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Cave Archaeology in the Yorkshire Dales

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The limestones of the Yorkshire Dales contain a multitude
of caves, rock shelters and natural shafts that have attracted
not only people in the distant past but, in more recent
times, archaeologists seeking evidence of their ancestors.
Victoria Cave is the best known of the many Dales caves
of archaeological significance, because of the large-scale
excavations in the 1870s (Dawkins, 1872, 1874; Lord et al.,
2012). New data and interpretations have transformed ideas
about the caves and their cultural history. As well as recent
excavations, much entirely new information has come from
looking again at the results of previous excavations, including
a number of those that took place before the development
of modern archaeology. Out of a total of nearly 80 cave
excavations in the Dales, about 60 were before 1960; deposits
in about 35 caves have been examined systematically.
People probably reached northern England on a number of
occasions long before dates from Victoria Cave confirm Later
Upper Palaeolithic presence about 12,500 BC. Any evidence
that people explored the Dales before the Last Glacial
maximum has been destroyed by successive glaciations.
Ironically, during the Last Interglacial when deposits at
Victoria Cave and Raygill Fissure reveal an abundance of
big game (see Chapter 15), there is no unequivocal evidence
for humans anywhere in Britain, which was then an island
cut off from mainland Europe (Lewis et al., 2011).
Radiocarbon dating of materials
All the cultural material from the Dales caves is derived from
ages within the range that can be determined by radiocarbon
dating (see Chapter 10). Furthermore, the modern methods
that utilise accelerator mass spectrometry require only very
small samples for analysis, thereby minimising damage
to irreplaceable materials. There are currently about 90
radiocarbon dates on bone and antler from a total of 22 caves,
rock shelters and shafts, so all the cave forms where cultural
material has been found are represented. The results directly
related to human presence consist of: 24 dates on human bone;
8 dates on bone or antler objects; and 16 dates for cut-marked,
culturally smashed or modified animal bone. The other 40 or
so dates are on large mammal bones that lack unequivocal
human associations or got into a cave by natural processes such
as carnivore actions or accidental death. These results provide
a useful guide as to when caves were open. Dating of charcoal
in cave sediments is invaluable for the Mesolithic and other
periods with low rates of cultural deposition. Radiocarbon
dating is bringing a new clarity to the cave record beyond
the dreams of previous researchers (dates in this review were
calibrated using OxCal 4.1 and have a 95% probability).
The first people in the Yorkshire Dales
Recent analysis of glacial erratics and loessic silts has shown
that the much of the Dales limestone outcrops were ice-free
by about 16,000 BC (see Chapter 3). Conditions were largely
hostile to plants and animals for another 3000 years or so,
until the beginning of the Lateglacial Interstadial. This was
basically a period with warm summers and cold winters
from 12,700 to 10,800 BC, interrupted by short, much colder
events especially the severe Older Dryas cold event lasting
a few hundred years around 12,000 BC. There is a gap in
the dates for animal bones from the Dales caves around this
time. The oldest dates for brown bears at Kinsey Cave and
Victoria Cave are coincident with the onset of the Interstadial
(see Chapter 15). All the dates for Later Upper Palaeolithic
artefacts from the caves fall within the Interstadial, and these
are supported by dates on bones attributable to carnivore
actions (Table 16.1). Later Upper Palaeolithic artefacts are
rare in the caves. They are overshadowed by evidence for
brown bear hibernation, wolf scavenging and wolf denning.
The entire archaeological record for Britain during the
Lateglacial Interstadial might total little more than a few
years
or tens of years of occupation (Pettitt and White, 2012).
From Victoria Cave the date for a bevel-based reindeer
antler rod (Lord, 2013) matches a dated cut-marked wild
horse bone (Jacobi et al., 2009) confirming human presence
around 12,500 BC, during the first part of the Lateglacial
Interstadial (Fig. 3.52). These two specimens could belong to
one episode of activity. Their dates put the Yorkshire Dales
firmly within the orbit of the Final Magdalenian settlement
of northern Europe, when people first returned to areas
previously abandoned for millennia during the Last Glacial
Maximum. Magdalenian groups had arrived in southern
Britain slightly before 12,700 BC (Jacobi and Higham, 2009),
around the same time as the oldest dates for brown bears
in the Dales caves. By the time Late Magdalenian people
explored the Dales, generations of brown bears had already
used Victoria Cave for hibernation, and bones of animals that
Cave archaeology, by Tom Lord and John Howard,
Tom Lord: Settle; tomlord@daelnet.co.uk
John Howard: Keighley: juliusagricola@tiscali.co.uk
Chapter 16, pages 239–251 in Caves and Karst of the Yorkshire Dales,
edited by Tony Waltham and David Lowe.
Published 2013 by the British Cave Research Association,
978-0-900265-46-4 and at www.bcra.org.uk
Figure 16.1. The entrances to Jubilee Cave, with Pen-y-ghent
beyond; the flat terrace in front of the limestone scar was created
by the debris excavated from the caves (photo: John Thorp).
CHAPTER 16
Cave archaeology
Tom Lord and John Howard
had died in hibernation lay strewn about the cave where they
had been fed upon and scattered by wolves (Lord et al., 2007).
The conjoined pieces of the bevel-based rod of reindeer
antler (Fig. 16.3) were found in 1870 but only identified in
the 1920s (Breuil, 1921-22). The source of the reindeer antler
could lie some distance away; radiocarbon dating has yet to
confirm the presence of reindeer in the Dales at that time.
The pieces of rod were found close to the back wall of the
main chamber, Chamber A, some 30m in from the entrance,
in a part of the cave that would have been in darkness during
the Lateglacial.
The cut-marked wild horse atlas vertebra (Fig. 15.15)
was also found close to the back wall of Chamber A in 1870.
It records the removal of the head of a wild horse using stone
tools (Lord et al., 2007). It was probably carried into the cave
by a wolf or a dog, and scavenged from an open air butchery
site. Canid tooth marks overly the cut marks on the bone.
There are dated antler and bone objects (Lord, 2013)
and scavenged cut-marked wild horse bones (Table 16.1)
belonging to the second part of the Lateglacial Interstadial,
after 12,000 BC. It is conceivable they only represent two
episodes of human presence, with scavenged horse bones in
a wolf den assemblage from Sewell’s Cave revealing that
people hunted wild horses (O’Connor and Evans, 2005).
A bilaterally barbed, antler point (Fig. 16.4) was found at
the entrance to Victoria Cave in April 1870; it was described as
a Neolithic bone harpoon (Dawkins, 1872, 1874) until Breuil
(1921-22) compared it to the Final Palaeolithic barbed points
from the Mas d’Azil in the French Pyrenees. A contemporary
(Fig. 16.5) foreshaft of a composite-piece javelin head (Pettitt
and White, 2012) was found by chance in 1931 (Jackson,
1945). It is engraved with a series of fine chevrons like the
specimen location calibrated age
Bevel-based rod of reindeer antler
Cut-marked atlas of wild horse
Tang of reindeer antler (artefact)
Bone point (cf. elk, Alces alces)
Decorated javelin foreshaft of reindeer antler
Bilaterally-barbed reindeer antler point
Mean of two dates for bones of wild horse associated with
scavenged cut-marked bone in wolf den assemblage
Victoria Cave
Victoria Cave
Kinsey Cave
Coniston Dib Cave
Victoria Cave
Victoria Cave
Sewell’s Cave
12,521 + 434 BC
12,502 + 438 BC
11,359 + 129 BC
11,024 + 223 BC
10,911 + 203 BC
10,846 + 153 BC
10,808 + 148 BC
decorated Later Upper Palaeolithic wild horse mandible from
Kendrick’s Cave, North Wales (Sieveking, 1971). It was
discovered in three pieces underneath calcite flowstone in
the largely unexcavated passage beyond Chamber B, where
more Later Upper Palaeolithic objects may await discovery
(Fig. 16.6). It reveals another instance of exploring the dark
inner areas of Victoria Cave and placing an object there in
the Lateglacial, this time about 1500 years after the Final
Magdalenian bevel-based rod was left in the cave. Dating
suggests both objects were deposited during episodes of
local hunting of wild horses (Table 16.1).
A bone point from Coniston Dib Cave, in Wharfedale, was
dated before the development of improved dating methods
(Hedges, 1992). It is identical to a find from Lynx Cave in
North Wales dated 11,612 + 210 BC (Blore, 2002, 2012).
Both pieces were probably made from metatarsal bones of
elk (Alces alces), which were hunted in lowland areas of
northwest England during the second part of the Lateglacial
Interstadial (Jacobi et al., 2009).
Figure 16.2. Caves in
the Craven Dales with
archaeological deposits
that are described in this
chapter; Rawthey Cave is
10 km north of the map area.
Figure 16.3. Refitted
pieces of a Later Upper
Palaeolithic bevel-based
rod made from reindeer
antler, found in Victoria
Cave in 1870 in the Upper
Cave Earth at the back of
Chamber B.
Table 16.1. Radiocarbon
dates for human presence in
the Lateglacial Interstadial.
Figure 16.4. Later Upper
Palaeolithic bilaterally-
barbed point of reindeer
antler, found beneath the
scree at the entrance to
Chamber A in Victoria Cave
in 1870 (TL).
CAVES AND KARST OF THE YORKSHIRE DALES
240
There are very few Later Upper Palaeolithic stone tools
from the Dales caves. Even including pieces with uncertain
find histories, there are at most two from Raven Scar Cave,
two from Kinsey Cave, and one from Victoria Cave. These
stone tools are curved backed blades and knife points
belonging to the second part of the Lateglacial Interstadial
(Jacobi and Higham, 2011), and probably contemporary with
the episodes of human represented by the dated antler and
bone artefacts. Although small objects such as chipped stone
tools would have been missed during excavations before the
advent of diligent sieving, coarse sieves were in use by the
1930s, and the records from carefully excavated sites indicate
that Later Upper Palaeolithic stone tools are genuinely rare
in the Dales caves. Raven Scar Cave underwent a thorough
excavation in the 1970s (Gilkes, 1976), but produced only
two backed pieces (Fig. 16.7). Impact damage suggests these
pieces may have been arrow tips.
The cave dates provide a basic chronology for Later
Upper Palaeolithic activity in the Dales and northern England
as a whole. Yet despite the considerable time span, there is
nothing to indicate that human cave use was anything other
than slight and intermittent; with possibly no more than
three short events represented. Victoria Cave was explored
on separate occasions, probably when people were in the
area hunting wild horses, and so at times of the year when
brown bears had vacated the cave. Anyone entering Victoria
Cave would have encountered bones of brown bears that had
died there, and had been fed upon and scattered by wolves.
Just as wolves were attracted deep into the cave to get to the
corpses of brown bears that had died in hibernation (Lord et
al., 2007), so might people have been after the marrow fat
in the bones.
During the second part of the Interstadial bones
of reindeer, wild cattle (aurochs) and wild horse were
accumulated by wolves in Victoria Cave and Sewell’s Cave
(Lord et al., 2007), suggesting that these large herbivores
were present, and probably calving locally, during the spring
and early summer when wolf pups are in dens. Their calves
were attractive to humans as well as wolves, as calf skin
provides soft leather. The presence of wild horse shows the
uplands remained open ground providing good grazing when
free from snow. The antler, bone and flint weapon heads
found in the caves were designed to inflict wounds that bled
copiously; they were used by small groups of mobile hunters
looking to chance upon big game, and then get close to hit
and wound an animal which weakened from bleeding could
be tracked and killed. There is no evidence from the caves
for human presence or wolf activity during the cold Younger
Dryas Stadial that brought the Lateglacial Interstadial to an
end around 10,800 BC.
Early Mesolithic, 9600 to 8000 BC
After a break of more than a thousand years during the cold
Younger Dryas event, people returned to the Dales following
the onset of rapid warming around 9,600 BC. Brown bears
were probably already here by the time people arrived; there
are dates for brown bear bones from Victoria Cave of 10,019–
9406 BC and 9186–8806 BC. Brown bears could have been
hunted in the Dales. A broad-blade flint microlith like those
at Star Carr (near Scarborough) was found in Raven Scar
Cave, along with brown bear remains dated 8294–7989. It is
conceivable that the microlith got into the cave in the body of
a brown bear wounded by an arrow. Early Mesolithic broad
blade flint microliths of the Star Carr type are recorded from
sites around Malham Tarn (Williams et al., 1987).
There is scant evidence for Early Mesolithic activity in
the caves. The only diagnostic artefacts are the Star Carr type
microlith and possibly another piece from Raven Scar Cave,
and a Deepcar type microlith from Jubilee Cave; perhaps add
Figure 16.5. Later Upper Palaeolithic decorated foreshaft of a
javelin head made from reindeer antler, found in Victoria Cave
beneath flowstone in the largely unexcavated Chamber C in 1931.
Figure 16.6. Victoria Cave before the excavations of 1870-78;
the daylight entrance to Chamber D was originally blocked by
sediment. Find spots are dated Later Upper Palaeolithic artefacts.
Figure 16.7. Later Upper Palaeolithic curved-backed flint blades,
possibly arrow tips with impact damage, from Raven Scar Cave.
CAVE ARCHAEOLOGY 241
to these the distintive small blades and a stone bead from
Chapel Cave, where fine sieving was used to ensure that small
objects were not missed in the excavations (Donahue and
Lovis, 2006). Early Mesolithic human remains have yet to be
dated from the Dales caves; mortuary activity is an aspect of
Early Mesolithic cave use in other limestone areas (Conneller,
2006) including those around Morecambe Bay (Smith, 2012).
The composite bone tool from the large rock shelter of
Calf Hole (Jones, 1894) could belong to either Early or Later
Mesolithic (Fig. 16.9). It consists of a wild boar canine set
in a perforated haft of red deer antler. It was possibly a dual-
purpose tool used in preparing arrow shafts: the hole in the
haft being used to straighten the shafts after they were heated
over a fire and the concave blade of the boars tusk used to
smooth the shaft prior to heating and straightening.
Later Mesolithic, 8000 to 3800 BC
Later Mesolithic microliths are typically small geometric
forms. These are found with lithic scatters throughout the
Dales, but very few sites are dated, and the Later Mesolithic
is a long period lasting about four thousand years. Current
sea levels were reached by about 6000 BC and the loss of
coastal lowlands could have encouraged greater use of the
uplands. Cave use changes during the Later Mesolithic,
as revealed by the cessation of mortuary activity in caves
in southwest England and south Wales by about 6000 BC
(Conneller, 2006). Three Dales caves have dated evidence
for Later Mesolithic association unconnected with mortuary
activity after 6000 BC. This might have been a relatively
short event with cave use ending before 5000 BC.
Figure 16.8. Excavations at Victoria Cave in 1874, cutting through
the great thickness of scree debris in order to explore the Hyaena
Bone Bed for Palaeolithic tools.
Figure 16.9. Mesolithic composite implement, with a wild boar
canine set into a perforated handle of red deer antler; length is
19cm; found in Calf Hole, in Wharfedale, and photographed in the
1890s shortly before it was lost.
Recent excavation in the mouth of Chapel Cave found
seventeen Later Mesolithic flint microliths and about eighty
other non-diagnostic pieces of flint and chert. These occurred
as discrete clasts in a sedimentary matrix that yielded a
date of 5620–5424 BC on charcoal from near the top of
the sequence (Donahue and Lovis, 2003). Analysis of the
chert fragments indicate multiple possible sources including
outcrops in Swaledale (Evans et al., 2010). The cave was
possibly visited by small task groups who had travelled some
distance from their home settlements and used the cave to
repair equipment (Donahue and Lovis, 2000). Chapel Cave
is near to Malham Tarn, a unique upland lake that lies almost
on the Pennine watershed; it would have been a permanent
feature that was easily found in the largely wooded landscape
of the Later Mesolithic. Groups travelling from settlements
some distance away and meeting up at this upland lake might
be one reason why Chapel Cave was used at this time.
That Later Mesolithic people explored caves is supported
by charcoal dated about 5800 BC from the interior of the
Arcow Wood Caves, and a piece of large red deer antler from
inside Victoria Cave found mid-way in Chamber A in 1870
dated 5298–5057 BC. The latter find is so far the only piece
of Later Mesolithic bone attributable to human deposition
from a Dales cave, and currently the youngest evidence for
Later Mesolithic cave use in the Dales. It also suggests the
periwinkle (Littorina sp.) shell beads found during early
work in Victoria Cave (Smith and Jackson, 1844) are Later
Mesolithic. Periwinkle shell beads have been found in
association with culturally smashed red deer bones in Three
Holes Cave, Devon (Barton and Roberts, 2004) with dates
matching the piece of red deer antler from Victoria Cave.
The nearest source of periwinkle shells to Victoria Cave is
Morecambe Bay, nearly 50 km away.
Presently there are no dates from the Dales caves for
brown bears in the Mesolithic later than the specimen
dated 8294–7989 BC from Raven Scar Cave. By the Later
Mesolithic brown bears could have stopped using the Dales
caves for hibernation (Lord et al., 2007), and sites with old
bear bones took on new cultural meanings. Brown bears had
returned to Victoria Cave in the Early Mesolithic, adding
more bones to those already there from the animals that died
during the Lateglacial Interstadial. People might have come
from the coast in the Later Mesolithic and put the shell beads
Figure 16.10. Kinsey Cave, with the horizontal entrance excavated
in the 1920s, below the blocked shaft into the main chamber (TL).
CAVES AND KARST OF THE YORKSHIRE DALES
242
in Victoria Cave, perhaps because it was a special place that
linked them to an ancestral past and a mythological present.
The dated Mesolithic animal bones from Kinsey Cave
probably derive from animals that fell down a shaft into
the main chamber (see Chapter 15). The bull aurochs dated
7501–7193 BC from the Cupcake shaft was possibly shot and
wounded by an arrow before it fell to its death. Later Mesolithic
stone tools found on the surface near large cave shafts suggests
that people were attracted to these features (Thorp, 2013).
By 5000 BC there had been a change. Dates from Chapel
Cave suggest Later Mesolithic abandonment after 5400 BC,
with a break in cultural activity until the deposition of Early
Neolithic human remains around 3600 BC. Dated Later
Mesolithic charcoal and Early Neolithic human bone from
the Arcow Wood Caves suggest a break from about 5800
BC to 3900 BC. The same sequence with a substantial break
between Later Mesolithic cultural deposition and Early
Neolithic mortuary activity was found at Three Holes Cave,
Devon (Roberts, 1996; Berridge, 1996), so it appears to be
more than a regional pattern.
In the Dales the emergence of rundkarren on limestone
pavement as a result of extensive loessic colluviation during
the cold event about 6200 BC (Wilson et al., 2012) would
not have gone unnoticed. The limestone outcrop with strange
shapes to trap and break limbs would be good reason to
avoid these areas. During the 6200 BC cold event it has been
estimated for the Dales area that snow cover on ground above
380m lasted more than five months each winter for a period
of one to two hundred years (Vincent et al., 2011). Following
this cold event, perhaps the areas of the Dales with new
limestone pavements came to be regarded as places where
dangerous spirits lived and were best avoided, with the result
that the caves were abandoned more than a thousand years
before the arrival of the first farming groups.
Early Neolithic, 3900 to 3200 BC
The Early Neolithic evidence from caves and rock shelters
is very different to the sparse Mesolithic record. Cut-marked
and culturally smashed animal bones provide unequivocal
evidence for the deposition of processed animal remains, and
these are mostly domestic cattle. Mortuary activity involving
the corpse passing through multiple stages was widespread
(Table 16.2). The dates from the Cave Ha 3 rock shelter for
domestic cattle and sheep (Table 16.3) are comparable with
dates for domestic cattle and sheep from Broken Cavern,
Devon (Berridge, 1996); results from the two caves are as
old as anywhere in mainland Britain (Tresset, 2003). This fits
with suggestions for a rapid spread of farming groups from
Northern France who brought with them novel technologies,
domestic livestock, dairying, crop cultivation, and new
mortuary practices (Collard et al., 2010; Sheridan, 2007).
The new forms of deposition in caves and rock shelters
began when Later Mesolithic hunter gatherers still lived in
the Dales; currently the youngest dates for Later Mesolithic
activity are from open sites on the gritstone uplands at the
head of Nidderdale, 3944–3704 BC and 4232–3986 BC
(Chatterton, 2007). Early farming groups were able to settle
safely and so soon in the limestone areas of the Dales that had
previously been abandoned by the native hunter-gatherers.
An awareness of native beliefs might also explain why early
farming groups went to the caves and put in cultural materials
such as domestic animal bones. Maybe these were to win
over the powerful local spirits believed in by the natives.
Caves located close together on Giggleswick Scar reveal
contemporary Early Neolithic activity. Around 3900 BC
part or the whole of an adult’s body was placed in Kinsey
Cave (Fig. 16.11); domestic cattle bones were smashed for
marrow at the Cave Ha 3 rock shelter; and a man’s skull was
put in Sewell’s Cave. This took place about the same time
location cave form bone structure calibrated age
Kinsey Cave
Kinsey Cave
Thaw Head Cave
Arcow Wood Caves
Sewell’s Cave
Jubilee Cave
Cave Ha 3
Lesser Kelco Cave
Greater Kelco Cave
Cave Ha 3
rock shelter and chamber
rock shelter and chamber
small chamber
multi- chamber
chamber, steep access
multi-chamber
rock shelter
small chamber
passage
rock shelter
femur
mandible
mandible, woman
vertebra, adult
skull, man
tibia, man
tibia, man
skull, woman
femur, adult
mandible, child
? whole body
? whole body
whole body
unknown
skull
whole body
whole body
skull
unknown
whole body
3977–3800 BC
3961–3791 BC
3952–3716 BC
3943–3708 BC
3942–3700 BC
3696–3529 BC
3654–3522 BC
3650–3522 BC
3639–3381 BC
3516–3111 BC
species bone evidence of activity context calibrated age
Domestic cow Humerus, cut-marks
and smashed open
on-site marrow extraction natural alcove
in back wall 3957–3715 BC
Domestic cow Tibia, cut-marks and
smashed open
on-site marrow extraction natural alcove
in back wall 3943–3699 BC
Domestic cow Mandible, cut-marks processed cow head left
at site
stone paved area in
front of rock shelter 3771–3645 BC
Sheep Mandible sheep head left at site natural alcove
in back wall 3765–3641 BC
Human adult Tibia,
whole body deposition
tibia smashed open around
time of death; body later
disarticulated
natural alcove
in back wall 3654–3522 BC
Human child Mandible,
whole body deposition
body later disarticulated natural alcove
in back wall 3516–3111 BC
Wood charcoal in thin,
well-defined layer
on-site fires tufa formed on back
wall of rock shelter 2566–2211 BC
Table 16.2. Calibrated
ages of Early Neolithic
human bones from caves in
the Craven Dales; the two
dated bones from Kinsey
Cave are probably from the
same person (updated from
Leach, 2008).
Table 16.3. Sequence
of the dated Neolithic
materials recovered
from the rock shelter
of Cave Ha 3 in
Giggleswick Scar
(updated from Leach,
2008).
CAVE ARCHAEOLOGY 243
as the beginning of Early Neolithic cave use in the Torbryan
Valley, Devon (Berridge, 1996), but around 200 years before
Neolithic mortuary activity is detected in the Mendip caves
(Schulting et al., 2010). The Giggleswick Scar caves retained
specialist functions. Sewell’s Cave was kept as a depository
for human skulls; Lesser Kelco Cave served as a depository
for human skulls and smashed domestic cattle bone. The
skulls at these sites are not weathered suggesting they were
deposited not long after death (Leach, 2008). At Cave Ha
3, a period when animal bones were smashed for marrow
was succeeded by a period when human bodies were put in
natural alcoves against the back wall of the rock shelter from
about 3600 BC. Cave Ha 3 replicates the sequence at Broken
Cavern, in the Torbryan Valley, where animal bone processing
and deposition preceded mortuary activity (Berridge, 1996).
Around 3600 BC a human skull and smashed domestic cattle
bone were put into Lesser Kelco Cave. Sequences at Kinsey
Cave and Greater Kelco Cave are disturbed and unclear.
The numbers of individuals represented at any one site
are small; the body of one man, two children and possibly an
infant lay in Cave Ha 3, and the skulls of two adults and two
children in Sewell’s Cave. The dates for Cave Ha 3 indicate
that the whole bodies put there had died many generations
apart. More dating is needed, but a pattern may be emerging
of phases of Early Neolithic mortuary activity in caves,
suggesting it was not an ad hoc practice when someone died,
but was a behaviour triggered by external events, such as
outbreaks of disease or adverse weather.
The man’s skeleton from Cave Ha 3 shows that he
suffered from osteoarthritis in his lower back, and his jaw
was disfigured by disease. The elderly man whose body was
put into Jubilee Cave suffered extreme osteoarthritis. The
young woman whose body was put into Thaw Head Cave
suffered disability, and possibly died giving birth. Whole
bodies put into the caves during the Early Neolithic appear
to represent deviant burials, where individuals are denied
normal burial rites because of reasons connected with illness
and disability or the manner of their death (Leach, 2008).
Having chronic sickness or physical ailments could have
identified individuals as having “malign souls” that might
affect the well-being and health of domestic livestock and
crops as well as other people (Hertz, 2004).
Figure 16.11. Two Early Neolithic skeletal mummies in Elbolton
Cave (artist’s reconstruction by Celia King).
Figure 16.12. The magnificent Cave Ha 1 rock shelter, excavated in
1873 by T McKenny Hughes after visiting the French Palaeolithic
caves with Charles Lyell; the nearby, much smaller, Cave Ha 3 rock
shelter contains Early Neolithic deposits (TW).
Such beliefs could have applied at Elbolton Cave, where
three almost complete articulated skeletons were found
(Jones, 1888, 1889, 1891); the two complete skulls have
Neolithic cranial morphology. The bones exhibit canid tooth
furrows, scoring and punctures which show that the bodies
had been partly fed upon by dogs, foxes or wolves. This was
probably supervised, because the feeding was halted before
the major limb bones were damaged. The arrested feeding
caused damage to the pelvic bones like that from the Early
Neolithic barrow at Adlestrop on the Cotswolds, which is
interpreted as evidence of excarnation (Smith, 2006). Care
was taken to keep the partly de-fleshed corpses in an intact
state in Elbolton Cave by packing them around with stones
(Fig. 16.11). This might have been a deliberate attempt to
preserve the body as a skeletal mummy, designed to keep the
soul of that person tied to its bodily home (Taylor, 2002).
Early Neolithic mortuary activity in caves might have
been concerned with keeping spirits (that were perceived
as dangerous) physically tied to a marginal place – the cave
being a space not in this world and not in the next world.
It is entirely feasible that caves were sought out by the
first farming communities in the Dales as places to tether
dangerous spirits where they could do no harm to their crops,
livestock and health. The need to look after and manage
these spirits might then explain much of the archaeological
record from caves and rock shelters for the next thousand
years or so.
Later Neolithic, 3200 to 2600 BC
Caves used for mortuary activity in the Early Neolithic had
objects placed in them during the Later Neolithic. At sites
with skulls this practice might begin in the Early Neolithic
by about 3600 BC. Pieces of Peterborough Ware pottery with
a date range in northern England of 3600–2900 BC (Manby,
2007) are recorded from disturbed contexts at Sewell’s and
Lesser Kelco, two sites used as locales for Early Neolithic
CAVES AND KARST OF THE YORKSHIRE DALES
244
skulls, and from Elbolton in a deep part of the cave with
a skull (Jones, 1891). A wolf ulna dated 3635–3376 from
Lesser Kelco is a possible Early Neolithic talisman. A
possible Later Neolithic talisman, an aurochs toe bone, dated
3097–2914 BC (Lynch et al., 2008) was found in Jubilee
Cave, an Early Neolithic whole-body locale. At Thaw Head
Cave, another Early Neolithic whole-body site, fragments
of two Later Neolithic Grooved Ware jars date from after
3000 BC (Gilkes, 1995, 2001). The few Neolithic stone tools
put in caves include special objects, but more precise dating
is problematic, similarly with the deposition of Neolithic
special objects in the grikes of limestone pavement (Lord,
2006). A culturally smashed piece of human femur from
Greater Kelco Cave dated 2876–2620 BC might be the
only bone from this person in the cave. It reveals unusual
treatment of a body. Coincidently this person died about the
same time as the oldest evidence for human bodies in cave
shafts in the Dales.
Interest in cave shafts, the open potholes of the Dales,
provides more evidence that cave use changed in the Later
Neolithic. Disarticulated bones of two people, one dated
2886–2636 BC, were found in a deposit of human and
animal bones at the base of the entrance shaft in North End
Pot. Most of the bones were of wild animals, and the bone
deposit extended to a depth of about 45m beneath the surface.
The wild species are a wolf, adult and juvenile aurochs,
red deer and black grouse; small pigs and a dog could be
feral. It appears they all died after falling down the 20m-
deep entrance shaft. The date for the skull of an aurochs bull,
2886–2640 BC (Lynch et al., 2008) is identical to that for the
human. At least part of the bone deposit might be cultural;
perhaps an attempt by farmers to consign wild creatures to
the underworld. Fossil pollen shows more intensive use of the
uplands at this time (see Chapter 12). If the two people and
all these animals were merely the victims of mischance, they
were exceedingly unlucky. A Later Neolithic mace-head made
from red deer antler (Fig. 16.13) was found on a ledge 10m
down the entrance shaft, where its position indicated that it
had been placed there intentionally (Gilkes and Lord, 1993).
Earlier Bronze Age, 2600 to 1400 BC
The deposition of pottery shows continued interest in caves
and rock shelters previously used for mortuary activity
in the Early Neolithic (Gilkes, 1973, 1995, 2001, 2003;
Manby, 2007). Four of the eight sites with Beaker or other
Earlier Bronze Age pottery, have dated Early Neolithic
human remains – Lesser Kelco, Greater Kelco, Sewell’s,
Figure 16.13. Later Neolithic mace head, made from the antler of
a red deer, that was found on a ledge part way down the entrance
shaft of North End Pot (photo: John Thorp).
and Thaw Head. A fifth, Elbolton, was certainly used in the
Early Neolithic for mortuary activity, and the other three
(Attermire, Horseshoe and Raven Scar) have human bone as
yet undated, but possible Early Neolithic. There is no evidence
that Earlier Bronze Age pottery was put in caves as grave
goods, although larger pots could have held cremations. A
fairly complete Cordoned Barrel Urn and a cremated human
mandible were found in Thaw Head Cave (Gilkes, 1995),
and an unusual bone whistle from Raven Scar Cave seems to
be Earlier Bronze Age (Gilkes, 1985).
Early Neolithic mortuary features and deposits of human
and animal remains were rearranged during, or shortly before,
the Earlier Bronze Age. At the Cave Ha 3 rock shelter a charcoal
horizon dated 2566–2211 BC was sealed in the tufa that formed
against the back wall of the rock shelter (Pentecost et al., 1990).
It post-dates the dismantling of Early Neolithic features at this
site. Prior to the burning event, the skeletal remains of bodies
put in natural alcoves against the back wall of the rock shelter
had been disturbed, and jumbled up with older cut-marked and
smashed animal bones, very likely moved from the front of the
rock shelter (Table 16.3 ). Tufa then formed over the rearranged
deposits. A key aspect of Earlier Bronze Age cave use might be
the dismantling of Early Neolithic whole-body locales, and the
taking down of skeletal mummies.
A startling find from the Earlier Bronze Age is the woman’s
skeleton dated to 2202–2031 BC from the Feizor Nick Caves
(Smith et al., 2007). A tiny gash in one of her back bones was
shown to have been caused by a flint tipped projectile point.
The woman had been shot by an arrow that had entered her
body from the front, just below the rib-cage, and on passing
through her stomach deflected off her backbone, where it
severed a major artery, causing massive shock and bleeding.
The trajectory of the arrow is consistent with her being shot
from above as she lay on the ground. It is difficult to escape
any conclusion other than this woman was deliberately shot
in a manner intended to kill her. Furthermore, it may be that
she was killed and her body left in the cave so that her soul
would be stuck in a liminal place, forever between this world
and the next (Taylor, 2002). The tiny gash in her backbone
that provides evidence of her death opens to question the
nature of dying of all the other people whose remains were
placed into caves at various times.
Dates from cave shafts in the Dales reveal cultural deposition
around the time the Feizor Nick woman was killed. Bones of
a man from Shuttleworth Pot date from 2200–2026 BC. In the
entrance shaft of North End Pot a layer of domestic animal
bone, mostly juvenile cattle remains, dates from 2272–2035
BC (Lynch et al.,, 2008). Between 2300 and 2000 BC there
was a marked climatic downturn with colder, wetter conditions
and more flooding (Brown, 2008). Mixed farming in the Dales
becomes less predictable and more hazardous during such
periods, and hunger, crop failure and disease might underpin
the unusual events that have been detected in the caves.
Cultural deposition in cave shafts occurred in the final
part of the Earlier Bronze Age: a cut-marked small pig
mandible from Shuttleworth Pot dates from 1884–1695 BC,
and the body of man dated 1605–1307 BC lay in the talus
beneath the now-blocked entrance shaft of Rawthey Cave
(Chamberlain et al., 1998).
CAVE ARCHAEOLOGY 245
Later Bronze Age, 1400 to 600 BC
There are very few Later Bronze Age artefacts, giving the
impression that caves were rarely used at this time. Just one
metal object from the entire Bronze Age is preserved from a
Dales cave, and that is a Later Bronze Age pin from Raven
Scar. The only pottery is a barrel-shaped jar from Thaw Head
(Gilkes, 1995), and a fragment of a similar jar from Victoria
Cave (Dearne and Lord, 1998). Two possible Later Bronze
Age perforated bone buttons were found at the entrance to
Victoria Cave. Dated bones include rare finds from Sewell’s
Cave, two lynx mandibles, probably deposited as skulls,
with dates of 997–833 BC and 813–569 BC. From the scree
at the entrance to Victoria Cave a culturally smashed red deer
bone, dated 795–548 BC (Lord et al., 2007), suggests a link
between red deer hunting and deposition. A Later Bronze Age
human bone is recorded from Badger Cave (Taylor, 2002).
A Later Bronze Age assemblage of human bones from
the dark, inner part of Raven Scar Cave consist of the
scavenged remains of young adults and children taken there
and fed upon by a large carnivore (Leach, 2005). The Later
Bronze Age pin was found in this part of the cave; it was
possibly attached to clothing brought in with the scavenged
body parts. One of the human arm bones dated 1048–896
BC has a metal blade mark made around the time of death.
This suggests that at least one of these individuals was a
victim of conflict. Many of the bones exhibit tooth marks
and punctures made by a large carnivore. The animal was
most likely lynx, as the tooth marks and manner of chewing
are feline, rather than canid, and the many undigested bone
fragments would be unusual for a canid. Lynx milk teeth and
juvenile bone were found further in the cave.
Figure 16.14. Excavations at Sewell’s Cave 1933-34 by Tot Lord
and the Pig Yard Club (from Raistrick, 1936).
Figure 16.15. Top of the sediment-filled shaft at North End Pot (TL).
By contrast, the human remains in the entrance chamber
at Raven Scar Cave consist mostly of loose teeth. Upper
inner incisors are markedly over-represented. These teeth
are single-rooted and are usually the first to fall out of
human skulls. This is interpreted as showing that a number
of human heads were placed in the cave entrance until
they were entirely de-fleshed, or partially mummified by
desiccating air currents, during which time many of the
teeth fell out (Leach, 2005). The date of 1111–908 BC for
a tooth is comparable to the result for the arm bone from
the scavenged assemblage deeper in the cave, suggesting
contemporary deposition. This then might be something very
unusual: after lynx fed on human corpses, with at least one a
victim of conflict, someone removed the heads, and preserved
them in the cave before taking them away for use elsewhere.
Scavenging is not typical lynx behaviour, so it was under
human control and the animal was perhaps encouraged to
feed on the corpses so as to give the preserved skulls magical
qualities (Ogden, 2008). The lynx finds from Sewell’s Cave
suggest this elusive animal was imbued with special powers
in the Later Bronze Age.
Iron Age, 600 BC to AD 100
The finds record suggests that caves were rarely used in this
period. Diagnostic artefacts of any kind are simply not known.
This appears to be a real phenomenon rather than the product
of routinely describing Iron Age items as Romano-British.
Non-perishable materials such as pottery might be lacking in
any case, because it appears the Dales communities did not
use pottery for much of the Iron Age (Harding, 2004). Dated
charcoal provides the only evidence of Iron Age activity at
the mouth of Chapel Cave.
Human and animal remains were placed in some caves.
A culturally smashed human femur dated 511–376 BC was
found mixed up with animal bones in Dead Man’s Cave,
behind Giggleswick Scar. Undated culturally smashed pieces
of human bone from Raven Scar Cave and in the scree at
the entrance to Victoria Cave might be Iron Age. The upper
CAVES AND KARST OF THE YORKSHIRE DALES
246
deposits in North End Pot (Fig. 16.15) contain Iron Age
human and animal bones, showing that shafts continued to
be a focus for whole-body deposition; the skull of a young
adult was dated in the 1980s to 378 + 380 BC (Gilkes and
Lord, 1993), and there are also bones of a child. Represented
among the animal bones are horses and dogs, species that are
commonly associated with ritual Iron Age deposits (Green,
2001). Taken as a whole, the sequence at North End Pot
is very like that from the Charterhouse Warren Swallet on
Mendip (Audsley et al., 1988; Levitan and Smart, 1989). Both
shafts have dated Later Neolithic, Early Bronze Age and Iron
Age bone deposits. Repeated synchronous deposition in the
two shafts is further evidence that the North End Pot bone
deposits are basically cultural in origin.
Romano-British, AD 100 to 450
There are two very different forms of deposition in the
Romano-British period. The first continues the practice of
whole-body deposition in cave shafts, a tradition in the Dales
beginning in the Later Neolithic. This is represented by the
body of a woman dated AD 63–240 from the talus deposits
beneath the blocked shaft at Rawthey Cave (Chamberlain
et al., 1998). Within the talus, animal remains, especially
horse, could also be Romano-British, but the deposit is very
mixed, with material from the Earlier Bronze Age through
to Mediaeval times, and there are bones of an adolescent
person that have not yet been dated. The bodies of a number
of Romano-British people and animals were put in the
shaft at Dog Hole, at Haverbrack, near Morecambe Bay
(Wilkinson et al., 2011).
The second form of deposition is essentially novel, and
generates the most prolific artefact horizon in the Dales
cave record. The sites are concentrated in the fault scarps
near Settle, with Victoria Cave and Attermire Cave having
particularly rich assemblages (King, 2007, 1974, 1970; Henig
and King, 2003; Chamberlain and Williams, 2001; Dearne
and Lord, 1998; Branigan and Dearne, 1992; Jackson, 1962;
Raistrick, 1939, 1936; Jackson and Mattinson, 1932; Poulton,
1881; Dawkins, 1874, 1872; Farrer and Denny, 1866; Smith,
1865; Denny, 1860; Farrer, 1857; Smith and Jackson, 1844,
1842). The cave distribution extends eastwards as far as
Littondale, and northwest to the caves around Ingleborough,
but there are far fewer artefacts in those caves. The deposits
have a long history of investigation, beginning with work
in Victoria Cave in 1837 (Lord, 2005). All the caves have
deposition in the dark zones. Objects were sometimes placed
in pools. Drip waters and calcite formations active during
the Romano-British period added to their sense of other-
worldliness. A small settlement beneath Attermire Scar
(King, 1970) was possibly a service site for people visiting
the caves nearby, and hints at the possibility of a managed
commercial operation.
Materials such as iron and bronze are common, though
rare in earlier deposits. There are iron weapons (Fig. 16.16),
wheel fittings, tools, keys, lamp stands, and jewellery,
bronze decorative pieces and fittings, delicate tools, cosmetic
implements and jewellery, including many brooches (Fig.
16.17), and also bronze and silver coins. A medley of crafted
objects made from bone and antler including the so-called
“perforated bone spoons” whose purpose is still a mystery
(Fig. 16.18), an elephant ivory sword pommel, beads and
bangles made from glass and jet, and engraved intaglios
from ring fittings (Fig. 16.19). There are pieces of pottery,
but hardly ever evidence of whole pots, and from types
normally found on Roman forts, villas or urban settlements,
also palettes and counters made from broken pots, and bits
of tiles and window glass. Stone spindle whorls were well
made, along with palettes, polishers and more simple rubbing
stones; the only quern stone is a flat type normally found on
Roman settlements. Much charcoal is recorded with these
assemblages, and the prominent layer at Chapel Cave was
dated to the second century AD.
Victoria Cave has the largest animal bone assemblage;
the cattle bones have cut-marks made by heavy cleavers,
a butchery method more commonly found on Roman
settlements; and there is a concentration of cut-marked
juvenile sheep mandibles, possibly the result of cutting out
their tongues for divination (Ryder, 1983). Waste pieces of
crafted bone and antler from Victoria Cave suggests on-site
bone working. A possible “head and hooves” horse burial
from the scree outside Kinsey Cave was dated AD 127–324
(Lord et al., 2007).
The date ranges of the large assemblage of pottery,
jewellery and coins from Victoria Cave indicate that
deposition began there by about AD 90 (Dearne and Lord,
1998), shortly after the Roman conquest of northern England
in the early AD 70s. Garrisoning of the new northern forts by
troops from the Balkan states of Dacia, Thrace and Illyria, is
almost certain. An early second century AD bowl fragment
from Victoria Cave has the name of its owner scratched on
Figure 16.17. Replica of the Romano-British brooch of looped
bronze wire, found in Attermire Cave; it is 46 mm long, possibly
dates from late first century, and is a unique form of the bronze wire
brooches found in caves above Settle (photo: John Whalley).
Figure 16.16. An iron Roman short sword, a specialised military
sword shorter than a gladius, found in Sewell’s Cave; the blade is
34 cm long (TL).
Figure 16.18. Romano-British perforated bone spoon, 16 cm long,
found in the dark, inner Chamber B of Victoria Cave in 1870.
CAVE ARCHAEOLOGY 247
it, one Annamus a name specific to the Roman province
of Noricum, now part of modern day Slovenia and Austria
(Tomlin and Hassall, 1998). Noricum was an Imperial mining
district and an important producer of iron, silver, and lead.
Men like Annamus would have been familiar with limestone
landscapes in their homelands, and would have brought with
them knowledge of mining and rituals connected with it.
Finds of stamped pigs of lead from Nidderdale and Greenhow
testify to lead production in the Dales soon after the conquest,
and almost certainly organised by the Roman army (Bayley,
2002; Jones, 1986). Prospecting for metal ore and the getting
of the ore from the shallow oxidised mineralised veins in
the Craven uplands might have required the benefice of the
underworld deities and involve propitiation (Henig, 1984).
Caves were widely regarded as entrances to the underworld
in Roman times and an obvious place to make offerings to an
underworld pantheon (Ogden, 2001; Flint et al., 1999).
Distinctive characteristics of the assemblages, notably
the types of pottery, the presence of coins, and Roman
military accoutrements, reveal that the Dales caves were
used by people who were either part of the Roman army
or closely connected with it, especially in the late 1st and
2nd centuries (Dearne and Lord, 1998). The 3rd and 4th
century assemblages from the caves generally lack brooches
and Roman military fittings, though how much this is due
to changes in fashion and military organisation rather than
changes in the groups who participate in cave activity is
difficult to say. The dates of pottery from Victoria Cave
suggest activity there continued throughout most of the
Romano-British period.
Caves might provide access to underworld deities as
well as those spirits of the dead inhabiting the underworld.
Necromancy, the summoning up of the spirits of the dead,
was an important aspect of cults connected with caves in the
Celtic and classical world (Ogden, 2001; Flint et al., 1999).
For the medley of immigrants connected with the Roman
army, the caves would have given them an opportunity to
access the underworld, and so contact the spirits of loved
ones in distant homelands across the Roman Empire. The
unprecedented scale of artefact deposition during the
Romano-British period in the caves around Settle probably
resulted from cult activity by ordinary migrants coming with
the army from other parts of the Roman Empire and never
returning home (Faulkner, 2001). These people went to the
caves to reshape new cultural identities for themselves, away
from the conventions of organised military religion (Irby-
Massie, 1999).
Early Mediaeval, AD 400 to 1000
Materials from this time are scarce, and occur at fewer sites
compared with the Romano-British period (King, 1974;
Swanton, 1969). Attermire Cave has produced metalwork
and some coins; single pieces of metalwork are recorded
from Dowkabottom Cave and Victoria Cave; as well as two
sites with no evidence of Romano-British deposition, Combs
Cave and Smearsett Cave, on the west side of Ribblesdale.
Dating of animal bones and charcoal has provided a little
more context for Early Mediaeval cave use.
Greater Kelco Cave, a focus for Romano-British artefact
deposition, was the scene of activity at the very beginning
of the Early Mediaeval period when Giggleswick Scar lay
Figure 16.19. Wax impression of the Romano-British red jasper
intaglio found in Attermire Cave. It depicts a combination of the
head of Minerva in a crested helmet, right, and a bearded Silenus,
left, both Roman gods seen as protective and connected with
salvation; the intaglio image is 11 mm high.
Figure 16.20. A flooded part of Dowkabottom Cave, used in the
Romano-British period when the water level was fluctuating (TL).
Figure 16.21. Bronze fitting, possibly from a Roman military
harness of the late first century; it is 73 mm long and decorated
with enamel and glass inlay, and was found in a small shaft on
Ingleborough (photo: John Thorp).
CAVES AND KARST OF THE YORKSHIRE DALES
248
on the boundary of a small, independent, Celtic kingdom
(Wood, 1996). One of several culturally smashed red deer
leg bones from Greater Kelco Cave was dated to AD 416–
546. This suggests a link between red deer hunting and
deposition as at Victoria Cave in the Later Bronze Age.
Significantly the red deer date from Greater Kelco Cave
matches the dates from the nearby Kinsey Cave for brown
bear, AD 420–610 (Hammon, 2010), and lynx, AD 430–565
(Hetherington et al., 2006), but these specimens lack cultural
modification. The presence of brown bear and lynx points to
an environment with significant amounts of woodland, and
wild enough to be populated with large predators (Taylor,
2006). Set within a spectacular limestone landscape, it is
easy to imagine how hunting red deer in this environment
might involve atonement and deposition in a cave, especially
if this was a high status activity.
Human remains are reported from Attermire Cave and
Dowkabottom Cave in contexts likely to be post Romano-
British (Farrer and Denny, 1866; Howson, 1850). Both caves
have produced Early Mediaeval metalwork, and there are
ninth century coins from Attermire Cave (King, 1974). These
caves could have been re-used for mortuary purposes after
the Anglo-Saxon conquest of the area in the seventh century,
possibly fitting with such re-use of older earthworks (Semple
and Williams, 2007), as illustrated by human remains dated
AD 670–780 from a prehistoric cairn behind Giggleswick
Scar near Feizor. A human tibia dated 560-655 AD suggests
mortuary activity a little earlier at Kirkhead Cave, on the
north side of Morecambe Bay (Smith, 2012).
Charcoal from the eighth or ninth century was dated from
the Arcow Wood Caves in a context lacking cultural material.
The nearby Combs Cave produced a small decorative piece
of Anglo-Saxon metalwork.
Mid and Later Mediaeval, AD 1000 to 1500
Set against the more intensive use of the uplands during this
period, especially monastic sheep management on the higher
limestone ground, it is noticeable how few artefacts from
this time have been found in the Dales caves. There are a few
bits of pottery (Raistrick, 1936), an occasional metal or stone
object and some coins. Two objects are clearly Christian –
part of a bronze cruciform pendant from Attermire Cave, and
an ecclesiastical seal matrix in hard stone believed to have
been found in Dowkabottom Cave about 1860, and now lost
(Fig. 16.22). Both caves underwent deposition in the Early
Medieval period, and it is tempting to regard Mediaeval
Christian objects placed in them as attempts to counter older
pagan associations.
Mediaeval Edwardian silver pennies are recorded from
Attermire Cave and Ivescar Cave, in Chapel-le-Dale (Speight,
1892; Smith, 1865).
The latter cave is especially wet, with
a powerful stream after heavy rain. It is not a place to put
coins intended to be recovered. On the reverse side the coins
feature a design with a cross-like motif and twelve pellets.
This Christian symbolism, the cross representing Jesus and
the pellets standing for the twelve apostles, might explain
why these coins were put in the two caves around AD 1400.
The youngest dates on animals that fell down the entrance
shaft at Rawthey Cave suggest that the opening at the surface
was finally blocked by about AD 1400 (Chamberlain et al.,
1998). This was possibly intentional to prevent sheep and
other livestock falling down and being injured or killed. The
blocking of cave shafts was probably a widespread practice
on uplands used for grazing where livestock was no longer
closely supervised.
Post-Mediaeval, AD 1500 onwards
A distinctive aspect of cave use after 1500 is the appearance
of graffiti and other marks engraved into cave walls. These
include ritual protection marks similar to those reported
from Wookey Hole and other caves in Mendip (Binding and
Wilson, 2010; Binding et al., 2004). In Mendip, these are
thought to date from the mid 16th to 18th centuries, a time
when renewed belief in witchcraft and malevolent powers
made people seek protection from them (Merrifield, 1987).
From the Dales there are examples of the conjoined Vs
that resemble a single W (Fig. 16.23). The conjoined Vs
stand for Virgo Virginum, meaning Virgin of Virgins. Inverted
the conjoined Vs read as an M standing for Mary, mother of
Jesus, and so the symbol cannot be turned back on the user.
A crossed form of the letter I occurs with the conjoined Vs
in Ease Gill Kirk Cave (Cordingley, 1999) suggesting, as
in Mendip, that this mark was also intended as a protective
symbol. The Kirk Cave is close to the Witches Holes, where
it was said in 1820 that witches ust ta meet yance a ear e thor
holes, an mead a girt feast, an neabudy mud gang tull it, but
sic as ther sels (Balderston and Balderston, 1888). The need
for the protective marks might have been to ensure that the
growing numbers of paying visitors to the caves and their
guides came to no harm. By the late 18th century, guided
visits to the Dales caves were a routine part of the tourist
experience (Hutton, 1781).
There is a heterogeneous quantity of post-Mediaeval
objects in the collections from the caves, but these have not
been studied properly. Compared to the mediaeval record
there are fewer coins, which is surprising. The assemblage
from Greater Kelco Cave includes an 18th century Jew’s
harp alongside small pieces of pottery that were deposited as
single broken pieces.
Figure 16.22. Mediaeval ecclesiastical seal matrix, 55 mm high,
carved in hard slate, found in Dowkabottom Cave and now lost
(rubbing by Addison Crofton in about 1895).
CAVE ARCHAEOLOGY 249
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CAVE ARCHAEOLOGY 251
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