Today we have been on a family expedition to find the Palaeolithic. I know it isn’t lost as such, but my son is doing a school project on ‘cave dwellers’. This was announced in a letter home last week, together with the news that there would be a prize for the best one. You could argue that having archaeologists for parents might give him a bit of an edge over the rest of year 3 but there is no complacency in this house.
First catch your caves. I fixed on Giggleswick Scar, up near Settle, as there genuinely are some Upper Palaeolithic worked stone tools from Kinsey Cave. We may have gone with slightly differing objectives. Mine were that we would find as many caves as possible and, by exploring them and their landscape in early March, get a feel for the experience of being a cave dweller just after the Last Glacial Maximum.
His were more about using the graffiti function on his DS3 to make humorous images of me as a cave man. Note the red ochre parka, modelled after Stephen Aldhouse-Green’s interpretation of the Paviland burial. I also seem to have acquired Jimmy Anderson’s hair and a ZZ Top beard. This was taken in Kinsey Cave, where a series of different excavations, the most recent by Bradford University, have shown that there really was activity in the Upper Palaeolithic (it has Neolithic burials, bear bones and Roman finds too).
Kinsey is hidden away at the end of its own miniature dale and partly obscured by the spoil heaps from the early excavations.
Once you get inside it is a fantastic place to imagine being Littlenose and Two-Eyes seeing off the sabre-tooth tigers. Most of the archaeology came from slightly further back into the cave, starting just about where I was standing to take this picture.
The view out from Kinsey cave. This is roughly south-west and, interestingly, all the caves with Neolithic burials in this bit of the Yorkshire Dales face in this direction. This area is one of the groups of caves surveyed for their archaeological potential as part of a joint Sheffield/Bradford conservation report in 2007. The full report is available here.
One of the conclusions in this report was that, apart from Kinsey Cave, the other upper level caves at Giggleswick Scar weren’t very likely to have surviving archaeological deposits. But, as you can see, they look cool and you can get to them fairly easily, which is the important thing when you are experiencing the Ice Age.