Gough's Cave

  • Period: Mesolithic
  • Type: Cave
  • Address: Cheddar Gorge, Somerset
  • OS Grid Ref:
  • Onsite Facilities: Visitor Centre; museum; Activities (caving/climbing); walks

The world famous Gough's Cave at Cheddar Gorge is the home of Cheddar Man; Britain's oldest complete skeleton buried there 9,000 years ago, following what is thought to be a violent death.

It has been long thought that Cheddar man's ancestors may still live in the area and recent DNA testing (his DNA was extracted from one of Cheddar man's teeth) may prove that correct.

During the excavations in 1927–28, a number of human bones were found that showed some evidence of cannibalism. Skull fragments found from five individuals with fractures that appeared to have been made when the bone was still fresh. Other bones had been split in a similar way to how animal bones are opened to get at the marrow.

Further excavations in 1986–87 found about 120 human cranial and postcranial remains from a small area near the entrance of the cave (shown by the red/white ranging rod in the photo opposite). The remains represented at least five individuals, consisting of three adults and two children from about 14,700 years ago. More recently analysis of these has suggested they were deliberately fashioned into ritual drinking skull cups or bowls.

He was excavated in 1903 and the remains are kept by the Natural History Museum in London (a replica is shown in the Cheddar Prehistoric Museum and in the cave, as shown opposite). In the first galleries of the Museum of Prehistory, are number of displays, videos and replica tools from John Lord. A commentary on early man's voyage out of Africa, can be heard from Professor Chris Stringer from the Natural History Museum.


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