned their skulls into cups

...
I think George Monbiot was advocating this in his column earlier this week.
Sustainable living and all that...

But people have always eaten people, what else is there to eat? If the juju had meant us not to eat people, he wouldn't have made us of meat.

http://www.thurb.com/humour/cannibal.htm
Edit: Quote edited to avoid confusion. P_M
 
Joined
Aug 19, 2003
Messages
48,067
Likes
19,534
Points
284
Location
Eblana
#18
News that would have given dreeness an apoplectic fit.

First modern Britons had 'dark to black' skin, Cheddar Man DNA analysis reveals
The genome of Cheddar Man, who lived 10,000 years ago, suggests that he had blue eyes, dark skin and dark curly hair

Hannah Devlin Science correspondent Wed Feb 2018 06.01 GMT Last modified on Wed 7 Feb 2018 10.59 GMT

The first modern Britons, who lived about 10,000 years ago, had “dark to black” skin, a groundbreaking DNA analysis of Britain’s oldest complete skeleton has revealed.

The fossil, known as Cheddar Man, was unearthed more than a century ago in Gough’s Cave in Somerset. Intense speculation has built up around Cheddar Man’s origins and appearance because he lived shortly after the first settlers crossed from continental Europe to Britain at the end of the last ice age. People of white British ancestry alive today are descendants of this population.

It was initially assumed that Cheddar Man had pale skin and fair hair, but his DNA paints a different picture, strongly suggesting he had blue eyes, a very dark brown to black complexion and dark curly hair.

The discovery shows that the genes for lighter skin became widespread in European populations far later than originally thought – and that skin colour was not always a proxy for geographic origin in the way it is often seen to be today. ...

https://www.theguardian.com/science...n-dna-analysis-reveals?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other
 

blessmycottonsocks

Justified & Ancient
Joined
Dec 22, 2014
Messages
3,044
Likes
4,326
Points
154
Location
Wessex and Mercia
#20
"First modern Britons had 'dark to black' skin,"

I thought this specimen was only 10,000 years old and I'm sure there are remains of homo sapiens dating back over 40,000 years in the British Isles.
 

Dr_Baltar

Left Foot of God
Joined
May 24, 2007
Messages
2,667
Likes
1,042
Points
169
#21
"First modern Britons had 'dark to black' skin,"

I thought this specimen was only 10,000 years old and I'm sure there are remains of homo sapiens dating back over 40,000 years in the British Isles.
Yes, but these are the oldest remains of someone who lived here after the island was permanently settled, post-ice age.
 

blessmycottonsocks

Justified & Ancient
Joined
Dec 22, 2014
Messages
3,044
Likes
4,326
Points
154
Location
Wessex and Mercia
#22
Yes, but these are the oldest remains of someone who lived here after the island was permanently settled, post-ice age.
Looks like it's the completeness of the skeleton and the supposed dark skin that has produced some rather lurid newspaper reports. Just a few posts above this though is a reference to the Cresswell site, famous for its cave art and which was occupied during the Ice Age. Modern human occupancy there predates this latest specimen by several thousand years.
 

Dr_Baltar

Left Foot of God
Joined
May 24, 2007
Messages
2,667
Likes
1,042
Points
169
#23
Looks like it's the completeness of the skeleton and the supposed dark skin that has produced some rather lurid newspaper reports. Just a few posts above this though is a reference to the Cresswell site, famous for its cave art and which was occupied during the Ice Age. Modern human occupancy there predates this latest specimen by several thousand years.
It's obviously believed that those that occupied the caves at Creswell Crags, either died out or were driven out by the land becoming uninhabitable though, hence this quote from the article ramonmercado posted:

"Britain was periodically settled and then cleared during ice ages until the end of the last glacial period about 11,700 years ago, since when it has been continuously inhabited."
 

eburacum

Papo-furado
Joined
Aug 26, 2005
Messages
3,180
Likes
1,120
Points
169
#24
There was a Neanderthal presence at Creswell Crags which was much, much earlier. The post-Ice Age Creswellians were probably the same sort of people as Cheddar Man. No humans of any kind lived here from 180,000 to c.60,000 bp. or between 33000 and 14500bp.
 

blessmycottonsocks

Justified & Ancient
Joined
Dec 22, 2014
Messages
3,044
Likes
4,326
Points
154
Location
Wessex and Mercia
#25
There was a Neanderthal presence at Creswell Crags which was much, much earlier. The post-Ice Age Creswellians were probably the same sort of people as Cheddar Man. No humans of any kind lived here from 180,000 to c.60,000 bp. or between 33000 and 14500bp.
Agreed. Hence the occupants of Cresswell Crags from c 14,500 BP have a stronger claim to being Britain's first modern humans, as indeed and even more so do the human remains dated to 41,000 BP and found near today's Torquay (presumably heading South to avoid the worst of the Ice Age conditions) or the owners of the bones found on the South East coast or even dredged up by fishermen in what was once Doggerland.
What depresses me about the current find is that something so rare and amazing is being so cynically politicised by some of the more irresponsible media.
Just watching the coverage on the Sky 19:30 news and they are trumpeting the "indigenous Britons were BLACK!" meme, based on this single skeleton, and this morning's Guardian article was little more than a political football to support their views on immigration.
I don't know what skin colour the earliest human inhabitants of these isles had (apart from evidence for blonde or ginger haired Neanderthals) but I feel very uncomfortable about important archaeological finds being cynically leveraged into political capital today.
 
Last edited:

eburacum

Papo-furado
Joined
Aug 26, 2005
Messages
3,180
Likes
1,120
Points
169
#26
My missus worked at Creswell Crags forty years ago, surveying the caves; she failed to find the carvings, which were very difficult to find. Oh well. This is the first time that the skin colour of these post-Ice Age people has been determined, and it mostly goes to show that skin colour is a very small part of the genome. About 10% of the current population of the UK is descended from these early inhabitants via the female line, according to mDNA. Probably most people living here share at least a small part of their genome.
 

blessmycottonsocks

Justified & Ancient
Joined
Dec 22, 2014
Messages
3,044
Likes
4,326
Points
154
Location
Wessex and Mercia
#28
My missus worked at Creswell Crags forty years ago, surveying the caves; she failed to find the carvings, which were very difficult to find. Oh well. This is the first time that the skin colour of these post-Ice Age people has been determined, and it mostly goes to show that skin colour is a very small part of the genome. About 10% of the current population of the UK is descended from these early inhabitants via the female line, according to mDNA. Probably most people living here share at least a small part of their genome.
What a wonderful Job!
I'm determined to visit next time I'm up that way.
 

skinny

HARD AS NAILS
Joined
May 30, 2010
Messages
7,092
Likes
6,549
Points
284
#29
News that would have given dreeness an apoplectic fit.

First modern Britons had 'dark to black' skin, Cheddar Man DNA analysis reveals
The genome of Cheddar Man, who lived 10,000 years ago, suggests that he had blue eyes, dark skin and dark curly hair

Hannah Devlin Science correspondent Wed Feb 2018 06.01 GMT Last modified on Wed 7 Feb 2018 10.59 GMT

The first modern Britons, who lived about 10,000 years ago, had “dark to black” skin, a groundbreaking DNA analysis of Britain’s oldest complete skeleton has revealed.

The fossil, known as Cheddar Man, was unearthed more than a century ago in Gough’s Cave in Somerset. Intense speculation has built up around Cheddar Man’s origins and appearance because he lived shortly after the first settlers crossed from continental Europe to Britain at the end of the last ice age. People of white British ancestry alive today are descendants of this population.

It was initially assumed that Cheddar Man had pale skin and fair hair, but his DNA paints a different picture, strongly suggesting he had blue eyes, a very dark brown to black complexion and dark curly hair.

The discovery shows that the genes for lighter skin became widespread in European populations far later than originally thought – and that skin colour was not always a proxy for geographic origin in the way it is often seen to be today. ...

https://www.theguardian.com/science...n-dna-analysis-reveals?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other
Pigeons, meet the Cat. :hide:
 

Quake42

Warrior Princess
Joined
Feb 25, 2004
Messages
9,310
Likes
3,771
Points
219
#30
Pigeons, meet the Cat. :hide:
I’ll be honest and say I was a bit sceptical about this as it seems perfectly timed to fit the zeitgeist. “Actually indigenous British people are really black” etc

That said, my father has dark (not black, but certainly southern Mediterranean) skin, black hair and piercing blue eyes. His ancestry is from the far north of Scotland and that colouring isn’t uncommon in parts of rural Scotland and Zirelsmd. So perhaps some very ancient British ancestry after all!
 
Top