Introduction And History Of Discoveries

Church Hole (SK 5339 7411) is towards the western end of Creswell Crags gorge. It is the only cave or fissure on the south (Nottinghamshire) side of the crags to have yielded evidence ofhuman occupation. It is not known when the cave got its name and at the beginning of its exploration, perhaps through ignorance, it was referred to simply as 'Fissure C' (Mello 1875) or the 'Notts Cave' (Dawkins n.d., 1876). Looking into the cave from the entrance grille is very like looking down the nave of a church and there may be no more to the name than this resemblance.

The cave (Fig. 7.1) consists of a narrow passage, variously termed 'chamber A', 'long passage', or 'main passage (A)', which is horizontal for much of its length. It rises steeply at its inner end to terminate in a blocked crevice near the top of the Permian Lower Magnesian Limestone outcrop. On either side

This study was funded as a part of the Leverhulme Trust project 'Ancient Human Occupation of Britain'. Writing took place in the Dept. of Prehistory and Europe at the British Museum and I thank Jill Cook, head of the Quaternary Section, and Nick Ashton, Senior Curator, for their support. I would like to thank all the curators and staV of the institutions whose collections I have used in piecing together this account; the Trustees of the British Museum for permission to Wgure material from the collection; John Prag and Phil Manning at Manchester Museum and Ian Wall at the Creswell Crags Museum and Education Centre for allowing me to include drawings and photographs of specimens in their charge. My thanks are also due to Daryl Garton for permitting the study of the material from Farndon Fields and to Jenny Brown for all her help. The drawings of quartzite artefacts are by Mike Angel and those of the flint artefacts by Hazel Martingell. The bone and antler objects from Church Hole were drawn by Jules Cross and the photographs are by Gwil Owen. Typing of the manuscript and preparation of the other figures are the work of Robert Symmons, also a member of the 'Ancient Human Occupation of Britain' project to whom I am deeply grateful. Finally, I thank Paul Pettitt for inviting me to write this chapter and for his friendship.

Fig. 7.1. Plan of Church Hole

of the entrance are small chambers of which the more clearly defined is that on the western (right-hand) side—'chamber B'. This is independently linked to the gorge by a narrow fissure. The cave had been closed by a stone wall and prior to excavation its outer part had been used as a byre.

While bones and teeth may have been found at Creswell by George Stubbs, and these were the inspiration for his famous lion and horse paintings (Egerton 1984), it appears that the first confirmed palaeontological discovery to be made in the Crags came from Church Hole. This was a lower cheek tooth of a woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis) and was found by Frank Tebbet the quarry manager at Welbeck. This was in 1872 (Heath 1879: 4).

Serious exploration of Creswell Crags was begun in April 1875 by J. Magens Mello, the rector of St Thomas, New Brampton near Chesterfield (1863-87) and better known as the author of the Handbook to the Geology of Derbyshire (1876a). He began by working in Pin Hole on the Derbyshire side of the Crags (Mello 1875), but dug a 'small hole' in Church Hole recovering a limb-bone of a woolly rhinoceros (1875: 679). In July he was joined by Thomas Heath, curator of the Derby Free Library, Museum and Art Gallery (1873-84). Together, they began the excavation of Robin Hood Cave also on the Derbyshire side (Mello 1876 b).

The first major exploration of Church Hole was by Heath, sometime in the later summer of 1875, but when the days were still long. It is simplest to let Heath speak for himself and quote verbatim his description of the contents of what must have been a Middle Devensian spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) den.

... I also began to work the Church Hole on the Nottingham side.

The entrance to this had evidently been used at a very recent period either as a stable or cow-house, the Breccia and Cave Earth being mixed up with straw and litter. I commenced here about 4 a.m. to carefully examine and clear it. It was not until 10.20 a.m. that I found the least trace of the remains of either Pleistocene Animals or of Man, when I was rewarded, about 12 feet from the entrance, by discovering the largest Molar of the Elephas primigenius we found. It was 11 inches in length, by 9 inches in height. The specimen is now in the temporary Museum at Firth College. In close proximity to this I found three other molars of the Mammoth. I had now reached the entrance to chamber B,... where I found three bone needles. I was then assisted the rest of the day by my friends—Messrs. W. B. Sellars and S. H. Burrows and Dr. Webster (the American Consul). We then commenced our work in this chamber, which had been previously disturbed in three places to a depth of about eight inches. From the entrance there was a sudden dip of the richest bed of Cave Earth we worked. In the centre, about 18 inches from the surface, it was one mass of the remains of Rhinoceros, Reindeer, Horse, Mammoth, and a few of the Bear, Wolf, and Bison. All the bones were very much gnawed. Out of over a cart-load (the result of that day's work) there were only four whole ones—i.e., two phalanges, one tarsus, and one metacarpal. The Rhinoceros bones were in large numbers, and were gnawed down to the well-known pattern. There were also a large number of the teeth and fragments of the antlers of the Reindeer. Though more remains of the Mammoth were found here than anywhere else, we did not Wnd an adult. Plates and fragments of the Milk Molars were found in profusion, and also several whole milk teeth, and part of a tusk, too fragile to secure whole. The jaws and teeth of the Hyaena were found in the largest profusion. Working from the middle of this chamber, the Cave Earth became cemented into a tough, stubborn Breccia, which gradually ran out to the front, but at the back into a deep, narrow Wssure. After working through about Wve feet of Breccia, which was quite as prolific as the other part of the Cave, we penetrated the fissure at the back for about six feet, coming upon a bed of Red Sand, amongst which very few remains were found. In all, I could determine the remains of 116 different animals, the result of this day's work; of this number, no less than 72 were Hyaena. It is evident from the immense number and gnawed condition of the bones, and the large quantity of jaws and teeth of the Hyaena, minus any bones of this animal, that this chamber was once the lair of the Hyaena, advantage being taken of the privacy afforded to place the prey where it could be devoured at leisure. We did not find the least trace of implements or any remains of man, so that we may reasonably conclude that the occupants of this chamber were too persistent and demonstrative to permit their privacy to be even temporarily invaded by the Palaeolithic hunter, as their roving contemporaries across the river had evidently done. Next day I finished this chamber, with the exception of a thick Breccia adhering to the wall at the latter part of the Cave... (Heath 1879: 8-11)

It need only be added that Firth College was a forerunner of the University of Sheffield and that the temporary museum was for the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science which took place in the city in August 1879. Despite an intensive search no trace can now be found of the three bone needles. The river is, of course, the Millwood Brook which here forms the boundary between Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. Within the gorge it has been artificially widened into a lake. Mello (1877: 585) gives a few more quantitative details of the fauna found at this time, as does Dawkins (1877: 602 table) who attributes the finds to Mello.

It would seem that the work undertaken at Creswell in 1875 was mainly by Heath and Mello with professional assistance from Frank Tebbet, who also provided labour. In 1876 exploration was under the aegis of a committee whose president was Sir John Lubbock (later Lord Avebury). Dawkins was the secretary. In terms of fieldwork, Mello was director and Heath and Dawkins were superintendents. Dawkins, from Owens College, Manchester, was a newcomer to the team, but had already been responsible for the descriptions of the artefacts and fauna from the 1875 campaign at Robin Hood Cave (Dawkins 1876). In this he had taken over from George Busk of the Royal College of Surgeons. It was agreed that Dawkins and Mello would be in charge of work at Church Hole, which was to be excavated simultaneously with Robin Hood Cave for which Heath would be responsible.

In 1876 excavations took place on thirty days from Monday 19 June to Saturday 22 July. At Church Hole excavations took place outside the cave on the talus, in the main passage and in the side-chamber to the right of the entrance. At the mouth of the cave and in the side-chamber this was in part a re-examination and a completion of the areas whose investigation had been begun by Heath in 1875.

Manuscript notes of work at Church Hole are by Dawkins. They are scrappy and partly illegible and cease after 6 July except for daily annotations to the site-plan to record the progress of work. Our only clear sources of information as to what was found at Church Hole are the account provided by Mello of the stratigraphy (1877: 584-7) and the descriptions of the artefacts and fauna by Dawkins (1877: 601-5). Comprehension is aided

Fig. 7.2. Longitudinal profiles of Church Hole showing principal sediments

by seven diagrammatic cross-sections of the sediments. Five of these cross-sections, all widely spaced, are of the sediments in the main passage of the cave inwards of Heath's initial work. These were used as the basis for a reconstructed longitudinal profile (Fig. 7.2).

To help understanding, the description provided by Mello of the sediments and the information given by Mello and Dawkins about the finds from the individual sediments are summarized diagrammatically on Figure 7.3. Except for the 'superficial stratum' these are numbered from top to base. Some explanatory comments are necessary:

• The bronze brooch and bone counter are both Romano-British. It has to be assumed that they were found where layer 3 came close to the surface.

• As will be seen from what follows, the flint artefacts are of several different ages. There is no stratigraphic information about the contexts of individual items.

• At Creswell Crags it appears probable that quartzite was only used for tool manufacture during the Middle Palaeolithic. From Mello's account it would appear that Middle Palaeolithic artefacts were present in layers 3, 4, and 5.

• The bone and antler tools are late Upper Palaeolithic. They would appear from Mello's description to be from the same sediment (layer 4) as Middle Palaeolithic quartzite artefacts. Taken at face value this might imply gross

Remains of "historic" age

Superficial stratum

Many fragments of charcoal Worked flints Numerous bones of hare Teeth of hyaena Bones of other animals

Layer 1

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