Sites & cities that bear the name of Gough's Cave

Gough's Cave

Today in : United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
First trace of activity : ca. 14,800 B.C.E
Last trace of activity : ca. 7,200 B.C.E

Description : Gough's Cave is located in Cheddar Gorge on the Mendip Hills, in Cheddar, Somerset, England. The cave is 115 m (377 ft) deep and is 3.405 km (2.12 mi) long, and contains a variety of large chambers and rock formations. It contains the Cheddar Yeo, the largest underground river system in Britain. The cave contained skeletal remains of both humans and animals, all showing cut-marks and breakage consistent with de-fleshing and eating. Skull fragments represent from 5 to 7 humans, including a young child of about 3 years and two adolescents. The brain cases appear to have been prepared as drinking cups or containers, a tradition found in other Magdalenian sites across Europe. In 1903 the remains of a human male, since named Cheddar Man, were found a short distance inside Gough's Cave. He is Britain's oldest complete human skeleton, having been dated to approximately 7150 BC. His genetic markers suggested (based on their associations in modern populations whose phenotypes are known) that he probably had green eyes, lactose intolerance, dark curly or wavy hair, and, less certainly, dark to very dark skin. The remains currently reside in the Natural History Museum in London, with a replica in the Cheddar Man and the Cannibals museum in the Gorge. Other human remains have also been found in the cave. Skull of Gough's Cave In 2010 further human bones from the cave were examined, which ultra-filtration carbon dating dated to around the end of the ice age 14,700 years ago. A second technique, using 3D microscopy, showed that the flesh had been removed from the bones using the same tools and techniques used on animal bones. According to Professor Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum, this supports theories about cannibalism amongst the people living in or visiting the cave at that time. In February 2011, the same team published an analysis of human skulls of the same date found at the cave around 1987, which they believe were deliberately fashioned into ritual drinking cups or bowls. In 2020 a twenty centimetre long forty thousand year old mammoth tusk with a line of four holes drilled into it was interpreted as being a device for making rope. Grooves around each hole would have held plant fibres in place. The instrument was found near the base of the Aurignacian deposits at Hohle Fels by a team led by Nicholas Conard of the institute of archaeological sciences at the University of Tübingen. Veerle Rots, of the University of Liège in Belgium was able to make four twisted strands of twine, using a bronze replica of the Hohle Fels cave device, an example of Experimental archaeology. A similar 15,000 years old device, made of reindeer antler, was found in Gough's Cave. The existence of these tools at different locations indicates rope-making had already become an important human activity by the Upper Paleolithic. Chris Stringer Research Leader in Human Origins at the Natural History Museum said, “These devices were called batons and were originally thought to have been carried by chiefs as badges of rank. However, they had holes with spirals round them and we now realise they must have been used to make or manipulate ropes.” The ropes could then have been used to construct fishing nets, snares and traps, bows and arrows, clothing and containers for carrying food. Heavy objects, such as sleds, could now be hauled on ropes while spear points could be lashed to poles.

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