Figure

Depiction of a bird facing left (Figs. 2.5, 2.6). This figure, made in low basrelief, is one of the most enigmatic in the assemblage, and is located on a slightly inclined plane oriented towards the left wall of the cave. This surface has been called the zone of bas-reliefs.

This bird is 34 cm long, and 13 cm high, with a maximum between parallels of 30 cm and an orientation of 180° relative to north. The figure was made with a combination of various techniques, which demonstrates the skill of the artist who made it. As with other depictions, we had already noticed the existence of human activity on this rock surface, but we were unable to discern the type of animal represented. This impossibility was caused by our looking at it from the opposite side, owing to the convenience of the scaVolding, but in reality we needed to look at the whole surface from the other direction, resting our backs on a little portion of the surface surviving from the early excavations and looking towards the right-hand wall

Fig. 2.5. Church Hole Panel IV, line drawing of engraving/low relief of bird

of the cave. The beak, which curves downwards, stands out clearly, and was made with a low bas-relief; it ends in a point at the distal extremity, growing broader as it approaches the head. The whole surface in the immediate vicinity was clearly worked to make the beak stand out.

In the depiction of the bird, in addition to the bill one can make out the engraved globular head, inside which can be seen the circular 'Creswell eye'. Then there extends the slightly oblique neck, engraved and in slight bas-relief with lines coming together in the lower part. Here there is an element that enhances the complexity of the figure. It comprises an almost hemispherical shape, maximum length about 14 cm, with almost no anthropogenic alteration except for an engraved line which surrounds the whole curved part. The upper side of this semicircle is straight, and coincides with a wide natural crack in the rock support. Inside this shape, there are various very superWcial lines in slight bas-reliefwhich add up to a total ofnine, giving it a certain volume. We think that it represents the body of this bird, which would thus be in a seated position, either nesting or swimming. This hypothesis comes from the fact that the neck emerges from the lower part of the body, and moreover no limbs are depicted. The incision of the engraved zones is U-shaped in section, with a reduced width (<2 mm) and shallow depth (<2 mm). In the zones of slight bas-relief, it attains a depth of 12 and 14 mm.

The Wrst impression when we identiWed this depiction was that it was an ibis (Comatibis eremita), through its general morphology with the downwards curving bill, the rounded head and the slightly fusiform body. But immediately there arose the very important question about the possibility of the presence of ibis in the Late Pleistocene of Britain.

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