Creswell Crags

11 January 2012

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Robin Hood Cave, Creswell Crags.Robin Hood Cave, Creswell Crags.

Discoveries have been made at Creswell Crags since the Victorian era; discoveries that bring alive a vibrant Ice Age past. Stone, bone and ivory tools from the caves reveal the lives of our ancestors during the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic periods.

Lying at the northern edge of the ice sheets, the caves were the most northerly point for human inhabitation during the ice age and as such played an important role in terms of survival and social interaction in the Ice Age. 

The site continues to reveal itself and the most significant discovery was only made in 2003: the discovery of Britain’s only known Ice Age rock art. These unprecedented engravings date to around 14,000 years ago and predominantly illustrate animals which would have been familiar to the artists as a significant food source such as deer and bison. However, the artwork throws up intriguing questions that cannot be answered, such as the bas-relief caving of an Ibis, birds not indigenous to the areas these people are thought to have inhabited. How did they see this exotic bird and what is its great importance to be remembered and depicted thousands of miles away?

Theories as to the use of the illustrated cave are numerous, although it is often assumed to have been an area for storytelling. Other interpretations, such as a being used as a birthing chamber, draw on the more abstract engravings at the back of the cave which are believed either to be birds or female figures.

Post by Hannah Tidswell, Learning Officer, Creswell Crags.

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