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John Denton Blore  -  Lifetime Achievement
Award 

From the age of 6 John Blore pursued a love of nature. Following in his father’s footsteps, he become an extremely knowledgeable botanist and naturalist. He is however, most well known as a cave archaeologist. In 1962 he began excavating at Lynx Cave, near Eryrys and in 2012 produced his third account, a final report, on his work at the cave. His 50 years tenacious work at this cave is likely to be a British, if not World archaeological record.

Before the local Archaeological Trusts were established in 1975, archaeological caves were under the charge of the Ministry for Public Works & Buildings. This organisation utilised John’s talents, employing him to excavate at Coygan Cave (S.Wales) to identify bones being unearthed at the site. Since then John has excavated at many Welsh caves, both north and south, and in so doing has added significantly to the archaeological record. Although ignored for the last 40 years by local Archaeological Trusts, Cadw and what is now the NRW, Johns work has been supported with assistance from professional archaeologists from universities and museums throughout the UK, including the late Roger Jacobi, Chris Stringer, and Anthony Sutcliffe, all of the British Museum. To quote Roger Jacobi: “There’s no such thing as professional or amateur archaeology…… only good or bad archaeology”.

This website recognises Johns achievement throughout this 50 year period, and his contribution to cave archaeology. 

Despite being a 'Lifetime achievement award' John continues to excavate........

For more information on Lynx Cave, see under Bryn Alyn Cave No1 on this website


John Blore (left) and Jerry Dobby examine early notes on Lynx Cave


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Archaeological cave notes


NB:   Although the term 'archaeological cave' officially refers to sites where human remains or artifacts have been found, this website has used the term to also include caves where ancient human or animal remains have been found.

 

About 45 or so caves in North Wales have been identified as being of archaeological importance. Many more have been noted  by cavers as having archaeological potential. Others with entrances currently obscured, remain undiscovered. 

The most important archaeological cave in north Wales is currently Pontnewydd Cave at Cefn, near St Asaph. Work at this site carried out by the National Museum of Wales from 1978, revealed hominin remains 230,000 years old. 

Although archaeological excavations are rarely carried out in North Wales caves today, the subject is fascinating and there are many ways in which people can become involved in the subject without carrying out excavation work. A few projects are suggested at the bottom of this page.




Who to contact (and who you should not!)


If you find bones or other artifacts whilst caving or digging in caves, contact the Cave Archaeology Group http://cag.bcra.org.uk/ for guidance. In their own words: "Should you discover unusual bones or objects of interest in caves we can offer advice on what to do next and who to contact. We should be able to put you in touch with archaeologists or other specialists who would be only too happy to advise you how to proceed when you find that elusive Palaeolithic rock art!"


Consider writing up any new archaeological find and seek to have it published in the journal of an organisation such as Flintshire or Denbighshire Historical Society or the Council for British Archaeology (Wales). This should at least prevent your discovery being plagiarised by professionals.


Bear in mind that if informing CPAT, GAT, NRW or Cadw of a new archaeological site, that they are most likely to make strenuous efforts to halt any work and may choose to Schedule the site as a means of ensuring this. They also have a poor record in responding to concerns raised by the public over threatened archaeological cave sites. Professional understanding of local caves appears limited only to the small handful of Scheduled (protected) sites. The area contains many other caves containing large quantities of potential archaeological deposits, most of which have not been assessed. Hence the stock of known potential archaeological deposits is gradually diminishing. It is understood that professionals have no long-term strategy in place to assess potential cave deposits (Nov. 2018).


Since 2014 efforts have been made by professionals to address past neglect: Test excavations have been carried out at four caves (see Latest Reports & Publications below) and the Archwilio database has been significantly improved . The four caves examined include two known archaeological sites (Ogof Colomendy and one of the Boyd Dawkins caves at Llandegla); one with no previous archaeology recorded (Caerwys Cave 3), and one 'new' cave with intact deposits (Eryrys Hill Cave). Although this is a promising start, so much more could be done to identify more sites containing man's most ancient history.



PDF download - Archaeological cave conservation in North Wales - A (belated) way forward?

Several past reports have looked into the plight of English and Welsh archaeological caves, but few of their recommendations have been adopted locally. A four page PDF quotes some of the key points that remain pertinent to North Wales today.

Click on the link at the very bottom of this page titled "Conservation suggestions".





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Scheduled Cave Sites

The only legally protected caves in north Wales are those designated as Scheduled Ancient Monument (SAMs). Cadw decide which caves are important enough to warrant Scheduling.
This protection can also be applied to unscheduled sites that might be under threat.

For current details of each Scheduled site , including a map of the protected area, visit: https://cadw.gov.wales/advice-support/cof-cymru/search-cadw-records
Click the big green "Search our records" button, then under Asset type select "Scheduled monument". Under Authority, select the county, then under Site type select 'cave', then Search.

In 2017 just 10 north Wales caves are listed as having Scheduled status. They are shown below with their SAM reference numbers:
  • AN 106  Ogof Arian (although this may in part be mine workings in sandstone)
  • CN 190  Ogof Pant y Wennol
  • CN 191  Kendricks Cave (upper and lower)
  • CN 204  Ogof Tan y Bryn
  • DE 115  Cefn Cave
  • DE 116   Pontnewydd Cave (listed by Cadw as Bont Newydd Cave)
  • DE 119   Rhos Ddigre Caves (see under Llandegla caves on this site)
  • FL 067   Gop Cave
  • FL 069   Ffynnon Bueno Cave
  • FL 070   Cae Gwyn Cave
The act of Scheduling a cave does not however appear to offer much actual protection. An unpublished report for Cadw (see "A Survey of English & Welsh Palaeolithic Cave Sites " below) describes how caves with long-term Scheduled status fair no better than those without. An article by cave archaeologist, the late Mel Davies in the 1970s, also describes how little protection Scheduling provides.

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What happens to the finds

The human and animal remains found in the caves of North Wales are housed in many varied depositries throughout the UK. Many of these have been lost and most have received little if any, scientific analysis in modern times. The exceptions are those from caves such as Pontnewydd Cave or Ffynnon Bueno, which have been subject to scientific excavation and analysis. The majority of cave items are held by the National Museum of Wales, the British Museum, Llandudno Museum and Grosvenor Museum in Chester. Smaller non-public depositries include Flintshire Museum Service and Stoneyhurst College in Lancashire. Bacup Museum held the remains of Blodwen from the Little Orme for many decades, until they were returned to Llandudno Museum in recent years.

Whilst some may regard museums as the best place for such finds, the vast majority are not accessible to the general public. Those wishing to view these collections and photograph them are met with unacceptable fees or conditions. Perhaps one of the worst UK museums to deal with is the National Museum of Wales: For this website to add just one of their photos, the charge would be £150 (in 2014) per year, plus applying for an annual licence. A request was then made to visit the museum and take our own photos for this website. Whilst an annual licence would still be required in this case, they would waive the annual fee. Copyright of the photos however, must be assigned to the museum! Such conditions conflict strongly with some of their published policy statements.

Many other museums also seem unwilling to share what they hold with the public. Grosvenor Museum repeatedly ignored requests to visit non-public items and only responded to a Freedom of Information request. Flintshire Museum Service did no better and have not replied to repeated communications.

Good museums do exist however: Buxton Museum houses the document collections of both William Boyd Dawkins, and his protégé Wilfrid Jackson. The museum provided great assistance when researching information on Dawkins a few years ago. Llandudno Museum has also offered an invitation to visit their non-public collections without unreasonable conditions.          


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Latest reports and publications
 

Since the 1920s, when archaeological cave excavation fell out of professional favour, nothing was written or published for decades examining the condition of North Wales archaeological caves. There now appears to be a renewed awareness of the plight of these important, yet long-neglected cave sites. The following briefly describes the more recent reports and publications known to the writer which discuss the archaeological caves of North Wales. Apart from the 1986 survey below, the other reports have only surfaced since 2003........

 


1986:   A Survey of English & Welsh Palaeolithic Cave Sites by Barton & Collcutt

163 pages

Not a recent report, but listed here because it is the first attempt at assessing the condition of our earliest archaeological caves. Commissioned by English Heritage and CADW, it is a good report that examines the state of Palaeolithic caves and suggests methods to improve their lot.

It emphasises "the poor condition of archaeological caves" and their inadequate documentary records. It also comments that of all the caves considered, no difference in condition could be found between scheduled (protected) caves and non-scheduled caves, prompting the need to seek more effective means of cave protection such as compulsory purchase.

The reports greatest omission was the sad plight of Gwaenysgor Cave (described unequivocally by the leading cave archaeologist of his time Wilfrid Jackson, as a cave "used by Palaeolithic man"). The report is however, frank in its critique of professional organisations. Its recommendations had the potential to greatly improve both the documentary record and the condition of the cave sites themselves. It is lamentable however, that so few of the recommendations have been adopted in north Wales.

The report remains unpublished, although a copy is held in North Wales by Cadw. This website also holds a photocopy, kindly supplied by CADW, although several lines have been redacted.

 


2003:   A research framework for the Archaeology of Wales - All Wales – Palaeolithic and Mesolithic  by Elizabeth Walker (National Museum of Wales)

8 pages

This paper assesses the "strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats" to Welsh Palaeolithic and Mesolithic sites. Although written seventeen years after the report above, the knowledge-base is still described as "spacially biased and patchy. It is also of highly variable quality". It stresses the need for archaeologists to find new sites in order to increase the stock of archaeological deposits.

Recommendations include the need to "check and update the existing database" and "to make the Sites Monument Record (SMR) more useable, accurate and consistent for use as a research tool".

The report was available on-line, but has now appears to have been removed by Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust. Contact Cris Ebbs for a copy.



2009:   Caves - The Scheduling Enhancement Programme   CPAT report No 980.

62 pages

Mainly a desk-based report intended to identify cave sites in need of protection (by scheduling) by examining "the nature of the cave stock as a whole". It is however a poor report that demonstrates the two authors significant lack of knowledge of the areas caves. Only a small sample of the cave stock was examined and many caves having archaeological potential were not included. Due to lack of research, several other well-documented caves were given new, but erroneous names. Perhaps the most telling paragraph is one in which the excavator of Lynx Cave is said to be unknown, despite the fact that John Blore had spent every season for over 50 years carrying out the most fastidious work at the cave. Had the authors checked their own records, they would have found the reports (all unacknowledged), dutifully provided by Blore over the years. The report would be described as "Sub-standard" as defined by the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists, of which CPAT is a member.

The report was available on-line, but has now appears to have been removed by Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust. Contact Cris Ebbs for a copy.




2011: Last Neanderthals, First Humans: Excavations at Ffynnon Bueno Cave 2011 by Chantel Coneller and Rob Dinnis (British Museum).

4 pages

This work by a team of cave specialists marked the first excavations to take place at the cave since the 1880s. The aim was to address many unanswered questions relating to the Victorian work, to examine the surface tips, and carry out trial excavations within the cave. The work forms part of an ongoing project and clearly demonstrates how much archaeological material remains in undisturbed deposits within the cave.





2011:   Snail Cave Rock Shelter, Great Orme, Llandudno, Conwy: Evaluation Excavation GAT Project G2179.

15 pages

This site is merely a rock overhang or shelter, and was first identified as having archaeological potential in 2010. In 2011 a trial trench to evaluate the deposits revealed several worked flints, a pierced shell bead and evidence of occupation deposits. Several specialists were involved in the work, with input from the National Museum of Wales.
Further work may follow, therefore the site should be treated with the greatest respect.

The report was available on-line, but has now appears to have been removed by Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust. Contact Cris Ebbs for a copy.




2012:   Neanderthals in Wales: Pontnewydd and the Elwy Valley Caves edited by Elizabeth Walker (National Museum of Wales)

363 pages

The important excavation work carried out at Pontnewydd Cave is described in full. Although 16 years in preparation, its 363 pages describe fully the work carried out at the cave by many specialists in sedimentology, geology, petrology, taphonomy, dating etc and there's even 112 pages devoted entirely to the examination of teeth. It completes the work described in 1986 in Pontnewydd Cave - Preliminary Report , also by the National Museum of Wales.
 
It has been calculated that the two original entrances to the cave have receded or been eroded away by some 7-10 metres. Their geologist makes the bold claim that the cave may have been a smaller passage connected to a master cave that once occupied where the Elwy Valley now lies........ although this can only be conjecture.
 
Seventeen hominin teeth were found, 1,282 stone artefacts (blade points, scrapers etc) and 4,822 animal bones which include those of lion, rhinoceros, reindeer, bear and leopard (leopard is rare; only one other is known from Bleadon Cave in Somerset). 
 
The hominin remains indicate that the MINIMUM number of individuals represented are an 8 year old (poss. male), a 9 year old (poss. female), an 11 year old (poss. male), a 14 to 16 year old (poss. male) and a mature adult. The MAXIMUM number represented is 16 (9 juveniles and 7 adults).
 
Most of the deposits are the result of (up to four) glacial debris flows, where material from nearer the original entrance has been forced under great pressure deeper into the cave. Some older deposits have even been found above more recent material.
 
Hardly light reading, but there are occasionally lighter moments such as an interesting latin quote of "perigrinationes in tenebra amoris causa" (speleolgogy for the fun of it) and the rather painful statement that "Hyaenas will walk 20 metres or more from their den before voiding their coprolites". The book also describes the finding of moonstone (a feldspar gemstone not normally associated with the UK) within the cave, when they actually mean 'moonmilk' (or 'mondmilch', a type of calcite deposit).
 
The book provides a thorough insight into many of the methods used and will be an important addition to the book-shelves of anyone interested in cave archaeology.

It is available (often at a much-reduced price) from: http://www.oxbowbooks.com/oxbow/neanderthals-in-wales.html




2012:   Lynx Cave, Denbighshire: 50 years of Excavation 1962 - 2012 by John Blore


76 pages


At the same time as the Pontnewydd book became available, John Blore issued his latest report on Lynx Cave to celebrate his 50th years work at the site. It is effectively the final report on his work and a testament to his life-long tenacity.

 

Lynx Cave itself is of rather small dimensions and excavation was carried out in confined and increasingly damp conditions, thus rendering it a cave that no professional archaeologist would ever consider excavating. It’s restricted size also dictates that the favoured method of leaving untouched deposits for future work, was not possible. Furthermore, as moisture within the cave had destroyed a large proportion of the testable pollen and charcoal, one might be justified in describing the work as rescue archaeology.

 

John's work provides evidence that the cave was used by animals and humans for 12,000 years. It served as an occasional shelter for hunting parties, who butchered and cooked sufficient for their needs in the cave, before returning home with the bulk of their spoils. In the late Bronze Age (around 3,000 years ago) several bodies were buried in the cave, after which the entrance was sealed with a large capstone. A total of eight individuals including an infant, are represented amongst the bones. Other finds include 26 sharp stone cutting tools, three hammer-stones, a bone spear-point 11,700 years old, a shale bracelet and a bronze brooch inlaid with silver and enamel of Romano-British origin. 

 

This report (slightly updated in 2015) is also a must-have for those interested in cave archaeology and  is available direct from John Blore. Visit his website at:  http://lynxcave.webs.com/


NB   Lynx Cave is described on this website under Bryn Alyn Cave No. 1




2012:   Archaeological Excavation at North Face Cave Little Ormes Head 1962-1976 (Updated 2012) by John Blore

49 pages

The original discoverer and excavator of North Face Cave (or as it was later wrongly called, Ogof Rhiwledyn) was John Blore. He has updated his 1977 privately published report, and the 2012 account is now available direct via his website at:  http://lynxcave.webs.com/

It describes the remains found in the cave, the oldest being Neolithic 4,500 years old. Most interestingly, the 19 human vertebrae recovered from the cave show varying degrees of abnormal compression to the centrum with considerable wear of anterior faces (leaning in one direction). John Blore suggests this may be due to pressure from continual lifting or the carrying of heavy loads and raises the possibility that this individual could have been labouring in the nearby Bronze Age copper mine.

After 50 years of cave excavation in North Wales, John Blore is still working at several sites. He also gives fascinating and well-presented slide shows on his work at Lynx Cave.

 


2013:   William Boyd Dawkins Llandegla Caves Re-assessed by Cris Ebbs. Denbighshire Historical Society Transactions Vol 61, 11-28.

18 pages

A report examining both the documentary record and the caves themselves in an attempt to clarify the confusion over which caves were excavated by Dawkins over 140 years ago.

Available online as two downloads (one of text, the other providing the accompanying photos). Free registration required: https://www.academia.edu/12818468/William_Boyd_Dawkins_s_Llandegla_caves_re-assessed



2013:   Cave deposits of North Wales: some comments on their archaeological importance and an inventory of sites of potential interest by Rob Dinnis & Cris Ebbs. Cave and Karst Science 40(1): 28-34.

7 pages

Originally submitted to BCRA's ' Cave and Karst Science' by Cris Ebbs, it was then peer reviewed by Rob Dinnis of the British Museum. He then asked if he might become joint author and offer professional input. The paper discusses the archaeological potential of North Wales caves: "Several caves in North Wales have yielded archaeological and palaeontological material of undoubted interest. Most notably, two caves in Denbighshire are the only archaeological sites in Western Europe to lie north of the Last Glacial Maximum limits and yet still contain archaeological material pre-dating it, offering a rare glimpse of what has been lost elsewhere. Although many North Welsh caves are documented in the scientific and caving literature the record of sites is dispersed and incomplete. Comments are offered here on the archaeological contents of these caves, and more generally about the current record of caves in the region. A selected inventory of sites that may be of potential interest to archaeologists is presented".

Available online (free registration required): https://www.academia.edu/12816590/Cave_deposits_of_North_Wales_some_comments_on_their_archaeological_importance_and_an_inventory_of_sites_of_potential_interest



2015:   The nature of human activity at Cae Gwyn and Ffynnon Bueno caves and the dating of prey and predator presences   by Stephen Aldhouse-Green, Rob Dinnis, Kate Scott & Elizabeth A. Walker with contributions by Richard Bevins & Alf G. Latham.

A short report describing excavation work at the cave in 2012 emphasising the sites importance:

The finds from Ffynnon Bueno include a blade leaf-point likely to belong to the earliest Upper Palaeolithic known in Britain….. Other finds from the site include an undoubted Aurignacian burin busque ”. A burin busque being a stone from which smaller bladelets or cutting tools, were produced (or knapped). The blade leaf point “….. is thought by most to have been made by the last Neanderthal occupants of northern Europe…. and the Aurignacian (burin busque) is agreed to have been made by early modern humans. Thus Ffynnon Bueno is particularly important as it apparently contains material from the last Neanderthal and first modern human occupation of Britain ”.



2015:   Caves of North-East Wales - Archaeological Assessment 2014-15   CPAT report No 1313

81 pages

A similar report in its objectives to the 2009 CPAT Report 980 above, but much improved by broader discussion with local amateur specialists. A short-list of fourteen caves is suggested as being worthy of further on-site investigation.

The report is available online:  http://www.walesher1974.org/herumd.php?group=CPAT&level=3&docid=301368898

 


2015:   Upper Kendrick's Cave, Great Orme, Llandudno (Report No. CR114-2015) by Catherine Rees of C.R. Archaeology

108 pages

Funded by Llandudno Town Council, C.R Archaeology carried out preparatory excavations, then installed grilles over the two entrances to prevent further contamination of any remaining deposits by human excrement and hypodermic needles. They also conducted research into the histor y of the lower and upper c aves and that of Thomas Kendrick . The report dr aws together all primary documentary sources, including the normally-overlooked caving club publicati ons describing the excavation work by Mel Davies and Tom Stone.

The full 2015 report is currently unpublishe d , although a shorter account was published in 2017 by Catherine Rees and George Nash (see below).



2016:   Caves of North-East Wales - Archaeological Assessment 2015-16   CPAT report No 1380

37 pages

Based upon the short-list of the 2015 CPAT Report 1313 above, four caves were selected for trial excavation (two known archaeological caves, and two caves with no known archaeology). The report describes the work and the results.

The two known archaeological caves are: The Boyd Dawkins site Perthi Chwarae No. 1 (see on this website under Llandegla Cave C), and Ogof Colomendy at Loggerheads.

The two caves having no known archaeology are: Eryrys Hill Cave and Caerwys Cave No 3.

Feb 2017: Basic information from this report has been added to this website under the relative cave name.

Although the report was issued in March 2016, it does not appear to be available online, as CPATs website was to be replaced and the current site is "not being maintained and updated" (pers. comm. CPAT. Jan 2018).





2017:   Radiocarbon Date for the Human Remains from North Face Cave, Little Orme's Head, Gwynedd by John Denton Blore

9 pages

A report describing privately-funded (by Great Orme Copper Mines) C14 results, the introduction of which states: "The recent discovery of a fragment of a human maxillary bone from a cave on the Little Orme’s Head, reopened the research into the earlier excavation of the North Face Cave. The bone fragment was a chance find, recovered from the disturbed back section of the cave by Nick Jowett from the Great Orme Copper Mines. Further investigation suggested that the eruption dates of the teeth was comparable to the 10-12 year old child recovered in the earlier excavation in 1964. Funded by the Great Orme Copper Mines, a radiocarbon date was obtained from the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre. Would this radiocarbon date from the maxilla give succor to the theory in the 2012 report that the human remains from North Face Cave represented the peoples that had taken part in the mining of the malachite from the copper mines on the neighbouring Great Orme?"
The account is available from John Blore's website:  http://lynxcave.webs.com/
 



2017:   Recent Archaeological Investigations at Upper Kendrick's Cave, Great Orme, Llandudno by Catherine Rees and George Nash

12 pages

A brief account based upon the unpublished report: "Upper Kendrick's Cave, Great Orme, Llandudno " (2015) by Catherine Rees of C.R. Archaeology, funded by Llandudno Town Council. It describes the un-enlightening excavation work, the caves stratigraphy and Thomas Kendrick, the man. It also states that a more detailed work by Catherine Rees is 'forthcoming'
Published in Proceedings of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society 2017, 27 (2), 185-196.




2017:   Caves of North-East Wales - Archaeological Evaluation 2016   CPAT report No 1469

25 pages

This report continues the work described in CPATs Report 1380 (see above). Several caves were considered for archaeological evaluation, and two areas were selected: Tan-yr-ogof caves west of Abergele and the caves of Afon Meirchion Upper and adjoining Coed-y-trap near the River Elwy. Although no archaeology was found, research has added interesting information to the minimal history of both sites. The report confirms what cavers have said for many years: "The writer is in no doubt that caves containing significant in-situ archaeological deposits remain to be identified within the study area". Further meetings have been held by a study group to assess caves of the area and how they may be best protected, although little information is given out to the public and no national caving body is being represented, as recommended in several past reports.
The report is available online: http://orapweb.rcahms.gov.uk/coflein/6/652257.PDF




2018 (April):     Caves of North-East Wales: Final Report  CPAT report No. 1511

20 pages

The report contains a summary of the previous four reports (Numbers 980, 1313, 1380 and 1469 above), then discusses cave evaluation and current practice, and ends with several recommendations intended to open dialogue between local caving clubs and professionals with responsibility for local caves. If acted upon, the recommendations could significantly improve the lot of the areas dwindling cave deposits of archaeological potential. It appears however that a year after the report was produced, no local caving clubs have been approached (April 2019). Similarly, an earlier report from 1986 (A Survey of English & Welsh Palaeolithic Cave Sites by Barton & Collcutt) also made many worthwhile recommendations, few of which were adopted. Time will tell if this 2018 report was simply a tick-box exercise, or if there is a genuine realisation among professionals that their past arrogance and complacency does not serve them or archaeological caves well.
An indication that four decades of distain towards the amateur may not have improved, can be drawn from the fact that although this report was produced in April 2018, it seems that by April 2019, no local caving clubs had been made aware of its existence. This rather makes a mockery of the reports opening summary which states:
"In addition to the summarising of work carried out as part of the study, an attempt has been made to provide a background by which the study of archaeological caves can be brought to a wider audience and allow for the inclusion of others with an interest in the cave environment to contribute to the furtherance of our collective knowledge."
The report is available online: http://orapweb.rcahms.gov.uk/coflein/6/652267.PDF
 


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List of north Wales archaeological caves  

Where ancient human and/or animal remains or artifacts are recorded as being found


 

See alphabetical list at top left of this page, to navigate to information on each cave

 

Barnewell Cave (see page 20. Lost or non-caves)

Big Covert Cave, Maeshafn

Cae Gronw Cave, Cefn

Cae Gwyn Cave, Tremeirchion

Cefn Cave, Cefn

Cefn Old Cave, Cefn

Corkscrew Cave,  Llandudno
Dead Rabbit Cave, Llandudno

Ffynnon Bueno Cave, Tremeirchion

Galltfaenan Cave, Cefn

Gop Cave, Trelawnyd

Gop Farm Cave, Trelawnyd (See: Gwaenysgor Cave)

Grange Farm Cave, Holywell ? (see page 20. Lost or non-caves)

Gwaenysgor Cave, above Prestatyn

Kendrick's Cave, Lower, Llandudno

Kendrick's Cave, Upper, Llandudno
Little Orme (or Blodwen's) Fissure (see page 14: Lost & Non-caves)

Llanarmon Cave, Llanarmon-yn-ial

Lloches-yr-Afr, Llandudno

Lynx Cave, Llanferres (see Bryn Alyn Cave No 1)

Maeshafn Cave (see: Big Covert Cave)

Minera Cave, Gwynfryn (see page 20. Lost or non-caves)

Murphys Pot, Alyn Gorge, Pantymwyn

Nant-y-Fuach Rock Shelter, Dyserth

Nant-y-Graig Caves, Brasgyll (see under Brasgyll Caves)

North Face Cave, Llandudno

Ogof Arian, Anglesey

Ogof Arth, Llandudno

Ogof Colomendy, Loggerheads

Ogof 'Corkscrew', Llandudno (see under Corkscrew Cave)

Ogof Pant-y-Wennol, Llandudno

Ogof Rhiwledyn, Llandudno (see under North Face Cave)

Ogof Tan y Bryn, Llandudno
Ogof Tudno, Llandudno

Orchid Cave, Maeshafn

Perthi Chwareu Caves (two caves) Llandegla

Plas Heaton Cave, Henllan

Pontnewydd Cave (or Bontnewydd Cave), St. Asaph
Printing Press Cave, Llandudno
Rhos Isaf Caves (three caves), Llandegla
Skeleton Cave, Llandudno
Skull Pot, Pantymwyn
Snail Cave, Llandudno

Ty Newydd Caves, Tremeirchion


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C14 dating of bones


Only a minority of North Wales archaeological caves have had radiocarbon testing carried out on bones, and obtaining information on these is not easy.

Caves known to the author as having C14 results include.......

Cae Gronw Cave

Ffynnon Bueno Cave

Gop Cave

Kendrick’s Cave

Lynx Cave

Ogof Colomendy

Orchid Cave

Pontnewydd Cave

North Face Cave

O ne of the Llandegla Caves

Ffynnon Bueno Cave

Little Orme Fissure

Caerwys Cave No 3

Details of some of the C14 tests can be found in: Burrow, S. and Williams, S. (2008) 'The Wales and Borders radiocarbon database'. Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales. It is available at: http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/cy/1151/  although the National Museum of Wales has not updated the database since 2010 (Pers. Comm Steve Burrow NMW 2013).

For more information on cave dating techniques, please see page 21: Cave sediments.


Sample of finds from Skull Pot, Alyn Gorge, Pantymwyn


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Archaeological links:

Please let this website know of any dead links

For the full text of Dawkins' Cave Hunting (1874): http://www.gutenberg.org/files/52424/52424-h/52424-h.htm

A short "Cave Archaeology Jargon Buster": https://digventures.com/under-the-uplands/timeline/diary/site-diary-cave-archaeology-jargon-buster-2/

Mel Davies: "Notes on his contribution to cave archaeology in Wales" can be downloaded as a PDF from the very bottom of this page.
 
Ancient Arts: A Deganwy company run by David and Sue Chapman that carries out experimental archaeology: http://www.ancient-arts.org/
 
A 2010 overview of recent archaeological work in Welsh caves: http://www.archaeoleg.org.uk/pdf/reviewdocs/paleoreview.pdf
 
A website dedicated to Lynx Cave describes John Blore's 50 years of excavation:   http://lynxcave.webs.com/   

Cave archaeology in Yorkshire receives a £100,000 grant for a Virtual Museum (June 2015):  http://digventures.com/2015/06/19/cave-archaeology-project-wins-100k-hlf-support-to-build-digital-museum/

A website for cavers interested in cave archaeology, the Cave Archaeology Group: http://cag.bcra.org.uk/
 
A forum for the Cave Archaeology Group: http://british-caving.org.uk/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=460
 
A good database on the archaeological caves of North and South Wales can be found on the CAPRA website:  http://caveburial.ubss.org.uk/wales/wales.htm
 

 
 
The Megalithic Portal covers all the UK, but briefly describes arch. caves of north Wales with some good photos: http://www.megalithic.co.uk/index.php
 
 
An article on the 12,000 year old engraved horse jawbone from Kendrick's Cave: http://heritageaction.wordpress.com/2011/11/20/wales-the-kendrick%E2%80%99s-cave-horse-jawbone/
 
 
A site describing the Bone Caves of Devon http://www.devonkarst.org.uk/Bone%20Caves%20of%20Plymouth%20&%20District/CAThp.htm
 
What cavers should keep an eye open for whilst caving: http://cag.bcra.org.uk/styled-2/index.html
 
A page on cave archaeology at the William Pengelly Cave Studies Trust:   https://pengellytrust.org/
  
One of the best books on human remains is "Digging up Bones " by Brothwell. Copies can be bought on-line at:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Digging-up-Bones-D-R-Brothwell/dp/0801498759/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1323203021&sr=8-1
 
The BCRA publication "Cave & Karst Science " has a special edition (December 2011) dedicated to cave archaeology. It is Volume 38, number 3 and can be ordered for £8 +£1 p & p or £6 as a PDF download at: http://bcra.org.uk/pub/candks/
 
The Guardian provides news (2010) from caves at Cheddar and an interesting over-view of man in Britain after the last ice age when it was rapidly re-populated within just three years:   http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/jun/20/ice-age-cannibals-britain-earliest-settlers
 
 

"Archaeological Potential of Cave and Fissure Deposits in Limestone " (Covering the Peak District and south Yorkshire). This important assessment was produced by archaeologists with input from the caving community and can be obtained as a free PDF here:   http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archives/view/caves_eh_2011/downloads.cfm

In Scotland a group of 19 sea caves are being examined in the Rosmarkie Caves Project: http://www.spanglefish.com/RosemarkieCavesProject/index.asp?pageid=200209

Ever wanted to know the relevance of prehistoric penis art? Try this: http://io9.com/5852161/paleolithic-penises-can-tell-us-about-the-origins-of-genital-piercing-and-also-about-ourselves

For a brief understanding of cave sedimentology: http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/2027.42/34954/1/1004_ftp.pdf

"Cave deposits of North Wales: Some comments on their archaeological importance and an inventory of sites of potential interest " by Dinnis & Ebbs (2013). This can be downloaded as a free PDF here: https://independent.academia.edu/CrisEbbs
Although you do need to register by entering your e-mail address and creating a password.


"William Boyd Dawkins's Llandegla Caves Re-assessed" by Cris Ebbs. This can also be downloaded as a free PDF here: https://independent.academia.edu/CrisEbbs  although you do need to register (free) with your e-mail address and password.

"A Brief History of Gwaenysgor Cave near Prestatyn" by Cris Ebbs. This can also be downloaded as a free PDF here: https://independent.academia.edu/CrisEbbs 


A North Wales company specialising in archaeological work, including caves, is Engineering Archaeological Services Ltd): http://www.eas-archaeology.co.uk/

Mendip Cave Archaeology: http://mendipgeoarch.net/mendip%20cave%20archaeology.html




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Professional on-line resources.....


1:   CAPRA database   A database run by Andrew Chamberlain describing caves where human remains have been recorded, and having a dedicated section for North Wales.
A good source of early reference material:  http://caveburial.ubss.org.uk/wales/wales.htm


2:    ARCHWILIO http://www.archwilio.org.uk/  A website operated by the four Archaeological Trusts for Wales.
The Archwilio cave information has improved significantly since about 2014.

Using Archwilio however can be a little confusing: Word searches for several cave sites do not produce any results, although they can appear when searching for entirely unrelated sites. Apparently the trick is to only use the map to search.... and then the viewer must zoom close in before all sites appear.


3:   COFLEIN   http://www.coflein.gov.uk/  Operated by RCAHMW. Their database relating to caves can be both incomplete and in many cases, inaccurate. Caves such as Orchid Cave, Gwaenysgor Cave, Galltfaenan Caves, Colomendy Cave, Cae Gronw Cave etc, are not mentioned at all and many other cave descriptions appear to be long out of date.


Some years ago, it was hoped that the Coflein and Archwilio databases would be combined, but the idea could not be followed through (Pers Comm RCAHMW 2013).




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Some 1970s and 1980s primary references

 
There are numerous references to early cave excavations i.e. the first article on Ffynnon Bueno Cave was published by Hicks in 1885. In the following three years he published at least another 12 papers referring to the cave and 10 more were published by other writers. References to caves excavated more recently however, particularly those by amateurs, tend to get overlooked by professionals. Here therefore are a selection of references relating to excavations carried out since 1962..........
(Main source:  Ed Ford, T. (1989) Cave Archaeology in North Wales, in 'Limestones and Caves of Wales')
 
Abbreviations used:
AW ............  Archaeology in Wales
NWCC ......   North Wales Caving Club
WPCST ....   William Pengelly Cave Studies Trust
SWCC ......   South Wales Caving Club
 

 
Ffynnon Bueno Cave, Tremeirchion
Davies, M., SWCC, 72, February 1973, Rhinoceros remains in a Flintshire cave
 
Lloches yr Afr, Llandudno
Davies, M., AW, 13, 1973; AW, 14, 1974; NWCC, 12, November 1973; NWCC, 13, December 1973; NWCC, 19, July, 1974; SWCC, 1978, December 1974; WPCST, 24, January 1975 (with photographs)
   
Lynx Cave, Llanferres
Blore, J.D.,  1965   (unpublished) Lynx Cave, Denbighshire, Preliminary Report 1962-4
Blore, J.D.,   n.d.    Lynx Cave Excavations Clwyd 1962-1981, Second report
Blore, J.D.,   2002  The Enigmatic Lynx. ISBN 0 9541835 0 9
Blore, J.D.,   2012   Lynx Cave, Denbighshire: 50 years of Excavation 1962 - 2012

North Face Cave, Llandudno  (Also incorrectly referred to as Ogof Rhiwledyn)
Davies, M., AW, 13, 1973; NWCC, 15, Feb-March 1974.
Blore, J.D., 1977 "Excavations on the Little Orme's Head" (published privately describing work at North Face Cave).
Blore, J.D., 2012 "Archaeological Excavation at North Face Cave, Little Ormes Head, Gwynedd 1962-1976 (updated 2012)"

Ogof Colomendy, Cadole
Carr, E., NWCC, 32, August 1975
Davies, M., NWCC, 32, August 1975; AW, 16, 1976; NWCC, 41, May 1976; NWCC, 49, January 1977; WPCST, 28, January 1977;  NWCC, 54, June 1977; WPCST, 29, July 1977; CCC, 4, 1977-8, 18-23, Ogof Colomendy - Further animal remains and a third human skeleton; AW, 17, 1977.
 
Ogof 'Corkscrew', Llandudno (see under Corkscrew Cave)
David, G.C.., AW, 19, 1979
 
Ogof Pant y Wennol, Llandudno
Davies, M., AW, 14, 1974; NWCC, 19, July 1974; NWCC, 21, September 1974; NWCC, 24, December 1974; SWCC, 77, September 1974; SWCC, 78, December 1974; AW, 15, 1975; NWCC, 32, August 1975;NWCC, 35, November 1975; SWCC, 81, December 1975;WPCST, 25, September 1975 (with plan); AW, 16, 1976;
WPCST, 28, January 1977; WPCST, 29, July 1977; Stone, T.A. & Smith, B., AW, 19, 1979.
  
Ogof Tan y Bryn, Llandudno
Davies, M., AW, 15, 1975; NWCC, 30, June 1975; SWCC, 81, December 1975.
 
Ogof Tudno, Llandudno
Stone, T.A., AW, 15, 1975.
Davies, M., NWCC, 32, August 1975; NWCC, 35, November 1975.
Stone, T.A., AW, 16, 1976.
 
Upper Kendrick's Cave, Llandudno
Davies, M., AW, 15, 1975; NWCC, 60, December 1977.
Davies, M. & Stone, T.A., WPCST, 31, March 1978 (with figures).
Davies, M., AW, 18, 1978; AW, 19, 1979; WPCST, 32, February 1979, pp 7-9; Studies in Speleology, 1983, IV, 45-52, The Excavation of Upper Kendrick's cave, Llandudno, Studies in Speleology, 1988. 
Stone, T.A. & Davies, M., AW, 17, 1977.
Gillespie, R., et al. (1985). Radiocarbon dates from the Oxform AMS system. Archaeometry Date list 2, 27 part 2, 237-46.
 
 
 
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Suggested amateur projects

 
Whilst the digging of archaeological cave deposits is not to be condoned by those without archaeological experience, there are many other projects for the keen amateur. Here are just a few:

1)   Artifact deposit database
Bones and other artifacts found in our local caves now lie in a multitude of depositories, many in museums, others in private hands. Many have changed hands over the last century or two. Some have been lost or even thrown away. There is no national database describing human remains from Museums in the UK. The last published attempt to locate some of the well-distributed artifacts was over 40 years ago (Valdemar & Jones 1970).  In view of the advances in analytical techniques, the importance of these artifacts has grown significantly. There is therefore a need for an up-to-date database of the finds from each cave site to confirm where they are now held, and made freely available on-line.
 

2)   On-line primary excavation reports
Due to the large number of secondary (and sometimes conflicting) documentary sources, all primary sources need to be drawn together for conversion to digital format and  made available on-line. The original excavation reports would then serve as a good starting point for future research.
 
 
3)   Searching for 'new' archaeological caves
Over the last 50 years or so, approximately 140 'new' caves have been discovered, bringing the north Wales total to over 200. Many of these have archaeological potential. Boyd Dawkins discovered several caves in a few days at Llandegla, simply by excavating badger or fox holes where they could be found at the base of limestone outcrops. Two more undocumented caves have been found in recent years in this same area. Such caves typically have their entrances plugged with earth or more rarely, with glacial debris-flow material. There is nothing to prevent anyone from carrying out limited excavation, at least until interesting remains are found. Then, either call in the professionals or an experienced amateur, to assess the potential importance of the site. Since the hey-day of the Victorian excavators, most subsequent archaeological caves were originally discovered and reported by amateur cave archaeologists or responsible cavers.
Professionals still (in 2019) provide no guidance whatsoever to cavers or advice on care to be taken whilst digging to extend a cave.
 

4)   Internal cave surveys
Modern-day professional archaeologists have not carried out internal surveying of archaeological caves except at Pontnewydd Cave, Ffynnon Bueno Cave and one or two others. T here is therefore an opportunity to carry out a co-ordinated surveying programme to record all 45 or so archaeological caves. Surveys were rarely drawn up at the time of original excavations, hence a new survey project could provide a standardised and more complete record of these important sites.
 

5)   Searching for cave art
The first cave art to be recognised in the UK was at Creswell Crags, Derbyshire, in 2003: https://www.dur.ac.uk/archaeology/research/projects/all/?mode=project&id=639
In August 2011 a cave in Gower was also found to contain cave art. See this BBC video: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-14721056
A systematic examination of north Wales' caves could be carried out by anyone equipped simply with camera, light-source and a good eye. Although the UKs cave art examples comprise only engravings, free software is now available designed to highlight the faintest pigments (see Page 19: Cave Art for more information).


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William Boyd Dawkins & the Victorian Science of Cave Hunting

Published in 2017 by Mark White

 

This is the first book on the life and work of Dawkins. It is a detailed assessment of his work with a thorough analysis of the controversial Cresswell Crags affair.

William Boyd Dawkins features frequently in the literature of North Wales' archaeological caves. According to his own accounts, he was involved at many caves, although it appears he was actually in charge of less excavations than those he may have been invited to inspect. The following is not a precis of White's book, but instead provides a few quotes from the book by people who knew the man personally, together with a few comments by the author himself, Mark White. Together they provide just an impression of the character of a man of his time.

 

Notes and quotes from the book

By the people who knew him.....

Dawkins was born in 1837 at Buttington parsonage, Montgomeryshire, Wales. He did not have the double-barrelled name Boyd-Dawkins, as often quoted.

By the age of ten he claimed to have explored the limestone caves at Llanymynech Ogof, Montgomeryshire” (page 7).

He was a scholar at Oxford, where “he was full of pomp and self-importance”. Entering his thirties “he began to display a confrontational side that hitherto, publicly at least, had remained hidden from view” (page 34).

Early in his career he worked for the Geological Survey, although his heart may have been elsewhere, as when he left after nine years, it was with a reputation of "a poor field worker” as summed up by Searles V. Woods:  I was not surprised to find that his work was all put aside at Jermyn Street and fresh geologists put on to do it all over again” (pages 21, 22). A member of the Geological Society even described him as “an impudent brute” (page 50).

He did however, subsequently produce some very good work, he “excelled at taxonomy” and “his knowledge of fossils was exemplary, as a palaeontologist he was top of his field”. In 1863 he published six papers that first identified six different species of rhinoceros, “which, for the most part, are still accepted today” (page 26). In 1869, after ten years of intensive work, he published a paper on British fossil mammals which included tabulated data on every museum and private collection available in the whole of Great Britain (pages 33, 34). At this time he first began work as curator of Manchester Museum, where he began working on collections which “once first rate, were in a wretched state” (page 41).

“….. Dawkins never developed a completely satisfactory system of on-site recording and his excavation methods were crude, although by no means unusual for this period” (page 12). Despite this he claimed his methods were ‘sufficiently accurate to satisfy the demands of scientific research’. This overconfidence in such imprecise methods is a characteristic of all Dawkins’ field investigations, and would be to his lasting cost ” (page 13).

Dawkins wrote “many highly opinionated assessments of books by Darwin, Lubbock and lectures by Huxley” and he wrote an anonymous and scathing review of ‘The Descent of Man’, published in 1871 by Darwin, “describing the theory of natural selection as ‘hopelessly inadequate’ preferring his religious beliefs received from his upbringing in Wales” (page 44).

While he may have exuded warmth and friendship when he chose, those who crossed him found a very different persona lurking just beneath the surface” (page 47). He was also thought to be 'arrogant and dogmatic'” (page 232). An obituary to Dawkins in 1929 praises the man but also described him as “a lobster with a vengeance” (page 235).

Mark White in his book here being quoted considers Dawkins was “probably a liar and a cheat” (page 216).

Despite any shortcomings, throughout his life he campaigned to improve the working life of miners (page 46).

 

Boyd Dawkins in North Wales

Having been sent a box of bones by Charles Darwin (sent to Darwin by a landowner at Llandegla), Dawkins spent the summer and autumn of 1869 at the caves of Perthi Chwareu, near Llandegla. "Dawkins' account tells that after making enquiries he was given permission to excavate and the use of a free workforce by the landowner, Edward Lloyd. Judging from Lucas's detailed reconstruction of events (see Lucas, Peter 2007 on Bibliography page) however, the whole venture was more likely instigated and organised by Mrs Lloyd, who then asked Dawkins to visit". During the Llandegla work, Dawkins "was compelled to go away, and the work at the most productive cave was carried on by Mrs Lloyd, who 'excavated to a distance of 28 feet from the entrance in the space of six days'" (page 52). The team excavated at Llandegla between 1969 and 1872.

In 1969 news reached Dawkins of human remains being found in a cairn at Cefn Estate beside the river Elwy, and this led to his exploration of Cefn Cave, Old Cefn Cave and Pontnewydd Cave. "I am off to fish in the Elwy for salmon and trout, and in caves.... for more bones" Dawkins told a friend in 1871 (page 53).

After his first visit to Cefn, "Dawkins diaries record nine visits between 1870-1877, some of which lasted ten days. Precisely what Dawkins did in the Cefn Caves is unknown, beyond a single reference in 'Cave Hunting'...... what we do know is that Dawkins was confused about which finds came from which cave. His version contradicted the original accounts of Stanley and is in error, but is still the most often cited" (page 54).

Several documentary sources state that Dawkins was responsible for the first excavations at the nearby Pontnewydd Cave, and for missing artefacts found later when re-examining the early waste tips. It appears however, that this may not have been the case: "When McKenny Hughes and Rev. Thomas began their work at Pontnewydd in 1874, they noted that 25 yards of sediment had already been removed from the cave. This has often been assumed to been largely Dawkins doing. That Hughes and Thomas found felstone artefacts and a human tooth in the spoil thrown out by earlier workers is certainly consistent with the supposition that Dawkins was involved......... Yet there are good reasons to believe that Dawkins has been unfairly accused of despoiling the entrance to Pontnewydd. In the opening sentence of their first report, Hughes and Thomas stated in perfectly plain terms and with no room for misunderstanding that it was the landowner Mr Williams Wynn who had partly excavated the cave 'some years ago'. This refers to Herbert Watkin Williams Wynn (1822-1862), husband of Anna, which dates the work to sometime before his death in 1862. They did not mention Dawkins once in relation to earlier clearances". "Judging by his (Dawkins') phenomenal output, he would certainly have published a full account had he been in charge, and if he had been the first to explore the cave, he would not have been shy in saying so" (pages 54, 55).


White's book is a must-have for anyone wishing to know more about this interesting character and his work.




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All comments, additions, corrections are welcomed:  cavecomment@hotmail.co.uk



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And finally, for those of us who struggle with the various archaeological or geological periods, here's a handy table or two......


The most recent and commonly-used dating system is based upon Marine Isotope Stages:

CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE



This chart shows geological periods, archaeological periods, glacial periods and high or low sea levels.....

CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE



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PDF download below:
 
Click on the title to open After opening a PDF below, please use your BACK button to return to this page


Conservation suggestions.pdf (38k) Cris Ebbs (2018)
Mel Davies_ the man.pdf (186k) Cris Ebbs (2013)