On Wednesday I had to go over to the Museum of Lancashire to talk to Stuart Noon of the Portable Antiquities Scheme about a whole variety of things. I took the opportunity to have a look at a bag of bones he has found in the stores there. They have been cataloguing the reserve collections in the museum – which looks like a fascinating and frustrating job in about equal measure – and in a box with the name of a completely different site on the outside they have found two bags of finds labelled ‘Fairy Holes, Whitewell’. We are fairly sure these come from the 1946 excavations of Fairy Holes cave by Musson and Dobson, which I have described in earlier posts.
This is the contents of the first bag, all of which are animal bones. Musson described the bones they found as ‘nothing of importance as there were none of extinct animals or humans’ – and there are certainly no woolly rhinos and Neanderthals in this tray. There is a mix here of quite weathered cattle and sheep bones with much more recent looking bird bones. Of course, Fairy Holes wood is still a pheasant shoot, which is probably where the birds come from, but the more weathered bones look very similar to bones we found in 2011 in the upper layers of Temple Cave on the opposite site of the wood.
The second bag is even smaller and had nothing in it but fairly substantial chunks of charcoal. Without more detailed knowledge of which layer of the cave they came from there is nothing much you can do with isolated lumps of charcoal like this. However, the fact they survive is quite encouraging.
This should only be a small fraction of the finds from Musson and Dobson’s dig at Fairy Holes. Stuart has sent out an enquiry around the whole of Lancashire Museum Services to try and track down the rest of the finds, which include flint implements and sherds of an Early Bronze Age Collared Urn, as well as probably a lot more animal bone.
All of this will be a great help as we work towards more excavation at Fairy Holes. At the moment, I’m just looking forward to seeing all the rest of the finds if they can be tracked down.